News and Tribune

September 28, 2013

COLTS PREVIEW: Colts’ backs already forming strong bond

Indianapolis takes on Jacksonville on Sunday

By TOM JAMES
CNHI

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Colts’ backs already forming strong bond

BY TOM JAMES

CNHI News Service

INDIANAPOLIS -- Just call it “The Brotherhood.”

That’s how Indianapolis Colts running back Trent Richardson describes his relationship with teammate and fellow running back Ahmad Bradshaw.

“It’s been amazing. Since I got in the league, me and Ahmad always kept a good relationship. Meeting him and stuff, I’ve always been a big fan of his. We run a lot similar to each other as far as head-banging and stuff like that. That’s just how we run. It’s how we’re bred,” Richardson said late last week.

“He’s been a big brother, a big help. Making my [learning] process much easier when it comes to learning the playbook. Even with him, he’s still learning a lot of it for him being his first year here. It’s a learning process for both of us.”

While the pair have been on the same team for a little more than a week, Richardson and Bradshaw have proven to be very compatible in the locker room and the practice field. Just how compatible they end up being in a real-game situation over the long haul remains to be seen.

“It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve shared the backfield. I had Mark Ingram, Eddie Lacy and Roy Upchurch in the backfield with me [in college at Alabama],” Richardson added. “We don’t ever say that we have a 1-2 punch. We say we have a two-headed monster because we don’t look at each other as somebody’s second string and somebody’s first string. We’re both starters in our eyes.”

If last week’s glimpse of the pair in action during the Colts’ 27-7 road win over defending NFC champion San Francisco is any indication, the duo could provide a once anemic running attack into something pretty special.

“We talked about it ever since we got here as a staff. Philosophically, we talk about that you’ve got to be able to run the football and stop the run and those type of things. We want to play a physical brand of football,” Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano stresses. “Every game is going to be different. There’s going to be some games where you’re going to have to throw it a little bit more than run it.”

Bradshaw, who had a game-high 95 yards rushing in 19 carries with a touchdown in the victory over the 49ers, is the starter for the remainder of the season. The former New York Giants running back replaces Vick Ballard, who went down two weeks ago with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a non-contact drill in practice.

Richardson, meanwhile, entered the picture on Sept. 18 after a blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Browns. The third-overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns — behind a pair of highly-touted quarterbacks, Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck and Washington’s Robert Griffin III — saw limited time in the San Francisco game.

According to Pro Football Focus, Bradshaw was involved in 39 total snaps while Richardson, who had two days of practice with the team prior to facing the 49ers, was in for 28 total plays. Those numbers are expected to even out a bit more as the 2013 season progresses.

The prospect of a heavy dose of hard-nosed power football from the veteran Bradshaw and the less-experienced Richardson brings a smile to the face of the second-year Indianapolis head coach.

“[Bradshaw] runs angry, as we always talk about. He’s got a chip on his shoulder and he’s running that way. He prepares extremely hard. He’s ran that way ever since he’s been in the league. He knows. He just wants to win. He knows if he runs that way, he’s going to give our team the best opportunity to win. That’s just how he’s wired and that’s just in his DNA. He doesn’t know any different,” explained Pagano, adding that he wasn’t surprised at what he’s from Richardson despite a lack of quality practice time with the team.

“You consider what he went through in that time span [a week ago]. Finding out, ‘Hey, I’ve been traded.’ Show up with a duffle bag. Sitting in front of a new meeting room, new facility and all that went down in a short period of time. Get fitted, get a new jersey number, go out [to practice]. He did a heck of a job. You consider all that he had went through in a short period of time and to go out and run like he ran and play like he played. Pass-pro, he was excellent. Credit him for being able to focus in and put the blinders on, so to speak, and forget everything that transpired and went down. The kid is a winner. That’s all he wants to do is win. He’s able to put all that other stuff behind him and go out and execute and function and play well for us.”

It’s pretty safe to assume that what everybody saw in last week’s win over the 49ers is pretty much a blueprint of what Pagano would like to see on a regular basis.

“The health of those guys will play a factor, obviously, and who’s got the hot hand will play a factor in it, who we’re playing, all those types of things. But if we can even those numbers out down the road and not tax one guy, it’d be great,” the Colts’ coach explained. “They just want to win. So whatever the plan is, they just want to win.”

