INDIANAPOLIS – There's a list of positives that NFL offensive coordinators are looking for:
A Pro Bowl quarterback
Three quality receivers, including one likely headed to the Hall of Fame
Two running backs who can carry the load
Two tight ends who have the potential to be one of the best duos in the league
The bad news – it’s not really bad – for Indianapolis Colts first-year offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is that he has to find a way to keep all his playmakers involved.
There were some eyebrows raised after the Colts’ Week 1 victory over Oakland because they ran the ball more (26 times) than they passed it (23).
“You only have one football, so it’s hard to spread the wealth,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “It’s even harder when you only run 53, 54 snaps.”
Hamilton said in his weekly meeting with the media Thursday that it’s a bit “premature” to read too much into the play calls against the Raiders because they had only seven offensive series, which tied for the fewest in the league.
“I thought we had a pretty good mix, a pretty good balance as far as running and the passing,” he said. “The ratio was pretty close to being even. I just feel like we have the athletes on the offensive side of the ball that afford us the ability to be mobile, the ability to be multiple in personnel groupings and find a lot of different ways to feature our playmakers.”
I agree with Hamilton, it is premature to pass judgment at this point. You can start to get worried if the Colts have a losing record and they’re still running the ball more than they’re passing it with Andrew Luck at quarterback in a few weeks.
One thing Hamilton – or Pagano – isn't changing is that they plan on utilizing the running game. They've still got to implement Ahmad Bradshaw into the backfield. Bradshaw had seven carries against the Raiders after missing the preseason while recovering from a foot injury. The Colts, who averaged 4.9 yards an attempt against Oakland, envision Vick Ballard and Bradshaw splitting the carries 50-50. Bradshaw said that’s how it often was when he played for the New York Giants.
“I’ll say it until they run me out of here, you've got to be able to run the football,” Pagano said. “I think balance is important and that’s one thing we thought we needed to do regardless, was have better balance. Certainly when you can run the ball, it takes a little heat off of your quarterback.”
Running the ball has already impacted No. 3 receiver T.Y. Hilton. Fullback Stanley Havili was on the field for 26 plays against Oakland. Hilton was on the field for 24 plays. Luck targeted Hilton five times, connecting on three of those passes.
“I just think that we got to do whatever we see fit to move the chains and score touchdowns,” Hamilton said. “We got to feature our playmakers and we don’t just consider our skill players to be playmakers. Andrew, he has a big duty and responsibility in the run game as well just making sure that we get to the right play. Ultimately, we've always talked about setting up our passing game with the run game and vice versa.”