Indianapolis’ selection of Wisconsin standout, Jonathan Taylor, in this year’s NFL Draft creates an intriguing ‘”1-2” backfield punch that Colts fans can’t wait to watch on Sundays.
The combo is so intriguing that offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni called it a “1-1” punch. What might be a nightmare for some fantasy football owners could turn out to be the secret recipe Chris Ballard and the Colts have been looking for.
So how will the rookie split carries with Marlon Mack? Where does Nyheim Hines fit in?
Longtime Colts reporter Mike Chappell helped us all make sense of the running back situation on Thursday’s The Ride with JMV.
“You have 60/65 plays a game and when you start clicking off your people: T.Y. Hilton, Parris Campbell, Michael Pittman, Trey Burton, Jack Doyle – that’s just the passing game. And then you’ve got Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor, and oh by the way, we wanna get Nyheim Hines his touches,” Chappell said.
That’s a lot of mouths to feed…
Marlon Mack: 15-18 touches (16.5 average)
Chappell: “In the running game, you’re gonna maximize Mack and Taylor.”
Mack averaged 18.6 touches over 14 games last season while his yards per carry swung wildly from week to week. All signs point to consistent touches for Mack in the first few games as Taylor gets acquainted with the offense. As the season wears on, however, his touches could drop to around that 15 number, especially if Taylor proves he can hold onto the football.
Jonathan Taylor: 9-14 touches (11.5 average)
There’s a wider range for Taylor here, especially if the Colts deploy a “go with the hot hand” approach.
Chappell: “If Hines is gonna get his, then Jonathan Taylor’s work in the passing game has to be limited simply because the more Taylor gets, the even less Hines gets. But at the same time, you wanna explore as much of Jonathan Taylor as you can.”
Taylor figures to take over the vast majority of non-Mack rushing attempts and could also play a factor in the check down pass game that Philip Rivers loves to utilize.
Nyheim Hines: 2-4 touches (3 average)
Chappell had the most to say about the man with the lowest touch projection.
“Let’s say you get Marlon Mack 18 carries and you’re gonna get Jonathan Taylor, I don’t know, 10-13? All of a sudden, there’s only so many snaps. They’ll find ways [to involve Hines]. One thing that Frank [Reich] mentioned is there may be games where Hines doesn’t do much and then, ‘…a game where he has ten catches.’”
“What he’s gotta do, which is tough, is when you get those handful of chances, you really gotta maximize them. If Marlon Mack has 18 carries, he’s gonna have three or four that go nowhere and he knows he’s gonna get another dozen. With Nyheim Hines, that probably won’t be the case.”
Hines will see his share of usage volatility. Chappell said the Colts need to ensure that he doesn’t touch the ball every time he does make an appearance. That trend would set off a defense’s alarm.
If you combine every Colts non-QB rushing attempt and running back reception from 2019 then divide by 16 games, you’d get an average of 29.7 backfield touches. With an added emphasis on the ground attack in 2020, that ‘backfield touch average’ will likely surge to around 31. That’s the number you’d get if you added up the average projections for Mack, Taylor, and Hines.
Chappell said it best:
“If everyone stays healthy, it’s gonna be really interesting how you keep everyone involved and make sure everybody gets what they get.”
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