With the departure of Jamaal Charles and the drafting of Kareem Hunt, I started to get a little concerned with our running backs. Over the last couple of years, it seems that group has been pretty unstable and declining in production. I thought I would do a quick fact check and see what the numbers say.
Chiefs Rushing Yardage History
2014 – The team rushed for 1,918 yards on 420 attempts, for a 4.57 yards per attempt.
2015 – The team rushed for 2,044 yards on 436 attempts, for a 4.69 yards per attempt.
2016 – The team rushed for 1,748 yards on 365 attempts, for a 4.79 yards per attempt.
As you can see, the total yardage and number of attempts has declined a bit, but the yards per attempt has risen each year. Our total offensive yards have increased each year, so we are definitely seeing a shift to more passing in the offense.
Chiefs Rushing First Downs History
2014 – 92 rushing first downs, out of 309 total first downs, for a 30% rate of first downs.
2015 – 116 rushing first downs, out of 303 total first downs, for a 38% rate of first downs.
2016 – 86 rushing first downs, out of 305 total first downs, for a 28% rate of first downs.
With the decrease in rushing attempts, looks like we are also seeing a decrease in the percentage of first downs gained via the run. I can remember several games where we decided to go for a short yardage first down with a pass and didn’t pick it up. I am not sure if this was due to a lack of confidence in the backfield being able to pick it up or if Andy Reid was trying to out guess the defense, but we should be able to pick up more that 28% of our first downs rushing.
Chiefs Rushing Touchdowns History
2014 – 18 rushing touchdowns, out of 40 total touchdowns, for a 45% rate of touchdowns.
2015 – 19 rushing touchdowns, out of 45 total touchdowns, for a 42% rate of touchdowns.
2016 – 15 rushing touchdowns, out of 42 total touchdowns, for a 36% rate of touchdowns.
Similar to the first downs, we are seeing a decrease in the rate of touchdowns scored while rushing. This area, probably for the same reasons, seems like it should be a higher percentage, but is actually probably falling back to a rate more in line with the league. Also, like the first downs, I remember a couple of plays inside the 5 yard line where we decided to throw the ball rather than pound it in.
Over the course of the last 3 seasons, we have seen the top running backs change over each season. In 2014, Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis were the top duo, with 2015 having Charcandrick West and Alex Smith rush the most. In 2016, we saw Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West as the rushing leaders. At least some of this turnover is due to injury, which can’t be controlled, but having your QB as your second leading rusher isn’t a good thing. This is an area where we need to gain some stability with a running back for a couple of years.
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Looking Ahead to 2017
What is going on in the backfield during the off season program? This year we drafted a running back in the third round, with the 86th pick. Kareem Hunt comes to us from Toledo, Ohio. In the table above, the numbers in italics show the stats from the rookies’ last year in college. I thought it might give us a glimpse of what we might see moving forward. I highlighted Gold for the items I think are positives and Red for those I think are negatives.
Hunt had a solid year, racking up 1,475 rushing and 403 receiving yards, scoring 11 touchdowns along the way. Averaging 5.6 yards per carry and 9.8 yards per reception is right in line with what Chiefs kingdom has come to expect. What I also like to see is the lack of fumbles.
Devine Redding, an undrafted free agent, comes to us from Indiana. While there, in his last season, he picked up 1,122 yards rushing and 146 yards receiving, with 9 touchdowns. His yards per carry, while still pretty good, is 4.4 with a 5.4 yards per reception. He doesn’t seem to be able to do as much in the receiving game as I think we want in Andy Reid’s west coast offense. He also was able to hang onto the ball in his 280 touches.
Still on the team from last year, Anthony Sherman, Spencer Ware, and Charcandrick West, and newly signed free agent C.J. Spiller make up the rest of the group competing for spots on the team. Spiller didn’t play much last year and Sherman is move of a special-teamer than anything else. Sherman’s role as a lead blocker seems to have been lessened in the last year or two.
Ware is really the standout in this group, although West had a good year in 2015. Ware was able to average 4.3 yards per carry on 214 carries and 13.5 yards per reception on 33 catches. Where he seemed to be lacking is in the touchdown and fumbling departments. He only got the ball into the endzone 5 times last year and fumbled 4 times, losing 3 of them. Both of those stats need improvement or he will end up as RB2.
Goal for 2017
Word from camp so far is that Hunt has been doing good things and is expected to challenge for playing time, if not starting. This could be good news for the offense, if he can produce like in college. Being able to rotate him with Ware would allow for fresh legs at the end of the season, and hopefully into the post season.
We need to have a 1,000 yard rusher, who can also pickup 500 yards receiving, and score 10 TDs. This should be very possible given that Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill should be keeping the defense from cheating up on the run.
What do you guys think about the backfield this year? Is our lineup on the team now or do you expect some more free agent activity?
Until next week, there’s The Rub!
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