By Eric Schmidt

As the Indianapolis Colts prepare for the 2012 season, there are some serious questions surrounding the Indianapolis backfield and their ability to mount a successful running game. The inability to run the ball in 2012 could hinder rookie QB Andrew Luck’s development in 2012. Last season, then rookie QB Cam Newton benefited from a solid rushing attack from the Carolina Panthers backfield and the Colts should look at that situation as an example.

Andrew Luck does already have some offensive weapons on the field for next season. Veteran WR Reggie Wayne returns and despite a poor passing attack, Wayne was nearly able to cross the 1,000 yard mark in receiving yardage last season. Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky only accounted for 2,700 passing yards last season, but Wayne still recorded 75 receptions. Austin Collie is also returning and should be considered the only other significant veteran on the Colts receiving corps. Collie should have another 550-600 yard season.

Indianapolis was able to acquire TE Coby Fleener in the second-round in April’s NFL Draft. The addition of Fleener gives Luck some familiarity at the tight end position with the pair both being on the field for Stanford last season.

The Colts finished the 2011 season ranked 26th overall in rushing, and without the addition of a veteran back, look to finish towards the bottom of the league again this season. Donald Brown heads into offseason camps as the projected number one back according to the Colts coaching staff. last season, Brown appeared in all 16 games for the Colts for the first time in his career. Can Brown be counted on for another full slate of games in 2012? Is he the back that the Colts can had the ball to 250 times in a season since he has never carried the ball more than 134 times in one year?

Moving on from Brown, the situation becomes bleaker on the Colts depth chart. Delone Carter is entering his second season, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry last season, scoring twice. The Colts signed Deji Karim, a back with a career 290 yards in two seasons. Darren Evans, with no career rushing yards is in the mix. The Colts did add a running back in the fifth-round of the NFL Draft this season, Vick Ballard out of Mississippi State. Ballard rushed for nearly 1200 yards and ten scores last season and could emerge out of the mix as the Colts number two overall back, eventually pushing Donald Brown for the starting position.

Regardless of who wins the starting job for the Colts, it’s hardly a stable of backs which strike fear in opposing defenses. Why not take a serious look at Cedric Benson on the free agent market? Yes, you don’t start rebuilding your team with a 29-year old running back but this is a team that is a long ways from talking about a return to the playoffs and Benson would be a significant upgrade over the backs on the current roster.

The move would give Luck a back which has rushed for over 1,000 yards three straight seasons and a veteran in the backfield. Benson has been durable, appearing in 31 of 32 games in the last two seasons. If something happens to Reggie Wayne during the season, outside of Austin Collie, Andrew Luck has a very young receiving corps.

Benson has drawn little interest in the free agent market this season, but the market has been especially soft for running backs at or near 30 years of age. Benson turns 30 in December of this year.

Benson should be able to be signed to an affordable contract and it should become more affordable the closer to the start of training camp if he is still on the market. Benson is not the back of the future for the Colts, but he would provide the team with a proven, veteran back this season. Something which the Colts and Andrew Luck are in need of.

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