Colts RB Zack Moss finally feeling 'appreciated' amid career highs

INDIANAPOLIS – When running back Zack Moss learned he was being traded from the Buffalo Bills to the Indianapolis Colts, he did not react with the sense of devastation one might expect from a player sent packing by the team that drafted him.

Instead, Moss immediately recognized the upside of moving from a team that had not produced a 1,000-yard rusher since 2017 to one that ranked among the teams most committed to the running game.

"Change is good," Moss said Monday. "Being traded, I didn’t feel a certain way ... I think I was more happy to be traded than to be in a situation where my skill set wasn't going to allow me to do what I wanted to do."

But even in his most optimistic view of the situation, Moss likely could not have conjured how things would work out. Since his arrival in Indianapolis at the trade deadline last season, Moss has recorded the best individual performances of his career. In his past three games with the Colts – going back to Week 18 of last season – Moss has produced the three biggest rushing games of his four pro seasons.

His latest: a career-high 122-yard day in Sunday's win over the Baltimore Ravens. Moss also established a career high with 30 rushing attempts, a throwback NFL game from a throwback player.

It’s the kind of thing that would have been extremely unlikely for Moss in Buffalo. Consider the contrast: In 2½ seasons with the Bills, Moss averaged 7.3 carries per game. In his 10 games in Indianapolis, Moss has averaged 12.4. The top five games of Moss' career in terms of rushing attempts have all come since joining the Colts.

It's all been a pleasant surprise for the 25-year old drafted in the third round in 2020.

"I didn't know if I was going to be getting 5, 10, 15, 30 carries," Moss said. "It really didn't matter. I just wanted to be somewhere where I was appreciated for my skill set and that just wasn't the plan ... in Buffalo."

Moss cannot claim to be one of the fastest or quickest at his position, but he undoubtedly is among the toughest. And his feats have provided needed inspiration for the Colts' offense.

"He's done it back-to-back weeks for us, and he continues to do it," Colts coach Shane Steichen said, referring to Moss playing 98% of the offensive snaps in the Colts' Week 2 win over the Houston Texans. "We rode him, and he played really good football for us back-to-back weeks."

So much in the NFL boils down to timing and opportunity, and Moss has had a couple fortuitous breaks in this regard. His arrival last season preceded Jonathan Taylor reinjuring his right ankle, with the All-Pro winding up on injured reserve in December. That left Moss as the go-to running back in the final weeks of the season.

This season, with Taylor on the physically unable to perform list and Deon Jackson proving a disappointing option (he was waived Saturday), Moss has been called upon again and has come through.

After missing the season-opener following a broken right arm in training camp, Moss' tough running has given the Colts' offense an edge and helped it overcome the loss of starting quarterback Anthony Richardson in the first half in Week 2. Richardson missed Sunday's game at Baltimore with a concussion, but is expected to return in Week 4.

But now that Moss has received these opportunities, there are questions looming. Taylor's return is expected soon -- he's eligible to be activated as soon as Monday -- and the decisions the organization makes regarding Taylor will definitely impact Moss.

"I'm sure they will," Moss said. "At the end of the day, my job is to be ready when my number is called. So, it doesn't matter how many times my number is called, it's [about] what I'm going to do with those opportunities.

"And at the end of the day, J.T. is a hell of a player. Everyone knows that. So, there's not going to be any type of negativity when he comes back. It wasn't like that last year. He's a great guy. I'm happy to go get back out there with him in this style of offense."

Really, the prospect of employing both Moss and Taylor in the same backfield is intriguing. Their styles play off one another, with Taylor's explosiveness and big-play ability complimented by Moss' hard-running style that wears down opponents.

Taylor's contract standoff with the team hasn't been resolved, and he'd still prefer to be traded. But barring a deal to move the running back, the Colts hope to integrate him into their offense.

And Moss thinks he and Taylor could form a winning 1-2 punch.

"It keeps him healthy [and] keeps myself healthy throughout a year like this," Moss said. "As long as those things are resulting in wins, I don't really think no one cares what the stats look like, what the carries look like. As long as we're coming out with a W."