Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Dynamic Running Duos

Jeremy Green, y'all:

One recent trend in the NFL is that teams are creating depth at running back and more and more teams are using a two-back system. Here's a look at [five] duos that will have success this season and [five] others that will struggle.

Five and five here. That's one third of the NFL. Fine. Green mentions Minnesota and Jacksonville at the top of his list. Both are totally deserving tandems. So far so good.

Dallas' Marion Barber and Felix Jones
As soon as the Cowboys selected Jones, I started envisioning how this backfield would shape up in 2008. The rest of the NFC East likely started having nightmares. Now that Julius Jones has left for Seattle, Barber is now the lead back. He is one of the most physical runners in the NFL and leaves a mark when he runs over a defender. Jones' quickness and speed make him the perfect complement. One of the toughest adjustments a defense has to make is when it goes from seeing a physical, between-the-tackles runner to a speed guy. In terms of pure explosiveness when combining strength and speed, this duo is unmatched.

Okay, Marion Barber is very good, runs with power and authority, is a great receiver out of the backfield. But he doesn't break the big run, so we give him...Felix Jones. Who did not start in college. And has never played a down in the NFL.

This would be one think if it was Barber and Darren McFadden. But it's pure speculation right now that Felix Jones will ever be an NFL quality back. Well, whatever. You're stretching here, Jeremy Green, but you still have two more chances to,

Pittsburgh's Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall
Pittsburgh wasn't supposed to be on this list. But then the second-best rookie running back in the 2008 class fell into the Steelers' laps. Though Parker is a speed back who has shown he can carry the load, depth has been a concern for the Steelers. Plus, Parker is coming back from a season-ending injury, so adding Mendenhall made sense. He is a physical runner who should provide nice balance in the backfield to "Fast Willie" and a Pittsburgh offense that will try to re-establish its tough, blue-collar mentality this season.

Willie Parker DVOA (2007): -11.3%
Willie Parker DVOA (2006): 1.1%
Willie Parker DVOA (2005): 0.2%

Alright. In Willie Parker's BEST season, he was an average back. Last year, at age 27, he averaged 4.1 yards/carry. He was a probowler the last two seasons, though in 2007, Najeh Davenport was twice as valuable in half as many touches (20.4% DVOA). Willie Parker also broke his leg in December 2007.

Willie Parker is good enough to start somewhere in the NFL, but he's not a top running back in the league. Probably not even top 25.

Mendenhall has never played a down. He's a good prospect with a lot of hype, and that's the kind of player that Jeremy Green wants on his team. Of course he just tried that Felix Jones could improve the Running Back situation in Dallas now that that lazy bum Julius Jones is finally elsewhere.

Seattle's Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett
Unhappy with his backfield, Mike Holmgren decided to shake things up. In a rare move, the Seahawks dipped into the unrestricted free-agent running back market twice in the offseason in an effort to get one star running back via two bodies. A change of scenery will help Jones, who was never given a full opportunity to succeed in Dallas. Once he got the "soft" label, his days of being given the opportunity to carry the load went by the wayside. Duckett is a journeyman but is a proven backup with solid size and the power to run between the tackles.

Oh. My. Fucking. God.

Gentlemen, your fifth most feared RB tandem in the NFL today: some guy who got replaced by a rookie in Dallas, and TJ Duckett.

TJ Duckett -- one of the very worst first round running back picks of the last ten years. Literally did not carry the ball 20 times in 2005, his 4th and final season in Atlanta, despite being healthy the whole year. Got traded to Washington, and posted a DVOA of -20.8% in a (rightfully) small sample size. Better last year, still didn't qualify for the DVOA leaderboard.

Now (apparently) part of one of the five best duos in the NFL. Better than Bradshaw and Jacobs. Better than Turner/Norwood. Better than Tomlinson/Sproles. Better than Westbrook/Booker.

For the rest of the article, a good case could be made for each of the five "Destined Duds" to be more successful this year than TJ Duckett and Julius Jones, and especially so with Ronnie Brown who was so good last year before getting injured that his combined rushing and receiving DPAR in seven games ranked fifth for all RBs...over the entire fucking season.

And yes, he is coming off a torn ACL and Ricky Williams can no longer be counted on, but remember: Willie Parker broke his fucking leg.

1 comment:

Robocats said...

Here's a tip to all sportswriters:
If you are typing anything positive and the name TJ Duckett comes to your mind, just stop writing your sentence, walk to your editors office and resign.

Julius Jones had some insanely good games, unfortunately both of them were on Thanksgiving, against the Bears, over a year ago. He has shown some ability, but the smart money has to be on him never living up to those expectations.