Delone Carter has become more than just a short-yardage and goal line running back for the Indianapolis Colts.
Carter, a rookie, was a fourth-round draft choice by the Colts last April. Initially, he figured to battle veteran Donald Brown to be Indianapolis’ primary backup to starter Joseph Addai.
But late in his first training camp with the team, the former Syracuse standout slipped past Brown for the No. 2 running back role.
Carter, who is expected to start Sunday against Tennessee (1 p.m., LP Field, CBS) if Addai is unable to play due to hamstring issues, leads the team in rushing through seven games with 259 yards on 65 carries, has a 4.0-yard average, and has scored two touchdowns.
His success has come largely because he has proven to be just as adept at bouncing plays outside for large chunks of real estate as he is at powering his way between the tackles.
“He’s certainly getting a lot more familiar with playing in this league, and what it takes. He’s been able to put some pretty good runs together. Just in terms of his pass protection and those kinds of things, he’s been getting better each week,” Coach Jim Caldwell said.
“He’s been able to run it pretty well. He’s found seams and created some opportunities. (He’s) making guys miss with power and his natural God-given ability.”
It’s been Carter’s skill at learning the Colts’ pass blocking schemes — a must for any running back who expects to see much playing time in Indianapolis — that has impressed the coaching staff.
“He’s a lot more familiar, and a lot more comfortable in that realm,” Caldwell said.
“Sometimes those things aren’t necessarily quantifiable by the naked eye, but those of us who know what he’s supposed to be doing understand thoroughly. He’s getting better.”
Carter laughs when asked about his ability to break plays to the outside, a skill that allowed him to have runs of 42 and 28 yards in last week’s loss to New Orleans.
“I’ve got a little wiggle,” he smiled. “”If the defenses are surprised (that Carter is more than just a short yardage runner), that’s fine with me. I feel like it’s something that I want to build on every week. I feel like I just want my performance to improve as I go along.”
Caldwell likes his running style.
“He’s a guy who can find creases and seams. We also knew that he had good feet, good balance and could do some things for us as well,” he said.
“He’s one of those guys that will give you everything he’s got. He’s trying to create some opportunities out there, and trying to break every one that he possibly can. He does a good job of breaking tackles, and at this point in time he’s pretty strong along the sideline, which is a plus.”
Not practicing Thursday were Addai (hamstring), OT Anthony Castonzo (ankle), OT Ryan Diem (ankle), DE Dwight Freeney (knee), P Pat McAfee (hamstring), DE Robert Mathis (non-injury, rest), DT Drake Nevis (low back), and OG Mike Pollak (hamstring).
LB Pat Angerer (knee) and OG Seth Olsen (hand) both saw limited work. LB Kavell Conner (knee), LB A.J. Edds (concussion), TE Brody Eldridge (knee), WR Anthony Gonzalez (groin), and TE Jacob Tamme (concussion) all fully practiced.