Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack carries the ball in a playoff game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston on January 5, 2019. File Photo by Trask Smith/UPI | License Photo
June 2 (UPI) -- Indianapolis Colts Coach Frank Reich hinted that Marlon Mack could be the team's starting running back -- at least to start the season -- over second-round NFL Draft pick Jonathan Taylor.
Reich made the comment Monday during a video news conference with reporters. Mack joined the Colts in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. The three-year veteran had a career-high 1,091 rushing yards and eight scores on 247 carries in 14 games last season.
"There's definitely inherent respect for the starter returning," Reich said of Mack.
Reich also said he sees the Colts' backfield breakdown as a "1-1" punch with Mack and Taylor. He compared the Colts' running backs to the roster he coached while with the San Diego Chargers, which included Melvin Gordon, Danny Woodhead and Ryan Matthews in three seasons.
"The way the league has gone and the way role playing has been elevated in our league, it's made it prominent," Reich said of teams that use multiple running backs in a rotation. "We used to say in San Diego that when we had Danny Woodhead. He was not our starter, he was our 'role playing' starter."
Drafted No. 41 overall in April, the 5-foot-10, 226-pound running back had back-to-back seasons with at least 2,000 rushing yards to finish his college career. He led the NCAA with 2,194 rushing yards in 2018 and finished third with 2,003 rushing yards as a junior in 2019.
Taylor was a two-time winner of the Doak Walker award, an honor given to the nation's most outstanding running back.
"We talk about Marlon and Jonathan, but what about Nyheim Hines? He's such a good third-down back that he'll play a prominent [role]," Reich said of the Colts' running backs. "In some ways, [Hines] is a starter. He's a role-playing starter."
The Colts, who finished third in the AFC South last season, ranked seventh in rushing yards.
The Colts' first pre-season game is scheduled for Aug. 13 in Indianapolis against the Philadelphia Eagles, and they're set to start the regular season at Jacksonville on Sept. 13.