Will Ahmad Bradshaw be a difference-maker for the Colts? (Photo credit)
Rarely does a signing in early June of an injury-prone running back who will be a complementary back to the previous season's starter matter much. But, the Indianapolis Colts signing of Ahmad Bradshaw on Tuesday will make a larger impact on the season than you may have originally thought when you saw the news flash on the "bottom line" of ESPN.
Vick Ballard, the Colts' starting running back last season, ran for 814 yards and only two touchdowns in his rookie campaign. It was a promising performance for the future, but one thing was clear at the end of the season: if the Colts wanted to duplicate last season's success again, they would have to sign a complementary back to take some of the pressure off of Ballard.
The Colts ranked 22nd as a team in rushing last season and there is no way they will be able to go 11-5 again with that same low output in the rushing attack. They played one of the easiest schedules in the league last year and it does not look like they will enjoy the same luck this season.
They will meet up with San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, and Houston twice next season, which could easily be five losses right there. But, if the Colts did in fact beef up their offensive line, which they already have done, and bolster their rushing attack, they may have a chance at replicating last season's success. Signing Bradshaw was that last piece of the puzzle for success.
Although Bradshaw has only played a full season once in his seven year career, he is able to rack up big numbers in a limited amount of opportunities, like the 1,015 yards and six touchdowns he totaled last season. Adding Bradshaw to the backfield will give it more of an identity and confidence and will especially help Ballard be more productive since half of the load will now be on Bradshaw's shoulders.
And with a young quarterback like Andrew Luck at the helm, closely following a protective offensive line, a strong running attack is the most essential crutch. A powerful running attack keeps the defense honest and young quarterbacks need all of the advantages they can get. And last season, Luck did not always have that luxury.
He ranked fifth last season in passing attempts and had a problem with making poor decisions, which the 18 interceptions are proof of, but maybe that was because he was forced to make too many decisions as a young quarterback. The position is the definition of a learning process, but when coaches throw young gunslingers into the fire with a poor rush attack, they are prone to make more mistakes than a young quarterback with an elite back lining up behind him.
And this will be the point of the article where I will compare Luck to Robert Griffin III. Guys, they went number one and two in the draft; they will be compared for the rest of their lives. Anyways, RG3 ranked 25th in attempts, while the Washington running game ranked 3rd in rush attempts. And in comparison, Griffin III only threw 5 interceptions. That right there is the difference between a strong and weak running game for a young quarterback.
And I'm not saying the addition of Bradshaw will transform the Colts running game into the 2012 Redskins attack overnight, but it will certainly improve it. And that improvement, along with the offensive line tweaks, will morph into a mightily improved Andrew Luck. A mightily improved Andrew Luck, well, that's just a scary thought.
By: Matt Levine