Friday, September 24, 2010

Gotta Run Before You Can Run

The Seahawks are having trouble running the ball. Their offensive line is a mess, and they don't have a featured running back. Wrong, wrong and wrong.

It is true that the Seahawks are 20th in the NFL in rushing at 93.0 yards/game. It is true that the Seahawks don't have a single back with 100 total yards rushing through two games, while the Chargers come to town with two. Dig a little deeper, though, and you see that this may have more to do with our offensive coordinator than it does with our ability.

Rushing yards/game is a flawed measure of a running attack. More important is how many yards a team gains on each individual carry. By that metric, the Seahawks rank 8th in the NFL at 4.3 YPC. How can a team with such a healthy YPC be so far down the ranks in yards/game? Play calling. The Seahawks are 29th in the NFL in rushing attempts with 43. That means we are only calling a running play ~20 times/game. Most NFL running backs need 20 rushes *individually* to make an impact. The most carries a back has had for the Seahawks so far is the eight Justin Forsett was given against the Broncos.

That brings us to the second coaching decision that is effecting our rushing attack, division of carries amongst the backs. I will give you a blind RB test. Take a look at these three RB options:

Player A - 15 carries, 87 yards, 5.8 avg, longest run is 32 yards
Player B - 12 carries, 30 yards, 2.5 avg, longest run is 6 yards
Player C - 10 carries, 29 yards, 2.9 avg, longest run is 7 yards

Player A has clearly separated himself from the other two in every category he controls. The only category that is close is carries. As you might have guessed, Player A is Justin Forsett. Player B is Julius Jones. Player C is Leon Washington. Splitting the carries is a very bad choice. Julius Jones should never see the field. I am sick of writing that, but coaches continue to put him out there.

Our running game may, in fact, be a weakness. I have seen the same troubling performances through pre-season and last season that everyone else has. Nobody can say for sure, though, until the coaches give the right player enough reps for a few games. Run the right player, and run him more often.

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