Why the Colts dealt RB Nyheim Hines to the Bills

Eight days after the Colts benched starting quarterback Matt Ryan and a few hours after they fired offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, they have decided to ship one of their most dynamic offensive weapons, running back Nyheim Hines, to the Buffalo Bills.

In exchange for Hines, the Colts are getting running back Zack Moss and a conditional sixth-round pick that can become a fifth-rounder, the team announced.

The Colts took Hines in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, and he blossomed into a shifty threat in the run and pass game, in addition to handling the team’s punt-return duties.

He’ll arrive in Buffalo as another element to an already explosive Bills offense that ranks first in the league in passing yards (307.7 per game) and second in points (29 per game). After five years on the QB carousel — from Andrew Luck to Jacoby Brissett to Philip Rivers to Carson Wentz to Ryan to Sam Ehlinger — Hines lands with a Super Bowl contender and an MVP front-runner in Josh Allen.

Trade negotiations began Monday, a day after Hines scored the Colts’ lone touchdown in a one-point loss to the Commanders, and the team wrapped up the deal shortly before Tuesday’s 4 pm deadline. The Colts’ offense remains one of the worst in the league — 30th in scoring, 27th in rushing, 26th in red zone efficiency — and losing Hines will only make things more difficult the rest of the way, especially with a young quarterback in Ehlinger.

Moss, a third-round draft pick by the Bills in 2020, arrives with 917 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in two-plus seasons. He’ll compete with incumbent Deon Jackson for the backup job behind Jonathan Taylor.

The Colts have struggled over the years to find ways to consistently involve Hines in an offense that includes 2021 league rushing champ Taylor, and before that, a 1,000-yard rusher in Marlon Mack. The constant shuffling at quarterback certainly hasn’t helped.

Hines never voiced his frustrations publicly, but privately the lack of involvement wore on him. As such, he welcomed the trade.

Nyheim Hines, year by year

Year Touches Scr. Yds TDs





















After a career year with Rivers in 2020 — Hines had 152 touches for 862 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns — his totals dipped significantly with Wentz last season.

A person familiar with the situation said Colts head coach and offensive play caller Frank Reich told Hines in the offseason that a plan would be in place — around 12 touches per game, roughly six on the ground and six through the air, depending on the game plan and opponent — to get him more involved this season.

Reich even joked in the spring, saying: “If I was a fantasy (football) owner, if I was going to be in a fantasy league, I think I’d pick Nyheim this year. I think I’d consider drafting Nyheim. I think it’s worth it to consider drafting him.”

But it was more of the same through eight games: Hines had 43 touches, around seven per game, for 229 yards. Even taking into account the time he’s missed (almost two full games, after he suffered a concussion on the third offensive snap against Denver, then missed the following week), Hines hasn’t been a consistent factor.

He wanted more of a chance to show what he could do.

His disappointment — in the team’s lack of success, first and foremost, but also his lack of usage — has been obvious.

Hines has 18 carries and 25 catches on the season and scored the Colts’ only touchdown in Sunday’s loss, a game in which Indy’s offense fumbled twice inside Washington’s 25-yard line.

“It’s just frustrating,” he said after the game, speaking of the offense as a whole. “We walk the ball up and down the field and we come up with 16 points?”

After the Colts’ loss to the Titans in early October, Hines said what other players in the locker room were surely thinking: “Not an excuse, but every year we have a new quarterback. So each year we have growing pains while we sit here and watch Tennessee, which has had (Ryan) Tannehill, what, my whole career? And each year we’re restarting and have to turn the page.”

And after Ryan was benched last week, Hines echoed what a lot of his teammates were thinking.

“It’s unfortunate. The circumstances are really unfortunate,” he said. “I love Matt to death. We love Sam, but it sucks how things have transpired for us to get to this place.”

The Colts’ leaky offensive line this season hasn’t helped the quarterbacks or the run game. A year after finishing 10th in the league in yards before contact (1.69 per rush), the Colts are third-worst in that category this season (1.07 per rush). The holes that were there a year ago simply aren’t there now. Reich and offensive line coach Chris Strausser have yet to figure it out.

So, Hines’ five-year run with the Colts ends with 4,055 all-purpose yards and 19 total touchdowns. From 2018 to 2020, Hines caught more passes (170) in his first three seasons than any running back in team history, topping the previous mark set by Marshall Faulk.

“I think I’ve done everything the Colts and the offensive staff have asked of me,” he said before the 2021 season when asked about his inconsistent involvement on offense. “I’ve been a great teammate, I’ve developed into a leader, and it’s not in my control whether they use me too much or too little.

“But I know this: When 21 goes in there, 21 be ready.”

Now 21 will get the chance to start fresh with one of the best teams in football and do something he wasn’t going to do in Indianapolis anytime soon: chase a Super Bowl ring.

(Photo: Brian Spurlock / USA Today)


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