RELATED LINK:•Running Back Burning Questions Heading Into 2016 Training CampINDIANAPOLIS — Frank Gore is back in 2016 for his 12th NFL season — and second with the Indianapolis Colts — and hopes to show everybody that age is just a number.
Just who will be getting the lion's share of carries behind Gore, however, remains a major question mark for the Colts entering training camp.
Indianapolis enters camp at Anderson University next week with six total running backs on its roster.
The team certainly used free agency this offseason to pick up some talent and experience at running back to battle for reps behind Gore (Jordan Todman and Robert Turbin) and has three young speedsters (Josh Ferguson, Trey Williams and Tyler Varga) who bring their own flavor to the position.
With a completely healthy Andrew Luck returning under center, an extremely talented nucleus of speedy wide receivers and expected improvements along the offensive line, the Colts will heavily depend upon their running backs to get yards in big chunks in 2016 to keep the playbook open for offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.
Here's a look at the state of the Colts' running backs heading into training camp:NOTABLE RETURNERS:
- Frank Gore
- Tyler Varga
- Trey WilliamsNOTABLE ADDITIONS:
- Jordan Todman
- Robert TurbinNOTABLE CAMP BATTLES:
- Josh FergusonNOTABLE LOSSES:
- Ahmad Bradshaw (free agency)
- Daniel Herron (free agency; signed with the Buffalo Bills)
Last year, the Colts kept four running backs to open up the regular season.
This year, Gore returns as the definite No. 1 starter at running back for Indianapolis, and is coming off a season in which he narrowly missed out on a 1,000-yard rushing campaign despite the team's issues up front and at the quarterback position.
Last season, he ran the ball 260 times for 967 yards and six touchdowns, while catching 34 passes for 267 yards and another score.
This year, Gore could not only become the oldest running back to achieve a 1,000-yard rushing season since Washington Redskins Hall of Famer John Riggins accomplished that feat in 1984 at age 35, but doing so would mean he had made major moves up the NFL's all-time rushing list.
As it stands now, Gore is 240 yards away from cracking into the Top 10. By the time 2016 is over with, he could be at least No. 8 all-time, passing guys like Thurman Thomas, Franco Harris, Marcus Allen, former Colts greats Edgerrin James and Marshall Faulk, Jim Brown and Tony Dorsett.
These are nice individual accolades, of course. But for Gore, the sting of the 2015 season — in which the Colts narrowly missed out on a playoff berth with an 8-8 record, as well as his missing 1,000 yards rushing on the year — is still fresh. He wants payback — bad.
"I'm not over it. I'm not going to be over it until I do it," Gore said this offseason. "I've been blessed that they kept me to get that opportunity to do it again — to go after my goals again, be that one to get the 100 yards they haven't had for years, to get that 1,000-plus yards. To have that opportunity when it's playoff time and it's time to get down and dirty, and you got to run the ball, I've got another opportunity to do it."
The last running back to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the Colts was Joseph Addai in 2007.
So while the durable Gore is back again to lead the backs, the aforementioned question about who will back him up remains unanswered heading into camp.
That means the intensity stemming from friendly competition should be extremely high at Anderson University and during preseason games.
No longer are guys like Ahmad Bradshaw, Daniel "Boom" Herron and Josh Robinson in the equation. In steps Todman and Turbin, who each have their own experiences — including deep playoff runs — that they bring to Indianapolis.
Todman, a 2011 sixth-round pick by the San Diego Chargers, has 44 games of NFL experience, carrying the ball 115 times for 472 yards (4.1 yards per carry) and three touchdowns in limited action with the Chargers, Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers. He is also useful as a receiver, as he's hauled in 40 career receptions for 314 yards and two touchdowns.
If the Colts decide to go with three running backs on their active roster, then Todman — who stands at 5-foot-10 and weighs 200 pounds —could be an ideal candidate for a third-down back-type of role.
Colts Agree to Terms with running back Robert Turbin.
Then there is Turbin, who is the most accomplished of the Colts' running backs not named Gore. He was Marshawn Lynch's backup for three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, where he carried the ball 11 total times in Seattle's two recent Super Bowl appearances.
Last year, Turbin battled an ankle injury and was on three different rosters. He signed a one-year deal with the Colts this offseason, and says his goal "is to be here for a very long time."
"I feel like I'm in a position here to do that," Turbin said. "Most importantly, I feel like I have the support to do that. A really good mentor in Frank and to one day take over and be a really great running back for this franchise."
Also battling for spots at running back are Ferguson, Williams and Varga, who are sure to get plenty of carries in the Colts' five-game preseason schedule.
Ferguson went undrafted this year out of Illinois, but at 5 foot 10, 200 pounds, he's already drawing comparisons to another elusive running back: Darren Sproles.
That's because Ferguson was one of the best in college football in recent seasons at catching the football out of the backfield (from 2012 to 2015, only two players in the Big Ten Conference had more receptions than Ferguson), and he finished his career at Illinois as the only active FBS player with at least 2,500 career rushing and 1,500 receiving yards.
Then there's Williams, who brings more of a shake-and-bake elusiveness to Indianapolis. After going undrafted last year, he was signed by the Redskins, where he raised some eyebrows during the preseason.
He then bounced around on practice squads (Redskins, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins) and even spent some time on the Dallas Cowboys active roster, but hadn't logged any NFL playing time until Week 17, when the Colts brought him on at the end of the season and he logged two carries for 12 yards in a victory against the Tennessee Titans.
At 5 foot 7, 200 pounds, Williams — who finished third in the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine in both the 40-yard dash (4.49 seconds) and the three-cone drill — believes his versatility is an added bonus to his quickness and elusiveness.
"My versatility, being able to catch the ball out of the backfield as well, getting those routes down," he told Colts.com this offseason. "Yeah, I'm just trying to keep that up, man; just keep going hard. Like I said, it's no different than last year, I'm just going to keep going hard and treat it like it was my rookie year."
Varga, meanwhile, turned an impressive preseason last year into a roster spot, only to miss most of his rookie season with a concussion after collecting one run and one reception each in the season opener against the Buffalo Bills.
With injuries concerns behind him, Varga says he's excited about the prospects of earning his keep once again in 2016.2016 Colts Training Camp Previews:- Offensive Line
- Defensive Line
- Running Backs
- Inside Linebackers
- Tight Ends
- Outside Linebackers
- Wide Receivers