During an interview at the owners meetings on Tuesday in Orlando, Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said he is looking forward to the running back competition between Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard, and Trent Richardson.
“There’s going to be great competition there. You have to have one guy you call your bell cow, who is going to get the lion’s share of the snaps. We have a lot of options there.” (Indianapolis Star)
As Pagano noted, only one of the three will be able to start and receive the load of the carries. So, naturally, one question lingers: Out of Bradshaw, Ballard, and Richardson, who should start be the starting running back?
After a 2013 season in which he averaged fewer than three yards per carry, it seems fair to assume that Richardson will not enter the 2014 season ahead of Bradshaw or Ballard on the depth chart.
And whether it’s because of his productive season as a New York Giant or because of the promise he showed in four games with Indianapolis last year, there seems to be a consensus opinion among Colts fans that Bradshaw should and will be named the starter.
I, however, tend to believe that Ballard–the third-year back out of Mississippi State–would be more productive than not only Richardson, but also Bradshaw.
Ballard played in just the season opener of last season before suffering a torn ACL and missing the remainder of the year, but he did appear in all 16 of the Colts’ games during his rookie season in 2012. And, in the final 11 games of that season, he averaged 4.1 yards per carry, a mark that would have put him in the top ten in the league among all running backs who averaged at least 16.5 carries (Ballard’s rush attempts per game average during those 11 games) per game.
Do those numbers mean that Ballard was a top-ten running back two years ago? Not necessarily, but they at least prove that he just might be one of the more overlooked and underrated backs in the NFL.
In fact, in the last four games of 2012, Ballard averaged 21 attempts and 87 yards per contest, which included an 18-carry, 108-yard game at Houston in Week 15.
Ballard is also four years and four months younger than Bradshaw, who hasn’t stayed healthy for an entire season since 2010.
Of course, the two will ultimately decide their fates on the practice field during training camp this summer, but I’ll be rooting for Vick Ballard.