Josh Ferguson Gets Start, Another Sign Of Colts Intrigue In Shifty Running Back

Intro: The undrafted free agent who has made the biggest impression on offense this season is unquestionably running back Josh Ferguson.

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INDIANAPOLIS – During camp in Anderson, as the days went along, the first-team presence at the running back position never seemed to go away.

Day-after-day, with the Colts often rotating first-team reps quite frequently in the ball carrier department, No. 34 was still there.

Of all the undrafted free agents the Colts signed in 2016, Josh Ferguson has seen the most starting work.

He saw it first-hand on Saturday night.

With Frank Gore sitting out the preseason opener, the Colts turned to Ferguson for starting running back duties.

"It was good just to get out there and play some ball again," Ferguson said of his NFL debut. "It was a great learning experience and I'm just excited for the next one.

"I think I've grown the most during those (starting) reps, playing against the guys that have a lot of experience under their belt. It forces me to make decisions quicker and forces me to play at a high level."

It's no secret the Colts have been intrigued by Ferguson.

His resume and unique traits being brought to the running back group---as an elusive receiving threat---was why the Colts were excited to see what Ferguson could do in Indianapolis.

Ferguson had 168 receptions in his Illinois' career. He finished 2015 as the only active FBS player with at least 2,500 career rushing and 1,500 receiving yards.

The 4,474 all-purpose yards Ferguson amassed at Illinois are the second most in school history. At Illinois, Ferguson had 505 carries for 2,586 yards and 18 touchdowns, 168 receptions for 1,507 yards and eight touchdowns and 21 kickoff returns for 381 yards.

Since 2012, only two Big Ten players had more catches than Ferguson. And Ferguson did that as a running back, not a wide receiver.

What Ferguson found out on Saturday is life in the NFL isn't going to come easy.

Just three rushing yards on eight carries for Ferguson is why Chuck Pagano has made it clear that improving the run game is a must this week.

Ferguson knows that his pass blocking has to get better, too.

The days of practice in shorts and a helmet aren't the only evaluation coaches now have on the rookies.

Real football is here.

But ask Frank Gore ("Josh is going to be a good one") or Jim Irsay ("We think guys like Josh Ferguson have a chance to be special") and they see a bright future from Ferguson.

"Josh has done a great job," says quarterback Scott Tolzien, who worked with Ferguson during the first half on Saturday.

"Guys admire the way he goes about his business. He's quiet, but is on his assignments and he's got talent too. He's been a valuable asset so far and everybody is excited about Josh and what he brings to the table."

Thursday morning practice getting ready for the Ravens.

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