You have Andrew Luck. You thought you had something different in Trent Richardson. Now is as good as any time to do what we've been begging the Indianapolis Colts to do for a while now: Throw to darned ball!
Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton might have heard the cries.
When asked what the identity of his offense would be this season — after routinely pounding it in our heads that the Colts were a "power offense" a year ago — Hamilton's tune changed.
"We’re going to be a score-first team," Hamilton said, via ESPN.com. "We’re going to do whatever we need to do to score one more point than our opponent."
OK, let's not give Hamilton too much guff here. After all, if your team had just traded for Richardson and went into San Francisco and bloodied them to a pulp with a power-rushing attack that led to a 20-point victory, as the Colts did in Week 3 last season.
But with Richardson not showing any development, Donald Brown gone to San Diego and Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard coming off season-ending injuries, can the Colts be that team again?
The Colts were 15th in the NFL in passing attempts with 582 last season. They were 23rd in rushing attempts, but with a mere 409. That's actually what you might call a fairly balanced offense in NFL terms these days. After all, only five NFL teams — the 49ers, Seahawks, Bills, Jets and Panthers — ran the ball more than they threw it (not counting sacks taken).
What Hamilton is saying is not that the Colts must become a finesse offense, or have Luck drop back 50 times a game with no semblance of balance.
"Our mentality has not changed; we have to be physical at the point of attack. We have to try and knock people off the ball and wear them down physically," Hamilton said. "We have to have a sense of balance and still have a physical mentality, make up going into games so we can wear our opponents down how we see fit."
Luck averaged 36.3 attempts per game last season. That's nothing to trifle at. Not counting partial-season starters such as Matt Schaub, Sam Bradford and Josh Freeman, Luck was 12th in the league in that statistic.
And perhaps if the Colts are more effective throwing the ball earlier in games this season, they can turn to icing it late with their stable of hard runners. That would be the ideal situation for Hamilton in 2014: pass to set up the run, not the other way around.
Even with Reggie Wayne coming off ACL surgery and tight end Dwayne Allen coming back from a missed 2013 season, Luck should have options in the passing game. T.Y. Hilton has established himself as a big-play threat. Coby Fleener made strides last season. Hakeem Nicks might be able to revive his career; after all he is still only 26 years old, and he was dominant as recently as the 2011 playoffs. Third-round pick Donte Moncrief might have been a steal in the draft. Da'Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill each flashed at times.
That's a good group. And if they have a healthy stable of backs, it could make the whole offense far more fluid. Defenses didn't fear the Colts' run game last season and basically dared them to do so most of the time. If they try that again, the Colts won't want to get back to being too stubborn about their approach.
And they also seem to realize that with Luck and some quality options in the receiving game, they'll have to force the issue a bit. Luck, entering his third season and appearing destined to be one of the next greats at the position, is just too good to shackle for too long.
"Not only do we have some guys that are proven playmakers in the National Football League, but we have an opportunity to build on what we accomplished last year and hopefully take that next step," Hamilton said. "It’ll be great to have Reggie, Dwayne and all those guys available to see if we can go out and accomplish our ultimate goal.
"The toughest part [of last season] was making sure that we had the packages available to accommodate the personnel changes that were made from week to week. When I say personnel changes, I’m talking about the attrition, the attrition that we had to deal with. Other than that, it wasn’t tough. When you have Andrew Luck, that really gives you an ability to adapt to whatever the circumstances are and have a chance to be successful."
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