And don’t forget that former Colts No. 1 draft pick Donald Brown is the third part of the rotation, although the Bradshaw-Richardson combo are expected to get the bulk of the work.

“Yeah, they all have a role. [Brown is] still effective in his own right, obviously. The guy can run, he’s a home-run hitter. We’re going to have a package for each of those guys. We know what Don can do, whether it’s in space, you get him on the edge. So he’s got a role, a significant role on this team,” Pagano emphasizes.

“Again, I don’t think you can ever have enough runners. Again, I go back to last year, we lost three in one game and had to sign a bunch of guys off the street. He knows the game plan inside and out, front to back, so he’ll be ready to roll and we’ll have a plan for him.”

Bradshaw missed significant practice time this past week with a neck issue and may not be available for today’s game at Jacksonville. If he can’t play, then Richardson and Brown will be the primary running backs for the Colts. Indianapolis also might activate rookie Kerwynn Williams from the practice squad.

“It was impressive that [Richardson] was able to play 30 plays or so last week, and we had only met for maybe 12 hours total. But it’s just a testament to his football acumen. He’s a sharp kid, he’s a gym rat. I know that term starts to become somewhat clichО, but football is important to him,” Colts’ offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton points out.

“He worked at just the small portion, the segment of the playbook that we kind of curtailed for him and he went out and gave us a chance. But he’s coming along and we expect that he’ll be able to do more this weekend. The plays that [running backs] Coach [David] Walker and myself feel like he can handle and he’s ready for, then those are the plays that we’ll highlight that we’ll dial up when he has an opportunity to go in the game. We’re excited about Trent.”



INDIANAPOLIS COLTS AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

• Time: 1 p.m. Sunday.

• Location: Everbank Field (Grass), Jacksonville, Fla.

• Records: Colts 2-1; Jaguars 0-3.  



COVERAGE

• CBS Sports (Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots).

• Colts Radio Network (Bob Lamey, Jim Sorgi, Matt Taylor).

• Sirius NFL Radio (Channel 128, Colts; Channel 110, Jaguars).

• XM NFL Radio (Channel 231, Jaguars).



COACHES

• Colts: Chuck Pagano (13-6, 2nd year). Pagano has a 1-1 career-coaching record against the Jaguars.

• Jaguars: Gus Bradley (0-3, 1st year). Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley has never faced Indianapolis as a head coach. Bradley, a North Dakota State graduate, is in his first season as the head coach of the Jaguars.



SERIES

• 25th regular-season meeting.

• Colts lead series, 16-8. Indianapolis has won five of the last nine meetings. The Colts and Jaguars split last year’s games with both teams winning on the road. Jacksonville posted a 22-17 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sept. 23, 2012, and Indianapolis registered a 27-10 decision at Everbank Field in Jacksonville on Nov. 8, 2012.

• Fourteen of the 24 previous games in the series have been won by a touchdown or less. The Colts have an 8-4 won-loss record in Jacksonville, including winning four of the last six meetings there.

• Indianapolis and Jacksonville have split the series six times (2003-04, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012). Five games in the series have been decided in the final minute of play, including three decided by PK Josh Scobee in the last few seconds.

• Indianapolis is 1-3 vs. Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert.



LAST WEEK

• Indianapolis is coming into the game with a 2-1 record with a 27-7 win over San Francisco. The Colts’ lone loss came at home to Miami two weeks ago (24-20). Jacksonville is 0-3 and fell to Seattle, 45-17.



THEY SAID IT

• Colts head coach Chuck Pagano on not losing back-to-back games since he hired prior to last season: “Character. Veteran leadership. This team bounces back as good as any team I’ve ever been around. Again, they just don’t fluctuate. We just talk about consistency. I keep going back to it, stick to the process. They’ve bought into that, again, since day one. We kind of know what we are. This team understands our identity and how we’re built and what we’re built to do.”

• QB Andrew Luck on whether division games get scrappier: “Every game is so similar with each other, personal, [games] overall the years. I remember [Reggie Wayne] talking about Jacksonville saying it’s always a fight. Tough team, tough players. You see that on film. Those guys are tough. They play hard on every snap. We’re going to have to come ready for a fight.”

• OT Anthony Castonzo on facing a winless Jacksonville team: “It’s another game in-season. A divisional game. We’re respecting them and we know what they’re capable of and what they can do. We’re going to prepare the same way we have [for] each of the first three games.”

