INDIANAPOLIS – You have to give Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson credit.
His nonstop, never-willing-to-settle mentality with the roster reached an all-time high at around 6 p.m. Wednesday when he acquired running back Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns for a first-round draft pick in 2014.
None of Grigson’s previous 15 trades in his 20 months on the job as general manager were as big as this one.
If Grigson and the Colts have their way, the pick will be in the late teens or early 20's next year because they have no intention of missing the playoffs this season.
“Since I’ve taken this job, my owner (Jim Irsay) has wanted to achieve greatness no matter the circumstances,” Grigson said. “Losing three starters in one week, you can’t let that affect your mindset.”
Acquiring Richardson does more than make up for the loss of Ballard -- he's an upgrade at the position. Richardson, the No. 3 pick in the 2012 draft, rushed for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns despite playing with broken ribs most of his rookie season. He also had 51 catches for 367 yards and another touchdown.
Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has to be the happiest about the trade because Richardson is the type of back who could make their power running game successful.
Richardson will become the starter once he learns the offensive system. He’ll team with Ahmad Bradshaw, the current starter, to give the Colts the backfield duo they envisioned with Bradshaw and Ballard before the latter was injured. But instead of them splitting the load 50-50, expect Richardson to get the majority of the carries as long as he remains healthy.
“That’s the mindset of myself and (coach) Chuck (Pagano), we’re always trying get better, always trying to upgrade, trying to make it a competitive environment,” Grigson said. “We have a need at running back moving forward and the opportunity presented itself. This works for us in the near and long term over the next four years.”
But it’ll still take blocking in order for the Colts’ running game, which is averaging 130 yards a game, to be effective and for quarterback Andrew Luck to have time to find his receivers.
Luck, who was sacked 41 times last season, has already been sacked seven times in just two games this season, and on Sunday the Colts will start rookie Hugh Thornton at left guard in place of the injured Thomas against the San Francisco 49ers.
Richardson should help in the way Ballard would have with his protection. Cleveland quarterbacks were sacked on only 4.8 percent of their dropbacks with Richardson on the field, compared with 9.4 percent when he was off the field.
The Colts lost their best blocking tight end in Allen earlier Wednesday, leaving Coby Fleener as the starter. Fleener was drafted thirty picks ahead of Allen in the 2012 draft, but he fell behind him on the depth chart because he doesn’t have the all-around skill set that Allen does.
Acquiring Richardson is a start, but don’t think Grigson is done yet.
It’s not in his blood to sit still.