Second of a Position-by-Position Series Looking at the Colts' Roster
INDIANAPOLIS – Joseph Addai doesn't judge himself as others do.
He also said several times this past season he doesn't bother judging himself based on numbers.
Addai, entering his fifth season with the Colts, said that's why he can look at a season such as last season – a season in which the Colts finished 32nd in the NFL in rushing – and see despite the numbers, there was a lot that went right, and much on which to build.
As the Colts made their postseason run to Super Bowl XLIV, when they discussed the running game and Addai, coaches and players alike spoke of an area that played beyond its statistics, and often made key plays at critical times.
And Addai said that's how he saw it, too.
"You have a chance every Sunday to go prove yourself," Addai said of the Colts' running game and running back position, the latter of which is the subject of this second part of a position-by-position series that examines the Colts' roster entering the 2010 off-season.
"Do I feel like I bring something to the table? Yes, I feel like I bring something to the table. Numbers? The numbers are not where we want them, but I think when we do run the ball, we do have a good chance of making yardage or making something happen.
"That's kind of how I look at it."
Addai, after rushing for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first two NFL seasons, and after making the Pro Bowl following the 2007 season, in 2008 rushed for 544 yards and five touchdowns on 155 carries. This past season, he rushed for 828 yards and 10 touchdowns on 219 carries.
But Addai's effectiveness can't be measured by rushing numbers. Or, really, numbers period.
Addai, who shared time at times last season with rookie first-round selection Donald Brown, long has been one of the NFL's best pass-blockers, and last season he caught 51 passes for 336 yards and three touchdowns.
"Addai has been great," Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said during Super Bowl week. "He's had a tremendous attitude. He's done everything the team has asked of him. He hasn't been 100 percent healthy, but he's played through injuries. That speaks to his toughness.
"He pass-protected brilliantly. He made huge first downs. He and Donald have worked into a nice rotation, which I think only makes both of them better. There is no way we'd be where we are in this game without the play of Addai this season."
That became more true as the season continued.
Addai last season also threw a game-winning, fourth-quarter touchdown pass to wide receiver Reggie Wayne in an 18-14 victory over San Francisco in early November. That game was part of a five-game November winning streak that all but clinched the AFC South and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs for the Colts.
The Colts rallied to win in the fourth quarter in each of the games.
And those sorts of games, Addai said, were the ones he enjoyed, the part of the NFL he enjoyed – games that aren't as much about statistics, but more about finding a way somehow to win. A late-game run. A key block. A first-down converting reception.
Addai also improved his effectiveness in the red zone last season, and his four-yard tackle-breaking touchdown gave the Colts their final lead in Super Bowl XLIV.
"People ask me, 'Joe, how many yards did you have in the game?'' Addai said. "I don't look at that until someone points it out: 'Joe, you had this many yards.' Then, I would know. I don't make that a priority. It's not a high point. It's kind of like when you're playing football in the backyard with your friends."
Addai was far from the only player contributing in the Colts' backfield.
Brown, a first-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft from the University of Connecticut, rushed for 281 yards and three touchdowns on 78 carries, showing at times the breakaway speed that made him college football's lone 2,000-yard rusher the previous season.
He missed five games with injuries, but returned to rush for 46 yards on 16 postseason carries, catching three passes in the playoffs for 26 yards.
Chad Simpson, a second-year running back, rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, and Mike Hart – a sixth-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft from Michigan – rebounded from a season-ending knee injury the previous season to play a role as a short-yardage back, rushing for 70 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.
And while the Colts' running game didn't rank among the NFL leaders, coaches and players said the Colts' offensive philosophy played a role in that as well. The Colts, after ranking 31st in the NFL with a 79.6-yard-per-game average in 2008, finished 32nd this past season at 80.9 yards a game, but players and coaches said the team typically ran effectively late in games and in necessary situations.
After averaging 3.4 yards per carry in 2009, they averaged 3.53 last season, but throughout the season, they were effective in enough situations to open up opunities in the passing offense.
"We don't run the ball as well as we throw the ball, but we run the ball good enough that it makes defenses have to respect us," Colts tight end Dallas Clark said late in the season.
"You have to respect (running backs) Joe (Joseph) Addai and Donald Brown. Those guys have done a phenomenal job. They're not getting the carries that other (running) backs on some other teams are getting. The chances they get, they're getting a first down, they're running hard, they're hitting defenders and being physical backs and doing everything the team has called them to do."
Note: The 2010 Colts.com position-by-position series is meant to serve as an overview of the Colts' roster as it stands entering the 2010 offseason and to provide a detailed look at how the position groups fared during the 2009 season. It is not meant to reflect the opinion of Colts' management.