There is no player not named Manning that is more valuable to the Colts' offense than RB Joseph Addai, who was enjoying a renaissance season before suffering a shoulder injury against the Redskins in Week Six. One source close to the team recently told PFW that Addai is the most underrated starting running back in the NFL.
While no one is sure how long Addai will be out, we hear the club couldn't be happier with the way backup RB Mike Hart has picked up the slack. Hart took over in the second half against the Chiefs in Week Five when Addai was nicked initially, and scored the game-winning TD on an 11-yard scamper in which he dragged three defenders with him for four yards on his way to the endzone.
In Week Eight, with Addai inactive, the fan favorite Hart was given his first career start against the Texans on "Monday Night Football." All Hart did was rack up 84 rushing yards on only 12 carries before exiting early with an ankle injury.
"Mike Hart couldn't have been better," Bill Polian said of Hart's performance during the team president's weekly radio show. "He was outstanding — finishing runs, vision, making people miss, blocking, blitz pickup, catching the ball, doing everything it took to win a football game. There are not enough words of praise for Mike Hart."
The diminutive Hart was to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging test on his left ankle last week to determine the severity of the injury.
If Hart is forced to miss time, second-year RB Donald Brown will have to prove that he is durable enough to stay on the field — Brown has missed eight games with a variety of injuries in less than two seasons. He has shown flashes of why the Colts used the 27th overall pick in the 2009 draft to acquire him, and the Colts remain high on his home run-hitting potential, but we hear Brown has a long way to go toward earning the trust that Addai and Hart have received from the coaching staff.
The fourth running back on the roster is undrafted rookie Javarris James. The cousin of Edgerrin, Javarris is a strong, determined runner, but he comes with durability concerns of his own.