Indianapolis running back Marlon Mack had his first 1,000-yard rushing season last year, but now will have to share carries with rookie Jonathan Taylor. Here are Mack’s odds at Mybookie to lead the NFL in rushing yards in the 2020 regular season as well as his odds to win Offensive Player of the Year.
Mack was a fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft out of South Florida. He’s the school’s all-time leading rusher. He was a backup with the Colts as a rookie but took over as the No. in 2018. Mack finished his second season with 908 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. In addition, he added 17 receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown. He became just the third player in Colts franchise history to have multiple games with at least 125 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the same season, joining Eric Dickerson (1987) and Edgerrin James (1999 and 2005). They are both in the Hall of Fame.
In the Wild Card Round of the playoffs against the Houston Texans, Mack set a franchise postseason record with 148 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries in a 21-7 victory. In the Divisional Round against the Chiefs, he had nine carries for 46 yards in the 31-13 loss.
Last year, Mack finished with 1,091 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns. As noted above, though, the Colts took the record-setting Taylor in the second round so he’s going to get carries.
Colts coach Frank Reich admitted “there’s definitely inherent respect for the starter returning” when asked about the team’s backfield and Mack.
Reich and Co. have consistently mentioned all three ball carriers, Mack, Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines, when asked how the backfield will play out. The “inherent respect” line is telling, as teams typically do give the veteran first dibs at claiming and retaining the starting job. It might take a misstep, injury or simply for Taylor to outplay Mack to unseat the veteran and receive the predominant portion of the workload. Even Nyheim Hines can’t be forgotten, as the head coach went out of his way to bring up Danny Woodhead’s name, a player who caught 80 passes one season under Reich.
Taylor is more of a downhill runner that can be explosive in open space. Mack thrives as a one-cut runner that can make defenders miss in the hole. Mack could see the early-down work as Taylor mixes in on different series.
Reich believes both players will do just fine together in the backfield. He likes having multiple running backs to navigate a long NFL season.
“With Jonathan into the mix, I really envision that it’ll be Jonathan and Marlon really being that one-two punch,” Reich said. “When you look at good teams over the years, it’s a long season. It’s a grind, and when you run the ball as much as we run it, it’s really good to be able to change that up. I think their styles will really complement each other very well.”
Indy has one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Last year, the Colts had the seventh-most rushing yards in the NFL at 133.1 yards per game, they had the 10th-most run plays of at least 10 yards with 53, they had their fifth-best yards-per-carry average in franchise history at 4.52, and they eclipsed 2,000 rushing yards in a season for the first time since 1994.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Colts had the NFL’s third-best offensive line in 2019. Also, all five starters played over 1,000 snaps on the season. Last year was the first year since 2000 that the Colts fielded the same five offensive linemen for all 16 games.
Mack finished ninth in the NFL by reaching at least 10 yards on 28 carries, was tied for third in runs of 20-plus yards and had one run of at least 40 yards (a 63-yard touchdown in Week 1 against the Los Angeles Chargers). He also had a pair of 10-plus-yard receptions.
Indianapolis is a 6.5-point favorite Week 1 at Jacksonville.