Josh Ferguson Embracing Special Teams Role

Posted Nov 16, 2016

Intro: After seeing some major action with the offense the first few weeks of the season, rookie Josh Ferguson has been relegated to more of a special teams role with the Colts.

INDIANAPOLIS —Jordan Todman plays it at the 2 … 5, 10, breaks outside … he’s got an opening! … 30, 35 … he has to outrun Crosby … 50, 40, 30 … he’s going to go all the way! … 98 yards! … Colts lead, 6 to nothing!”

Indianapolis Colts play-by-play man Bob Lamey delivered yet another classic call last week, as returner Jordan Todman took the Green Bay Packers’ opening kickoff to the house, giving the Colts a huge boost in their eventual 31-26 Week 9 victory at Lambeau Field.

And while Todman certainly showed off an impressive burst of speed to break away and high-step his way into the end zone, the play might not have even developed had it not been for Todman’s fellow running back, Josh Ferguson.

Ferguson delivered a huge block on the Packers’ Ha Ha Clinton-Dix around the 23-yard line, catapulting Todman down the right sideline and giving him all the space he needed to do his thing and put Indianapolis on the board.

The play was further proof of Ferguson “contributing in a big way on special teams,” according to Colts general manager Ryan Grigson.

“Without that block up in Lambeau, maybe we don’t have the catalyst and the big return, because he stuck it up in there and put his face on that guy and he opened up a lane for 28,” Grigson said this week. “And that’s an encouraging thing.”

While Ferguson was a big part of the Colts’ offensive plans towards the beginning of the season, he’s been relegated more to a special teams role in recent weeks.

But the rookie doesn’t look at his current role as a demotion by any means. The more he can get out on the field and gain experience, the better he believes he’ll be down the road.

That big block against the Packers — as well as another key block he had on a 61-yard kickoff return by Todman in the second quarter of that game — was a key example of that mindset.

“I just want to make sure that I’m doing my job as best as I can, and as of lately, my special teams have been a great part of that,” Ferguson said. “So I just wanted to make sure I did my job, and I knew if I did, we’d get some big returns, and we did. So it was pretty cool to see that whole thing come about.”

Ferguson came to the Colts as an interesting prospect out of Illinois, where he finished second in school history with 4,474 all-purpose yards. Although he garnered plenty of attention at the NFL Scouting Combine — where he ran a 4.48 40-yard dash — Grigson was happy to snatch Ferguson up on May 2 after he went undrafted.

Early on, the Colts liked Ferguson’s potential. The coaches saw him as a possible Darren Sproles-like weapon — a shifty guy who is dangerous running the ball, catching it out of the backfield or in the return game.

The only problem for Ferguson was a logjam at the running back position in Indianapolis, one that included the likes of Frank Gore, Robert Turbin, Todman and others during the offseason and training camp.

But Ferguson showed enough to convince the Colts’ coaches to keep him on the final 53-man roster come final cuts, as he finished tied for second on the team with 10 preseason receptions for 74 yards, while also returning his only kickoff opportunity 25 yards.

He even was a major part of the Colts’ offensive gameplan early on in the regular season, earning several snaps a week, primarily on third down, and catching 19 passes for 127 yards in the team’s first five games.

Since Week 6, however, the Indianapolis offense has gone in a different direction, mostly utilizing experienced backup running back Robert Turbin in those third down situations. And while Ferguson caught his first pass in four weeks against the Packers — a nine-yard reception in the second quarter — Grigson said the team needs to see a little more consistency out of the rookie before he’s placed back in a key role on offense.

“There’s a key word here, and there’s rookie development, and you’re going to hit some walls, you’re going to have some bumps in the road, but we believe in his athletic upside, and these things take time,” Grigson said of Ferguson. “It’s not a toughness issue, it’s not an athletic (issue), I think it’s an experience thing. Josh has such speed, and he can do a lot in this offense. It’s just, he needs to — like anybody else, though — make the most of his opportunities, because they don’t last forever.”

That’s just fine to Ferguson, who understands that patience — as well as embracing whatever role is given to him — is key both in his development and for the team, whether that means he’s making plays for the offense, or delivering key blocks on special teams.

“I love special teams. I love it just as much as I love playing offense,” he said. “It’s football.”

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