INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL continues to operate business as usual here in the 2020 offseason, with training camps on the horizon.
If everything does begin on time for camps, the Colts will start theirs on July 28th (veterans report day). This year’s camp will take place at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, with the NFL mandating teams stay home for camp due to COVID-19.
With the on-field portion of the spring not happening this season, training camp will be the only time this offseason for players to make an impression on the staff.
It’s time to pick back up our ‘burning questions’ series on 1075TheFan.com.
Here are our burning questions at the running back position heading into the 2020 Training Camp:
1. How should the Colts split up the carries for Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor?
It’s a great problem to have, at a position group where you typically need to rely on multiple ball carries to be the lead guy throughout a 16-game season.
The fantasy analysts are going nuts trying to figure out how the Colts might split up their running back carries in 2020.
In 2019, the Colts averaged 29 rushes per game.
Projecting that to 2020, let’s take 4 of those and hand them to Nyheim Hines (2), Parris Campbell (1) and Roosevelt Nix (1).
That leaves 25 carries for Mack and Taylor to split up.
Does that start out 14 for Mack and 11 for Taylor?
Does that flip as the year moves along, and Taylor gets acclimated to NFL life?
Mack is a proven runner in this league, who has earned the trust of the Colts. Taylor brings an even bigger game-breaking element to the backfield. You don’t draft a running back in the top half of the second round and ease him into things.
It’s a great problem to have, and one that will be monitored on a daily basis.
STAT TO NOTE: Taylor had 32 career 100-yards games in 41 career games at Wisconsin.
2. How much will Nyheim Hines be used in 2020?
The Colts have not held back in stating that Nyheim Hines will continue to be the team’s third-down back.
Utilizing that 4.3 speed from Hines, which we saw electrify a Week 16 game at punt returner last year, is something this offense wants to tap into more.
Seeing Hines take off in the open field hasn’t happened much offensively in his two NFL seasons.
But the Colts know he’s a unique chess piece, and what we saw as a punt returner last December can translate on offense.
Hines has played 16 games in each of his first two seasons, but he had a big discrepancy in touches (2018: 85 carries, 81 targets, 63 catches; 2019: 52 carries, 58 targets, 44 catches).
For this offense to climb another couple of rungs on the ladder, getting Hines to be more of a consistent weapon is an important key.
And this staff feels Philip Rivers will be looking for Hines a lot this season.
STAT TO NOTE: Hines’ 195 punt return yards last year in Week 16 were the most by an NFL player since 2004.
3. What’s the role for Jordan Wilkins?
First, it’s not a slam dunk that Wilkins will make the team in 2020.
Because the Colts hardly ever use a 4th running back, and the skill group is now accounting for another body, with the signing of fullback Roosevelt Nix, who they envision having a routine offensive role.
The drafting of Jonathan Taylor has pushed Wilkins down to No. 4 on the running back depth chart.
Given how the team uses Nyheim Hines though, Wilkins is more like the No. 3 ‘running back’ when talking about guys used more on first and second down.
Still, that spot on the 53-man roster means such a player has to have a presence on special teams.
Wilkins has been a special team contributor in his two NFL seasons.
While a guy like Wilkins is a solid insurance option, and is one injury away from having a much-needed role offensively, him locking down a presence on special teams is important to securing that 53-man roster spot.
STAT TO NOTE: In 2019, the Colts ran for the most rushing yards (2,130) in a season since 1988. They also had the franchise’s highest yards per carry since 1985 (4.52).