The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Sports

August 28, 2011

George Bremer: Rookie could aid run game

Colts head coach Jim Caldwell calls it “forward lean.” Fans and media might prefer “power running.”

Whatever term you use, there’s no denying rookie running back Delone Carter has a knack for moving the pile.

The games still don’t count, and it’s often folly to attempt too much analysis from preseason results. But this year’s rookie class has provided reason to hope in Indianapolis.

First-round pick Anthony Castonzo already is the starter at left tackle. Second-rounder Ben Ijalana could challenge Jeff Linkenbach at right tackle before the year is over. And third-rounder Drake Nevis is part of a deep rotation at defensive tackle.

Carter was taken in the fourth round, and he’s leading the Colts with 81 rushing yards on 17 carries. His 4.7-yards-per-carry average is second only to fellow rookie Darren Evans — whose numbers are inflated by two long runs as time was running out in the preseason opener against the Rams.

But it’s not the numbers that truly impress. It’s the “lean.”

Carter is a battering ram.

He’s perpetually moving forward. He’ll spin or juke to elude a defender when necessary, but economy and efficiency mark his running style.

Carter is the kind of running back who is far more interested in going north and south than in faking east and west.

With a big and physical offensive line to run behind, the rookie from Syracuse can re-introduce a power element into the Indianapolis offense. That, in turn, could help re-ignite the play-action pass — the most devastating weapon in Peyton Manning’s Hall of Fame arsenal.

Joseph Addai, whose array of skills includes tremendous pass protection and outstanding receiving ability, remains the unquestioned starter. But Carter soon could be a better second option than third-year veteran Donald Brown.

Assuming, of course, that Carter can carry over his preseason results into the games that matter.

In his favor is a wealth of evidence to suggest he might be another draft-day steal for Colts president Bill Polian.

Carter rushed for 3,104 yards at Syracuse, the third-highest total in school history. Among those he passed on the career lists are NFL legends Jim Brown, Larry Csonka and Floyd Little.

Scouts ranked him as one of the best running backs in this year’s draft class. But there were some questions stemming from a fight Carter allegedly was involved in as an undergrad.

Polian did his homework and rolled the dice. Carter has been a model citizen thus far as a Colt, and now he’s poised to make an impact in his first NFL season.

If Manning isn’t ready to go when the regular season starts on Sept. 11, Carter could help the running game carry more of the load.

If Manning is ready, the depth the rookie provides in the backfield will be just one more thing to keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night.

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