• ILB Jerrell Freeman on facing Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew: “It’s MJD, man. He’s not changing any time soon. He’s going to be a good back. Always has been. Just got to be able to corral him, stop that run and try to make him one-dimensional. [But] he’s definitely a bowling ball and big tree trunks with legs. Hopefully, we’ll be able to stop that.”

• DE Cory Redding on the best way to tackle Jones-Drew: “One guy here, hit him high, slide down to the ankle and hold on until the other 10 guys get there. That’s how you stop him. You got to have four or five guys on him at one point. It’s very hard for one guy to take him down by himself.”



GAME NOTES

• The Colts are hoping to win their third straight road game dating back to last season.

• Indianapolis can rush for over 100 net yards for the fourth consecutive week with a good effort against the Jaguars. The last time a Colts team began the season with four straight 100-yard rushing games was in 1988 (five games).

• Indianapolis has posted a 10-2 record in games decided by one possession or less under head coach Chuck Pagano.

• Over the past 11 years, the Colts have compiled a league-leading .714 winning percentage (25-10) in the month of September.

• Indianapolis is averaging 31:24 in time of possession, which is the highest time of possession for the Colts since the 1997 season (32:56).

• The Colts have only turned the ball over once this season, which ranks third in the NFL behind Kansas City and Tennessee (no turnovers through three games).

• Indianapolis’ plus-4 turnover margin ranks third in the AFC and fifth in the NFL.

• Indianapolis has only punted the football 11 times this season, which ties New Orleans for the least in the NFL.

• In the fourth quarter of games this season, Indianapolis has only allowed seven points. That ranks tied for second in the NFL. The Colts have also only given up 213 yards total yards in the fourth quarter, which is the fourth-fewest total in the league.

• QB Andrew Luck has a 4-2 record against AFC South teams with eight touchdowns and five interceptions. He has a career 80.2 passer rating against division teams.

• Luck is 13-6 as a starter since the start of the 2012 season.

• Luck has seven career rushing touchdowns since the start of last season. That’s the most by an AFC quarterback.

• Luck’s QB rating of 92.7 is 12th in the NFL so far this season. Last year, his rating of 76.5 was 26th in the league.

• WR Reggie Wayne has 133 career catches against Jacksonville, the most of any NFL opponent. Wayne has 133 receptions for 1,856 yards and six touchdowns against the Jaguars. He has eight 100-yard receiving games vs. Jacksonville.

• WR T.Y. Hilton netted four receptions for 113 yards and a TD in his last game against the Jaguars.

• WR Darrius Heyward-Bey is averaging 20.8 yards per catch against Jacksonville (six receptions for 125 yards).

• OLB Robert Mathis is going for his fifth consecutive game with a sack against the Jaguars. He has 9.5 career sacks in 19 career games against Jacksonville. Mathis is also shooting for his fourth straight game overall with a sack.



DID YOU KNOW

• The Colts have been penalized a league-low seven times this season for 54 yards.



STAT OF THE WEEK

• Indianapolis receivers have dropped just one pass this season. That ranks tied for first in the league with six other teams.



BY THE NUMBERS

• 1. RB Trent Richardson scored a touchdown for the Colts last week on his first carry with the team. Richardson, who was traded to Indianapolis, became the first player in franchise history to score on his first rushing attempt in his Colts debut since Gordon Brown did it on Oct. 4, 1987.



GAME PLAN

• Run, run, run. That’s the offensive game plan. Stop the run. That’s pretty much the defensive game plan. Indianapolis did a nice job of controlling the 49ers on defense a week ago, but the Colts have annually had issues against the Jaguars.

• Offensively, Chuck Pagano’s team wants to try and control the tempo in the Jacksonville game. Defensively, the Colts want to be able be aggressive and force the Jaguars into turning the ball over. Sounds easy enough. But can the execution match the game plan?



KEY MATCHUPS

• Richardson vs. Jaguars run defense. Jacksonville ranks 30th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per play (5.19) and 32nd in rushing yards allowed per game (167.7).

• Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Colts run defense. Indianapolis has annually had issues trying to slow down Jones-Drew, a player that the team was very interested in during the 2006 NFL Draft. He has rushed for 1,389 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 career games with Indianapolis. He is averaging 106.8 yards per game and 5.4 yards per carry in those meetings. Jones-Drew has had eight games of 100 yards or better and three games of 150 yards or better, including a career-best 177 yards last season.