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Quarterback and Running Back Burning Offseason Questions

Intro: The Colts took one step forward in 2013 but ultimately did not reach their most important goal. What’s in store at the quarterback and running back position groups heading into the 2014 offseason?





INDIANAPOLIS –A battered Colts offense fought through several significant offensive injuries to finish the season 15th in total offense.

Continuity in the offensive system will be welcomed this offseason with the Colts heading into year two in Pep Hamilton's offense.

We will breakdown the Colts offense into two different pieces with a look at the quarterbacks/running backs today and the rest of the offense tomorrow.

How do you sum up Andrew Luck's second NFL season?It's hard to sum up Luck's second season in a few words considering all the adversity he encountered in 2013.

Statistically, Luck improved his completion percentage (54-60%) and was a major reason the Colts led the NFL in fewest committed turnovers (14).

Luck was not among the top quarterbacks from a numbers standpoint (a big reason he wasn't initially named to the Pro Bowl) but there's no denying what he meant to a Colts offense that battled attrition.

In the first four weeks of the year, three different running backs started behind Luck. That number doesn't even include leading rusher Donald Brown, who began the season as the team's punt protector.

Luck's top returning wide receiver (Reggie Wayne: 106 catches for 1,355 yards) and tight end (Dwayne Allen: 45 catches for 521 yards) played just a total of 8 games (25% of the season) in 2013.

Nearly all of Luck's skill players are under contract heading into 2014 which, along with a healthy interior offensive line, adds up to a jump in the offensive standings.

Luck, his own harshest critic, said after the season that he wants to limit the playoff turnovers he had in 2014.

While most NFL quarterbacks are still trying to find their footing three years into the professional ranks, Luck has a specific goal after back-to-back playoff experiences.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Colts had three of top 10 "costliest" injuries (Dwayne Allen-10, Donald Thomas-8 and Reggie Wayne-4) in 2013.

Yet, thanks to the leadership of Luck, the offense still found themselves in the playoffs.

STAT TO NOTE: Luck's 22 wins are the second most in NFL history for a quarterback following his first two seasons.How different will the Colts running back position look in 2014?

It's pretty remarkable how the Colts running back position evolved in 2013.

At the start of OTAs, Vick Ballard and Donald Brown appeared to be ready to receive the bulk of the carries.

At the end of OTAs, Ahmad Bradshaw added his name alongside Ballard and Brown.

By Week 2, Ballard had torn his ACL in a non-contact practice injury and Bradshaw and Brown appeared to be the new "two-headed" monster.

By Week 3, the Colts had traded for the No. 3 overall pick from the 2012 draft in Trent Richardson.

In a Week 3 road victory against San Francisco, Bradshaw had 19 carries for 95 yards and looked every bit like the two-time 1,000-yard rusher he had become with the New York Giants.

By Week 6 though, it was determined that a neck injury Bradshaw suffered would not heal by the end of the season.

So for the last 10 weeks of the season, the Colts relied on Brown and Richardson with a variety of backs making up the No. 3 spot in the backfield.

Brown, who started the season as the team's punt protector, had a career-year and received weekly praise for his work ethic from players and coaches.

He led the Colts with 102 carries for 537 yards (5.3 yards per carry) and his average was the second highest for the top 48 NFL rushers at the running back position last season.

Richardson (157 carries for 458 yards) admitted that this season "humbled" him.

It was a lot for a 22-year old to handle going from a franchise player in one organization to being traded mid-week during the regular season.

Chuck Pagano says Richardson is "hungry to be great" and now the Alabama product will get an entire offseason to fully assimilate to the Colts offense.

So what will the Colts backfield look like in 2014?

No matter the group come training camp, the backfield will have some talented options to choose from.

Brown (the team's 2013 leading rusher) and Bradshaw (a two-time Super Bowl leading rusher) are free agents.

Ballard (the team's 2012 leading rusher) and Richardson (the No. 3 overall pick in 2012) are both SEC products heading into their third NFL seasons.

STAT TO NOTE: Brown's 5.3 yards per carry in 2013 was the highest average for a Colts player (minimum 80 attempts) since 1961.*

Check back with tomorrow for a closer look at the rest of the offense (wide receivers, tight ends and offensive line).*

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