Former Bengal Herron becoming big part of Colts running attack
After first making his mark on special teams, former Bengals back Dan Herron has seen his role grow in the Colts’ running game.
Due to injuries and the struggles of Trent Richardson, the former Ohio State has emerged as the most consistent back for Indianapolis, who will host Cincinnati on Sunday in an AFC Wild Card weekend game.
Since Ahmad Bradshaw was injured in a Week 11 loss to New England, Herron has seen the most carries of the three Colts backs on the roster, being in for 189 of 401 offensive snaps. Richardson, who has been in for 168 plays, is listed as the starter but Herron has started three of the last four games.
In those six games, Herron is averaging 5.0 yards per carry (277 yards on 56 attempts with a touchdown) and has 19 receptions for 164 yards.
"I’ve learned a lot from Trent and Ahmad," Herron said. "I’m getting better each day. I’ve grown as a player and running back."
The Colts claimed Herron off the Bengals practice squad last October. Last season and the first half of this one, he was mainly on special teams. He saw some occasional carries in games his season but his workload expanded after Bradshaw’s injury.
Over the past six games, the Colts are averaging 94.8 yards per game, which is 23rd in the league. During the same span the Bengals have allowed only 83.2 yards per game on the ground, which is third-least in the league.
With his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, Herron is more versatile than Richardson, who is averaging 2.9 yards per carry since Bradshaw’s injury.
"For the most part, I think we’re all the same type of backs really," said Herron about the differences between him and Richardson. "We’re downhill runners. We all can catch out of the backfield. I think we’re all pretty good pass protectors. We’re going to get the job done. We’re going to keep it going."
Herron’s biggest play of the year came in the Week 14 win at Cleveland. With the Colts trailing 24-19 with 44 seconds in the game and fourth-on-1 on the Browns 3, Herron bounced to his left after getting the ball and on a second effort got past Donte Whitner for a 2-yard gain. The Colts scored the go-ahead points on the next play as they clinched the AFC South.
Herron, who grew up in Warren and had 20 members of his family at the game, saw it as a big play and making the most of his opportunities.
When the Bengals drafted him in the sixth round in 2012, Herron spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad before being activated late in the season. He nearly blocked a punt in his first game against Dallas but got one four days later at Philadelphia.
With a surplus of backs last season, Herron was once again put on the practice squad before getting more of an opportunity with the Colts.
"I think Danny’s done a great job. He’s been very productive. Obviously that’s what we expected him to be as an NFL player," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis.
In the first meeting on Oct. 19, which was won by the Colts 27-0, Indianapolis averaged 5.0 yards on 34 carries. Richardson ran for 77 yards on 14 carries, which was his second-highest total of the season, while Herron had five carries for 37 yards.
In what Week 7 contest at Indianapolis, the Bengals were missing most of their starting linebackers.
"I still know a lot of the guys but so much has happened since then," Herron said. "Both teams have done a good job to get here but familiarity can only go so far."
In their five playoff games under Lewis the Bengals have had problems stopping run and are allowing 171.4 yards per game. If the Bengals have any shot at ending their 24-year postseason win drought, they will have to do better containing Indianapolis’ ground game.
"Trent Richardson is a power back who runs between the tackles. Boom Herron likes to try to get outside. Again, it’s two totally different teams in the same game," said Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry of the matchup.