The Indianapolis Colts have an entire offseason to devise ways to get Trent Richardson going and figure out why he struggled so badly since coming over via trade from the Cleveland Browns.
But for now, following the Colts' 30-27 scratch-it-out victory over the Tennessee Titans, they have no choice. They must feature Donald Brown and make Richardson the second option. In some ways, that’s already happening.
The Colts are in a playoff race now. They have staked their past three opponents to a combined first-half lead of 66-9 and were lucky to have won two of those. This is a flawed team with a terrific quarterback, and it needs all the playmakers it can get on the field.
There’s no question now. Brown is the Colts’ best back. Richardson is their No. 2.
Both guys can still have a role. We're not talking about "benching" anyone. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton needs two viable backs to run his power-run-based offense. But Brown must get the ball more early in games, and he must get it more than Richardson does.
This is obvious, right? Richardson is hesitant, gearing down as he hits the hole and not trusting what he sees. Brown is decisive and assertive. He’s taking what the defense gives him, and his explosion is vastly better than what Richardson can offer in that department.
Richardson is not a bust — yet. He’s 22 years old, remember, and the Colts will not give up on him. Thank goodness the team did not do the same with Brown, who is having his career-best season at 26. It would have been easy to turn away from him after his early-career struggles.
Time is on the Colts’ side for Richardson, who still might one day be great again, but they have to stop trying to earn that first-round pick they gave up to get him right now. That value still could come in time. But today is about today; they must try to win now, not adjust their offense out of whack to get Richardson going. Looking at what he has done the past 16 quarters of action — 35 carries, 81 yards, long run of eight yards, one fumble lost — it’s clear there’s some serious doubt in his head.
Brown, meanwhile, has been hot since the bye. Even with his two-carry, minus-one-rushing-yard game in the Week 10 loss to the St. Louis Rams, he added five catches for 64 yards and a score. In his past four games, he has totaled 271 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns, averaging 6.5 yards every time he touches it.
His first touchdown Thursday against the Titans got the Colts back in the game to start off the second half, and his second score capped off the game.
For a team that’s having to dig itself out of holes far too often for a division leader, maybe giving the ball to Brown more early and making Richardson the No. 2 option is the obvious but needed adjustment to settle down the offense and make things a lot easier on themselves.
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