Editor’s Note: Here at Coltsider, we realize that there are many differing opinions about our beloved team, and each opinion deserves to be shared and discussed. In order to do this, we present the “Opposing Viewpoints” series, in which two Coltsider writers examine an issue from two different sides. The first part of this debate details the strengths of Delone Carter, and can be viewed here.
With the improved play of both Delone Carter and Donald Brown during the Week Six game against the Bengals, the discussion has risen up, which back should get the majority of the reps?
As Joseph Addai is out indefinitely, there should be at least one more week where the two young backs will be the primary rushers. Some fans will claim that Brown has had his chance, and has disappointed. Therefore, Carter, who looked good in preseason, should get the majority of the handoffs (and the start). Others still aren't sure about Carter, and believe that Brown still has something to give.
In my opinion, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but leaning a little toward the latter. During the first five weeks of the season, Delone Carter was not good. He was the 6th worst back in terms of DVOA, and had a success rate of 41% through the first four weeks, and was averaging 3.05 yards per carry. He was bad at blitz pick up, and had not been useful catching passes out of the backfield. Now, he did have a much better game on Sunday, while he only gained 3.2 yards per carry, he had a 64% success rate, indicating an improvement at short yardage situations (which is of course, why the Colts drafted him).
With that game, Carter's stats rose, giving him a seven-spot jump in DVOA, an 8% jump in success rate, and a slight edge in YPC. But, it becomes more depressing when you realize that this Colts' offensive line is actually run blocking very well for the Colts, being ranked 9th by Football Outsider's count. If Carter is only performing like this behind a much improved Colts' OL, imagine what it would have looked like last year, or in 2009.
Honestly though, I like Carter. I really do. He looks like he could be a good back in the future for the Colts, and this year it will be important for the Colts to develop him. But he hasn't played nearly as well as Brown has in his limited snaps. Before I get into Brown's details, let me clarify this: I am in no way a Donald Brown fan. I didn't like the pick when it was made in 2009, and as I've been reviewing the drafts, that pick seems to be one of the biggest mistakes of Polian's time here.
I haven't liked Brown's running in his first two years here, I much prefer a running back who can hit the holes with authority instead of wasting time behind the line deciding where to go. However, I also think Brown has gotten a bad rap from fans and analysts, simply because his weaknesses (blitz pickup, tough running) have been magnified by the awful run blocking the Colts have had in 2009 and 2010.
With improved run blocking in 2011, Brown looks to be the most benefited running back on the roster. While he has been limited, only having 13 rushes (all in the last two games), he has been extremely effective during those rushes. Brown's DVOA running the football is currently 50.8%, by far the highest in the league (for RB's with at least 10 carries). Brown's yards per carry is 5.6 yards, tops for the Colts, and impressive no matter where you are in the league.
Most importantly though, is Brown's success rate. Success Rate measures how well the play is run based on the circumstances. So, a run is considered "successful" if it gains 40% of the needed yards on first down, 60% on second down, and 100% on third down (though the measures are fiddled a bit during the fourth quarter, as a team tries to either run out the clock, or catch up). This helps measure consistency, as each play is assessed individually, instead of lumping all the yards together.
Brown's success rate thus far is an astounding 69%, which would easily beat out Beanie Wells and Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis for the top spot (both with 62%). This is incredible, simply because the complaint against Brown has always been that he's inconsistent- he could get a big run every once in a while, but would get stuffed at the line of scrimmage far too often. This year, Brown has been the most consistent, the most explosive, and the most valuable running back for the Colts when he's gotten carries. Now, I don't think for a second that Brown would be able to sustain these types of numbers as an every down back.
But I do think that numbers such as these show that he deserves more of a shot. He has used his limited chances so far quite well, and he should at least get the chance to try and sustain his level of play across a larger sample size. With Addai out, there should be more than enough snaps for both backs to get decent looks. While many fans have written off Brown, I've been a strong proponent of keeping him around due to his potential to improve this year. I'm glad to see that the Colts did the smart move in keeping him, now I hope they continue on that path by increasing his amount of snaps.
What can Brown do for you? We won't know for sure unless we try.