Insiders Report: Indy's Running Backs

RB Joseph Addai (A. Lyons/Getty Images)

Scout.com's Ed Thompson takes you deep inside the numbers of Joseph Addai and Kenton Keith to show how the presence of each one in the backfield impacts the Colts' playcalling strategy. Colts fans, as well as the fans of their upcoming opponents, will want to read this exclusive insiders report.

The Basics

Joseph Addai:  In 10 starts and game appearances this season, Addai has 202 carries for 876 yards (5th in the NFL) with a 4.34 average and nine rushing touchdowns. Out of the running backs who have rushed for at least 500 yards this season, Addai ranks 11th in the league in rushing average. As a receiver, he's caught 31 passes for 269 yards (8.7 yards per catch) and two touchdowns.

Kenton Keith: In 11 game appearances and just one start, the former CFL player and Colts rookie has 99 carries for 440 yards (4.4 yards per rush), and three touchdowns. He has caught 11 passes for 69 yards (6.3 yards per catch) and one touchdown.

How they're similar

Neither back usually puts up gaudy numbers in a single game due to the Colts' balanced offensive attack and a two-thirds to one-third split of the rushing workload. Addai has rushed for over 100 yards in four of his ten games with a season-high 136 yards in Week 4 against Denver. Keith has turned in one 100-plus-yard performance this year — during his sole start of the season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 5 when he rushed for 121 yards.

When the Colts are in a 3rd-and-one situation, they can count on either back to pick up the first down. Addai has converted nine of 11 chances (81.8 percent) while Keith has been perfect on all eight of his attempts.

Both backs have similar breakaway rates that have been hovering around 12 percent. Addai has 22 rushes for 10-plus yards and two more for 20-plus yards. His longest run so far this season was for 23 yards. Keith has 12 rushes for 10-plus yards and two more for 20-plus yards, including a season-best run of 22 yards.

The bad news for the Colts' AFC South opponents — who all visit the RCA Dome before the end of the year — is that Addai's rushing average goes up to 4.9 yards per carry at home versus 4.3 yards on the road, while Keith's average jumps to 4.8 yards per carry in Indianapolis versus 4.1 yards during away games. The Colts have already swept those teams at their stadiums this season. But it's worth noting that over the past three weeks, Addai has only averaged 3.2 yards per carry and Keith's productivity has dipped a bit as well to 3.9 yards per rush.

One of the most impressive points to remember about the Colts' running back tandem is that through 11 games and a combined 343 plays carrying the ball, neither one has turned the ball over to the Colts' opponents. Keith fumbled on one rushing attempt, but it was recovered by Indianapolis.

When Addai is on the field

You'll see a consistent performance from the Colts' featured back during the 60 minutes of play. He averages 4.4 yards per carry in the first half and 4.2 yards per carry in the second half.

Addai's best results have come on runs designed to go wide right, where he averages 5.4 yards per carry. Somewhat ironically, when he tries to run between the right guard (Jake Scott) and the right tackle (Ryan Diem), he gets his worst results, averaging just 3.6 yards per run. Up the middle and anywhere to the left side, he averages consistently averages 4.0 to 4.3 yards per carry.

With Marvin Harrison missing six games already this year due to a knee injury, Addai has emerged as Manning's third-most frequent target overall. He's had 38 passes thrown in his direction and has pulled in 31 of them, including 11 that he's converted into first downs for Indianapolis. But that statistic is a bit misleading if you stop there. Out of the eight missed opportunities, only one was due to a drop by Addai. Three were defensed by the player covering him, two were hit at the line and one was thrown away by Manning in the second-year back's direction. That said, even with the eight incompletions, it's easy to see why Manning continues to throw the ball to Addai. His 81.6-percent reception rate is second only to tight end Ben Utecht's 87.5 percent.

Addai has averaged 8.7 yards per catch, and practically all of his yardage comes from what he does after he catches the ball. You'll rarely see him catching the ball beyond the line of scrimmage, and as a result, he usually has to deal with plenty of action right after getting his hands on the football. On 22 of his 31 receptions, he's added 10 yards or less after the catch. In Week 9 against New England, Addai had a 100-yard receiving game with 114 yards, but that was mainly due to his 73-yard touchdown scamper, a bit of an aberration since he's only gained more than 10 yards after catching the ball six times this season.

When Keith is on the field


RB Kenton Keith
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

If it's third down and Manning hands the ball off to the rookie, you'll usually see Indianapolis getting a new set of downs. Keith has converted 71.4 percent of his 14 chances, significantly better than Addai's 59.1 percent in 22 tries. Keith averages 5.1 yards per carry on third-down opportunities.

Keith has been a slow starter, averaging just 2.7 yards per carry on 41 attempts in the first half of games this season, but he takes it up a notch in the second half with a 5.7 yards-per-carry average on 58 attempts.

Like Addai, Keith thrives running up the middle behind Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday or to the inside left between Saturday and left guard Ryan Lilja, averaging 4.9 to 5.3 yards per carry in that area. Ironically, his weakest runs have been wide right — Addai's strongest area — where he averages just 3.5 yards per carry.

In the passing game, the Colts use Keith the same way as Addai, mainly as an outlet receiver. He's only had one catch where he gained more than 10 yards after the catch, and he's averaging a modest 6.1 yards per reception.

Strategy Notes

The Colts haven't relied on their running backs as receivers very often on third down. During the first 11 games, quarterback Peyton Manning has thrown a pass to his running back tandem just seven times. Addai caught all five for an average gain of 8.0 yards while Manning and Keith misfired on both of their third-down chances.

If the Colts find themselves in a situation where they absolutely can't afford to lose yardage on a play, Keith is their best bet on the ground. He's been stuffed just four percent of the time when he's been handed the ball — and that's the lowest percentage of any back in the NFL with the same number of carries (99) or more than the Colts' backup runner. Addai has been stuffed on 6.9 percent of his runs.

In the red zone, Addai is getting significantly better results than Keith. On 43 carries, Addai is averaging 4.12 yards — a slight dip from his 4.34 overall average — while posting all nine of his rushing touchdowns from within the red zone. But Keith's production during his 20 red-zone runs has been just 2.9 yards per carry against his usual 4.4 rushing average. All three of his touchdown runs have been from inside the red zone as well.

Don't expect Manning to throw to Keith on a critical down unless he has run out of options. The rookie has dropped five out of 19 passes thrown his way — 26.3% of his chances — which is the worst percentage on the team.

Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and are syndicated through FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.

Statistics referenced in this article are provided by STATS, LLC. Copyright 2007 by STATS, LLC. Any use or distribution of such Licensed Materials without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited. 


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