September 22, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw (44) runs the ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Indianapolis Colts Pre-Season Analysis: Ahmad Bradshaw

One of the Colts’ big free agent pickups of the 2013 offseason is back in 2014 and ready to make a mark in his second season in Indianapolis.

Running back Ahmad Bradshaw, claimed as a free agent in 2013 after being released by the New York Giants, was an impact player as soon as he joined the squad. Expected to be a veteran presence in the backfield, Bradshaw joined forces with Vick Ballard and Donald Brown to create one of the biggest running back enigmas going into 2013. However, with Ballard’s injury in practice after Week One and Brown’s perceived inability to perform consistently, Bradshaw was thrust into the starting role.

In his two games starting for the Colts, Bradshaw compiled 160 yards on the ground, including 95 yards against an impressive San Francisco run-defense. Along with 4.6 ypc average, the future of the running game was looking good, despite the loss of Ballard.

However, the optimism would be short-lived due to a neck injury that required surgery, sidelining Bradshaw for the rest of the 2013 season. The Colts brought in Trent Richardson from Cleveland and Bradshaw was all but forgotten about on injured reserve.

After a full offseason of recovery, Bradshaw should be ready to go for training camp at the end of July. He is now expected to sit at the No. 2 running back position, giving Richardson the nod to start. While Richardson will be the starting running back, his hold on the position is loose; he is a few bad games away from relinquishing his starting position to Bradshaw.

Bradshaw will have to get used to his new role as a change-of-pace back, a role held by Brown for the last five years in Indianapolis. Because of Richardson’s ability to catch the ball and run-block, Bradshaw may only see the field on second-and-short runs and early passing downs, but the role will increase as the year continues.

Bradshaw is no stranger to winning big football games; he holds two Super Bowl rings from his victories in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI with the Giants. He played in six seasons with the Giants, slated as a starter in his final four with the team. Bradshaw has eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark twice in 2010 and 2012 (1,235 and 1,015 respectively). He boasts a 4.6 ypc average over his career, along with 34 career touchdowns.

Bradshaw has been praised for being a great all-around back. While he isn’t a bruiser, he has upper-tier skills in cuts and elusiveness. He has great awareness and football IQ, always aware of where his blockers are and how he can capitalize on big blocks. He’s not great at shedding blocks (only three missed tackles on his 41 rushing attempts in 2013 per, but he makes up for it with a keen ability to make plays on inside runs (138 of his total 186 yards on the ground came from between the tackles in 2013).

With the neck injury and nagging foot and knee from 2012 behind him, Bradshaw is ready for a more increased role in the Colts offense. Although the Colts will give Trent Richardson a fair shot at the starting job with an offseason of work behind him, Bradshaw is in prime position to take over if Richardson doesn’t bolt off to a fantastic start.

The Colts brass certainly hopes that Bradshaw can reincarnate his 2010 and 2012 seasons for the offense in 2014.

Tags: Ahmad Bradshaw Donald Brown Indianapolis Colts Trent Richardson Vick Ballard

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