When the Indianapolis Colts selected Donald Brown with their first-round pick in the 2009 Draft, the writing was on the wall for Joseph Addai.

With Joseph Addai and Mike Hart nursing injuries, Donald Brown will likely get his chance to start Sunday.

Over the past decade Bill Polian has parted ways with Pro Bowl running backs Marshall Faulk and Edgerrin James without hesitation. The drafting of Brown seemed to indicate that Addai would meet a similar fate when his contract expired following the 2010 season.

But with a season and a half under his belt, Brown hasn’t made a case that he can be the Colts’ feature back of the future.

Injuries have played a part – Brown missed five games last year and has already missed three in 2010.  But when he’s been on the field his performance has been pedestrian at best. Last season he ran for 281 yards (3.6 per carry) during the regular season and ran for 46 yards (2.9 per carry) in the playoffs. This season, while battling a hamstring injury, he has just 97 rushing yards (3.0 per carry) in four games.

Despite the lack of production to date, the stage has been set for Brown to have his coming out party this Sunday. Addai and Mike Hart could both sit out at Philadelphia, leaving Brown the bulk of the carries.

If the Eagles follow suit with the rest of the league, there should be running lanes for Brown. Teams have challenged the Colts to run, vacating the box and dropping more personnel into coverage. As a result the Colts are uncharacteristically out of the NFL basement when it comes to rushing yards, averaging a respectable 96.6 per game.

Equally important will be Brown’s ability to improve in pass protection – an area in which Addai excels. If missed assignments lead to hits on Peyton Manning, Brown will find himself back on the bench before long.

Brown needs to rekindle the magic he found during his final season at the University of Connecticut in 2008. He was a workhorse, rushing for 2,063 yards and 18 TD’s. His 1,822 regular-season rushing yards were tops in Division 1.

If Brown fails to capitalize on his opportunity in the coming weeks, Polian will be faced with a tough decision this offseason when Addai’s contract is up. He could roll the dice with Brown and the oft-injured Hart, or resign Addai, who will be 28 in May – which is geriatric in terms of NFL running backs.

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