Dreadful news came out of Colts training camp Friday afternoon that left a bad taste in many mouths and unsettling feelings for a few. Vick Ballard, the third-year running back from Mississippi State, suffered his second season-ending injury in as many years.
On Saturday, Chuck Pagano confirmed that Ballard had indeed suffered a torn left Achilles tendon which ended his season before it began. Ballard’s injury occurred when he made a catch during a non-contact drill and came up limping immediately. An MRI Friday night confirmed the Colts’ worst fears.
To fill Ballard’s shoes the Colts signed Davin Meggett, which eliminated the hope of signing a veteran running back. Meggett, an undrafted free agent from Maryland, has bounced around multiple practice squads, which included a previous stint with the Colts.
Meggett is a smash mouth running back with the reputation for gaining yards after contact. In 2008, as a true-freshman, he led all freshmen in the ACC with an average of 5.1 yards per carry. Meggett finished his college career with 2,400 yards and 18 touchdowns.
If Meggett fails to earn a spot at the top of the depth chart the Colts must rely on Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw to carry the load. Richardson, with a full off-season under his belt and increased familiarity with the playbook, should return to his explosive and powerful running style he displayed during his career at Alabama.
True Blue Fans never saw Bradshaw’s potential after he was lost with a season-ending neck injury just three games into his Colts career, but he did provide reason for optimism in 2014. Against the 49’ers, he gained 95 yards and averaged 5 yards per carry and scored a touchdown in his final game of the season. Hopefully he can stay healthy enough to produce numbers like he did in his final season with the Giants when he rushed for 1,015 yards and six touchdowns.
Perhaps Ballard’s injury may turn into a blessing in disguise.
Today, when Pep Hamilton was asked about what kind of offense he will run, he jokingly referred to it as his “run-first offense” that the team was labeled as last season. On paper, the Colts look like a pass-first team while passing over 60% of the time, but that stat can be misleading.
Last season, the Colts aggressively ran the ball in the first half to wear down the opposing defenses, but unfortunately this led to many double-digit deficits; on the flip side, this forced Andrew Luck to run a more up-tempo offense which resulted in multiple come-from-behind victories, including the Wild Card win against the Chiefs. The only downfall with the up-tempo offense last season was Luck’s short passing game. Luck’s 3-step drop passes ranked 2nd worst in the league, but he countered with the third highest rating on 7-step drops.
What this suggests is when Luck has the necessary time to trust his instincts his true talent blossoms. Hamilton intends for the Colts to be more of a “playmaker driven offense” this season, which will trigger more 7-step drops that could result in the more up-tempo offense that fans desire.
Despite a plethora of offensive weapons, the Colts cannot simply abandon the run and short passes – they need to be incorporated as part of a mixed playbook to keep opposing defenses guessing which will enrich Luck’s development.
The Colts should have no problem establishing a remarkable passing attack with Nicks, Wayne, Fleener, Hilton, and Allen. The loss of Ballard was painful, but as long as they keep defenses honest, then yes, even the Colts should have a viable rushing attack.