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Colts' run-first plan: Fact or camp fiction?

More Information

Colts at Giants preseason game

Kickoff: 7 p.m. Sunday at Metlife Stadium.
TV: WFFT, Ch.55

For more on the Colts, follow Reggie Hayes via Twitter at www.twitter.com/reggiehayes1

Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton touts ground attack

Friday, August 16, 2013 - 5:16 am

ANDERSON –Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is not veering from his public vow to turn the Indianapolis Colts into a running team. The question is whether we should fully believe him.

Hamilton, a likable, personable guy, stood in front of the media this week and stood his ground.

“We are a run-first team,” Hamilton said. “We are a power running team and that's well-documented.”

Is Hamilton serious or is this training camp talk?

The Colts have Andrew Luck at quarterback, a projected superstar of the NFL's new generation. Are we to believe he's going to spend the bulk of his time handing off to Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard and Donald Brown? Really?

What in the name of Bruce Arians and gunslingers is going on here?

“I think we've talked about (running the ball) quite a bit since we kicked off training camp,” Hamilton said. “But at the same time, the bottom line is we've got to find ways to outscore our opponents.

“We feel like it takes a lot of pressure off the quarterback if we can run the football and force defenses to pack the box," Hamilton said. "That's going to open up opportunities to create big plays in the passing game, so it's a twofold effect. The run game opens up the passing game and vice versa, so we are hoping that this Sunday night we are going to have an opportunity to go out and execute all the plays that we call on game day.”

The Colts play at the New York Giants at 7 p.m. Sunday in their second preseason game. It will be aired on WFFT, Ch. 55.

Since this is Hamilton's first season as offensive coordinator, we can only anticipate his approach as it relates to when he was in a similar role at Stanford University.

Here are some numbers illustrating Stanford's running vs. passing balance during Hamilton's two seasons as offensive coordinator at Stanford, including 2011 when Luck was quarterback:

* 2012: Stanford quarterbacks completed 240 of 399 passes (60.2 percent) for 2,802 yards and 19 touchdowns. Stanford running backs carried 549 times for 2,440 yards and 23 touchdowns. Stanford was roughly 58 percent run, 42 percent pass.

* 2011: Luck completed 288 of 404 passes (71.3 percent) for 3,517 yards and 37 touchdowns. The Cardinal had 518 rushes (including 47 by Luck) for 2,738 yards and 32 touchdowns. Stanford was roughly 55 percent run, 45 percent pass.

During Luck's first two seasons, the numbers were similar. Hamilton was the quarterbacks coach at Stanford in 2010. Hamilton was with the Chicago Bears in 2009:

* 2010: Luck completed 263 of 372 (70.7 percent) for 3,338 yards and 32 touchdowns. Stanford ran 535 times (55 by Luck) for 2,779 yards and 34 touchdowns. Stanford was roughly 59 percent run, 41 percent pass.

* 2009: Luck completed 162 of 288 passes (56.3 percent) for 2,575 yards and 13 touchdowns. Stanford rushed 536 times (61 by Luck) for 2,837 yards and 38 touchdowns. Stanford was roughly 63 percent run, 37 percent pass.

Judging by those numbers – and obviously they are general numbers that don't take into account situations and scores – maybe Hamilton is serious about the run-first attack.

The Colts under former coordinator Arians passed the ball 59 percent of the time last season.

The good news that can be extrapolated from the Stanford numbers is that Luck's passing percentage increased under Hamilton to where he was over 70 percent passing his last two college seasons.

And he didn't earn the No.1 draft pick because of his ability to hand off the ball.

“We are excited about all of our playmakers,” Hamilton said. “We consider our offensive linemen to be playmakers. I feel like a pulling guard is as big a part of our offense, in giving us a chance to have an explosive play in the running game, as our wide receivers.”

Somehow, it seems doubtful the Colts Pro Shop will be selling as many No. 66 Donald Thomas jerseys as it will No. 87 Reggie Wayne jerseys.

Luck looks comfortable in Hamilton's offense and seems genuinely upbeat about improving the running game.

Whether Hamilton's insistence that the Colts turn into a run-first team comes to fruition won't likely be revealed in the preseason.

Bradshaw was moved from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list to the active roster this week, but said he expects to make his preseason game debut against the Cleveland Browns on Aug. 24.

In the first preseason game against the Bills, the Colts' No.1 offense with Luck ran 10 plays. Seven were passing plays (four completions, two incompletions and a sack). Ballard had three carries for 18 yards.

“We want to eliminate the mistakes that we made in Game 1 and continue to work and become more efficient and do a better job of executing our offense in Game 2,” Hamilton said. “Our ultimate goal is to score points every time we touch the football, and if we do those things I just mentioned, of course we expect that we will score touchdowns.”