Donald Brown has heard his share of criticism during his time as a member of the Indianapolis Colts. A lot was expected when the Colts drafted him out of UConn in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft, and to this point, Brown hasn't put up the numbers one would expect from a first round pick, especially when compared to LeSean McCoy of the Eagles who was taken in the second round in the same draft.
In two games as the Colts' featured running back this year, Brown has gained a modest 93 yards on 25 carries, an average of 3.7 yards per rush. If the Colts hope to contend this season, Brown is going to have to be a much bigger threat out of the backfield.
This week's matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars is a tremendous opportunity for Brown and the Colts' rushing attack to assert themselves. The Jags enter this week's game with the 31st ranked rushing defense in the NFL, surrendering 4.4 yards per attempt. By contrast, the Colts' rush defense, which has hardly been lights out, is giving up nearly a full yard less per attempt at 3.5 yards per carry.
In week one, Adrian Peterson and the Vikings gashed the Jaguars for 123 yards on the ground, averaging 4.2 yards per carry between Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhardt and Percy Harvin. Last week, the Colts held Peterson and the Vikings under 100 yards and a 3.7 yard average. The Houston Texans dominated the line of scrimmage and racked up over 200 yards on the ground in Jacksonville last weekend and used that to control the football, having an almost three to one advantage in time of possession.
Brown struggled last week against a stout Vikings defensive line and only carried nine times in the opening week loss to the Bears. Look for offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to try to establish Brown early in this game. In four career games against the Jags, Brown is averaging over five yards per tote.
If Brown and rookie Vick Ballard can come close to those averages this week, that will put Andrew Luck and the passing game in a lot of advantageous down and distance situations. Luck has already shown his ability to make plays on third down, even when faced with long distance conversion. Put Luck in a position where the defense is also defending against the run or where Luck can pick up a first down through scrambling, and the Colts offense could look far more efficient.
Something's got to give this weekend. Either Donald Brown will have a breakout performance or the Jags run defense will reverse a disturbing trend of giving up big yards on the ground. Let's hope for the former.
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