Sunday, April 17, 2011

Solo Artist

Hey Sports fans,

So first off I'm sorry about the delay, there's been a lot going on back in Minnesota and I was out of town for two days but that's no excuse. So yes, very sorry for the delay on this new article. With that being said I hope you all enjoy the (hopefully) three articles I'm coming out with today.

So about the runningback position, we all know where it is and how it looks. Unless you had a very specific skill set like quarterback or lineman chances are that you've played runningback in a game of touch football. All around the position is a pretty simple concept: Ball is snapped, QB hands ball off, run through hole into daylight. See? Simple concept, difficult in real life. But unfortunately due to a couple of different factors this traditional view of the ground game is fading into the rear view. I put it down to this:

1. More teams have quarterbacks playing at a franchise (Important distinction, franchise does not mean elite) level
2. The rise of the spread offense in college
3. Most teams want a collection of guys with different skill sets as opposed to one man who is really good at downhill running.

So let's talk about #1 for a sec, think quickly whose the best quarterback in the game (Brett Favre is retired right now so does not count)? Tick, tock, tick, tock and done. Now here's the likely list you came up with, top 5 or so

1. Peyton Manning, Colts
2. Tom Brady, Patriots
3. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
4. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
5. Phillip Rivers, Chargers

Ok now for another quick quiz, because I like quizzes, how many of those quarterbacks have a tailback that you can name qithout having to give it a serious amount of thought?

Ok now that that's over chances are you could only name one without spending a fair amount of time searching your memories. The answers were:

1. Joseph Addai/ Mike Hart/ Donald Brown
2. Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis/Danny Woodhead
3. James Starks/ Ryan Grant/ John Kuhn
4. Rashard Mendenhall (This is the one you most likely got)
5. Ryan Matthews/ Mike Tolbert

So as you may have noticed all but one of these quarterbacks has more than one running back and only one of them has a running back that someone outside the fan base of that franchise can think of off the top of his/her head. So why?

Because good running teams almost always lose to good passing teams, more and more often there is team with a quarter back who can make the miracle throw on fourth and 2 with time running out to keep the drive alive. Most teams can't match that even with incredible talents like the Vikings' Peterson or the Rams' Jackson. So the common knowledge around the NFL is to do RB by committee and have many guys with many different skill sets. Except on occasion this can go very wrong for almost all involved. Let me turn your attention to the Chicago Bears offseason last year. Right out of the gates of free agency there was reason to believe that this could be a good season. Two big free agents and one guy who was important but nobody had ever heard of were standing in front of the camera holding Bears jerseys with massive smiles on their faces. Who could it be? Why it was Julius Peppers: the freakishly athletic DE from Charlotte, Chester Taylor: Brett Favre's go to guy on third down, and Brandon Manumaleuna: A Tight End from San Diego who blocks well.

Now at the time this seemed like the super friends were coming to town, Cutler had very little blocking so there was Brandon, The Bears needed help on defense and there was Julius, Cutler needed somebody to throw to so there was...Wait a second where was Chester Taylor?

That question plagued Chicagoans throughout most of the season as Matt Forte blazed the field taking full advantage of the Mike Martz system. The more Chicago rediscovered the Forte of his 2008, the more Chicago realized that Jerry Angelo had panicked and thrown away millions on a third down back who wasn't even in on third down. Taylor averaged 2.4 yds, Forte 4.5. So why was Taylor on the team, well he was supposed to compliment Forte with his utter mastery of...the exact same skill set of Matt Forte. Forte catches the ball well and is a pretty good runner, Taylor (important distinction) WAS able to catch the ball well and was a pretty good runner. So when Forte rocketed upward and Taylor collected dust on the sidelines millions of dollars that could've been spent upgrading the line or getting Cutler a top flight receiver were literally sitting in a jersey marked #29.

And so on to point #2 the rise of the spread. Well for those of you not acquainted with the spread offense the quarterback takes most of his snaps out of the shotgun and his wideouts spread out across the whole field with the running back (if he's even in) to his right or left. The thing is that this form of system isn't conducive to finding the down hill running talent of a Peterson or Jackson. And even the spread utilizes a loaded backfield. So coming out of college you have bunch of running backs who are good possibly even great at one thing, but only that ONE thing. That's why for the first time since 1962 there's a very real chance that the first round may only take one RB (Mark Ingram). There's just too much choice that can be used in the later rounds to find an above average player and harmonize him with the quartet in your backfield. Ironically this has also answered point #3.

So what did we learn? teams that only focus on their running back (Titans, Browns, Vikings sorta, The Rams before Sam Bradford) pretty much hit their glass ceiling at 9-7. Teams with franchise QB's and a solid running back (Bucs, Bears, Falcons, Ravens) Produce decent records and can go deep in the playoffs and have real shots at Super Bowl rings. (Actually that's the whole point of my next article about the Bears hopefully out later today). Then there are teams like the Patriots, Colts, and Chargers who have quarterbacks who can handle the entire team if they need to and are almost as good with no running game as they are with it. Though this applies less to Rivers because he missed the playoffs last season but that's a post for my new segment which I have yet to name. The basic concept behind it is that I will be doing 4 offseason questions and a prediction about whether that team will make the playoffs. I'm taking a stand on not naming it "4 Downs with Veintidos" so if anyone has ideas for what to call it please feel free to drop them in the comments section. I think I'll be doing them by division and I'll probably start with the NFC East. this post might come tonight or sometime this week depending on my homework schedule.

Also if you have a burning question about football such as Where do you see the Browns ending up in the hierarchy in the AFC North, Who should the Giants draft, How does Christian Ponder stack up, who is going to draft Andrew Luck, And just what is Randy Moss gonna be doing next season then drop it in the comments section of the mailbag I'll be setting up in 5 minutes. Till then from the other side of the end zone this is Veintidos signing off.

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