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Frank Reich: Colts want to be top-five rushing team

Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich wants to take the pressure off Andrew Luck with an improved ground game in 2019.

"Our goal will be to be a top-five, top-seven, rushing team," Reich said this week at the Annual League Meeting in Phoenix, via the team's official website.

The Colts have a big leap to make to accomplish that goal. Indy finished 20th in rushing yards with 107.4 per game in 2018. The team's 4.2 average per rush finished 21st in the league.

A sometimes inefficient ground game that waxed and waned through the season, put the pressure on Andrew Luck during the Colts' playoff run. The Indy signal-caller finished second in attempts per game among QBs who started more than nine tilts with 39.9 (behind only Ben Roethlisberger's 42.2).

Reich wants a consistent running game to help keep defenses off balance.

"I just have a really strong conviction of that's what it takes," he said. "In this day of high scoring, crazy pass offenses, and that's all true, but if you look at the numbers, you gotta be good at running the football. There's exceptions to that, but the percentages are with you... if you're a top-10 rushing team, you gotta much better (chance to win)."

The best NFL offenses pass to get ahead and run to burn out the clock to protect that lead. So, Reich's statement makes sense -- assuming his order remains proper -- if the Colts jump out to early leads.

The Colts used that recipe to perfection in their playoff whitewash of the Houston Texans, watching Marlon Mack gallop for 148 rushing yards, most salting away the clock.

With Indy not yet adding to the trio of Mack, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins this offseason, Mack's health will be key for Reich to accomplish his goal. The 23-year-old compiled 908 rushing yards in 12 games in 2018. The Colts struggled sans Mack last season, losing each of the four games the running back missed.

A shifty speedster who can make quick cuts and change gears in the hole, Mack is poised to take the lead role in 2019, if he remains healthy.

Reich noted he'll continue to utilized a committee approach, "but Marlon's a little bit more the featured guy"

"He's got burst, he's really smart," Reich said of Mack. "And Marlon, he's got burst and he's got that speed, but he's a good inside runner. He's got good play strength -- that's one of the phrases we talk about; what's his play strength like? He's got good burst, he's got good vision."

If Mack can stay healthy, perhaps the running back can live up to owner Jim Irsay's 1,500 yard prediction from last summer.

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