Rushing Stats Analysis – Find the Gap Winners
Predicting the top rushing team in a week can be tricky. But, even with such an up and down season, each passing round of games produced more and more data. Those numbers could be used in analysis of the rushing stats – and give a better picture of who would do well next time.
So, now that the regular season is over, we have a huge selection of data to dig into. And with that, we can decide who the winners and losers were in finding those gaps – or blocking them up.
Let’s start out with the winners…
With a fearsome carry committee, and a Running Back acting as a Quarterback, it was no wonder that the Ravens feature here.
And their feature is not on just one stat alone. There are many reasons why the Ravens rush attack stand out above the rest.
For starters, the Ravens carried the ball the most during the 2020 regular season. 550 carries puts them far ahead of second-placed Tennessee (522) and New England (in third with 500 carries exactly). And, because of that, it should seem fairly straightforward that they also had the most carry yards. But they were the only team to get over 3000 yards on the ground, far ahead of the team in second. Their final total of 3020 yards across the 550 carries gave them a first-placed average of 5.82 yards per carry.
This could come down to a strong ability to break out big runs. The team rank first in percentage of carries that went for between 4 and 7 yards (31.64%) AND carries that went for over 10 yards (13.45%). Their record in this area was so good that the team ranked overall in my effective run scale. 52% of Baltimore carries went for over 4 yards. They were one of only three teams to go over the 50% threshold.
GUS THE BUS
Inside that unit are some quality players. JK Dobbins began to come to the fore towards the end of the season, positioning himself as one of the must-own rookies after the 2020 season. When compared to other rushers who saw over 50 carries, Dobbins ranks as 12th overall in effective run percentage – with 69 of his 134 runs (51.49%) going for 4 yards or more. This was also good enough to rank him as RB7 in this category.
And, with Lamar Jackson ranking as 6th overall, and 4th best Quarterback in the category (85/160; 53.13%), it’s easy to see why Baltimore rank so highly in the rushing charts.
However, behind the rushing Quarterback and red-hot rookie, there is someone else who deserves a mention. And that is Dobbins’ stable mate, Gus ‘The Bus’ Edwards.
Edwards had a huge role to play in this backfield – and delivered on time. In fact, he was so good that, out of rushers with a minimum of 50 carries, he ranks as fourth overall in effective run percentage.
Analysis of Edwards’ rushing stats showed a staggering 79 of Edwards’ 141 carries that went for 4 yards or more – coming in at 56%. This was enough to rank him as RB1 in this category. No qualifying RB was better at getting an effective carry in 2020.
And, while this is great news for Edwards’ stock, and that of the Ravens – next year could promise more of the same. Veteran RB Mark Ingram seemed to go off the boil towards the end of this season, and was marked as a healthy scratch for several of the closing regular season games. This could signal Ingram’s intention to move on or retire altogether. And, if that happens, this could open the door for Edwards to solidify that role in the Ravens Running Back room. And he, Dobbins and Jackson can aim for another table-topping year in 2021.
It would be amiss not to talk about Derrick Henry as being a major winner of the 2020 rushing season. And while Baltimore relied on a combination of three different players to bring home the title, Henry nearly did it on his own.
The Titan Running Back was responsible for 72.6% of his teams rushing plays, bigger than that of James Robinson (71.3%) and Dalvin Cook (67.02%). A huge burden for one man to bear when it comes to the success of your team’s rush game.
And yet the Titans ended up with the second highest carries and the second highest yards. This makes Henry’s contribution even more astounding and impressive.
STAYING STRONG ALL SEASON
Another recognisable part of Henry’s game is his ability to hammer through defenses for big runs. And the behemoth did not disappoint in 2020. However, as opposed to the myth that Henry gets stronger the longer the season goes on for, he was able to do this straight from the off. He was able to deliver at least one run of over 10 yards in 11 straight games – eventually being kept under the distance in one go by the Cleveland Browns in Week 13. Still, the streak was impressive. And, when you’re counting on him to get you into the playoffs, is certainly something you want to see throughout the regular season.
Henry has even gone as far to deliver 5 runs over that 10 yard distance in 3 of the 16 games he played this year.
PATH OF THE TITAN
One other thing that stands out about Henry’s play is his use of runs to the outside of the offensive line. Sure, the volume of carries meant he ran the ball through the middle more times than any other lead rusher. But he also had the second highest percentage of runs to the outside – with 121 of his 379 attempts (31.9%) hitting those outside areas. Only Antonio Gibson had a higher percentage of carries go in those directions (61 of 171 carries ; 35.6%).
Indeed, this is what made Henry so difficult to cover sometimes. With protection lined up behind centre, the paths were clear for Henry to hit the outside. And it should come as no surprise when 7 of Henry’s 44 monster runs came around the right end of the line.
THE CLEVELAND BROWNS
The Browns were lucky enough to have one RB1 on the roster in Nick Chubb. But, in getting Kareem Hunt, it’s just like having two. And now they can bathe in all the successes that the analysis of the rushing stats have revealed.
The Browns did remarkably well in the rush offense – so well in fact that we were wondering whether Baker would ever be needed again at the end of games. And, on the back of some solid running game and defensive performances, the Browns find themselves in the playoffs. Not only that, but they’ve actually won a playoff game as well.
So where did it all go right for the Browns?
DAWG POUNDING THE CENTRE
It just so happens that the Browns were very effective at running the ball through the middle. Cleveland picked up 1708 yards with inside runs, ranking third behind the Ravens (understandable) and the Saints.
And, just like both those teams, the Browns were able to use their Running Back room to full effectiveness. Just when the opposition were getting tired of Chubb carrying the ball at them, in comes Hunt to keep up the pressure.
The two ended up with very similar carry numbers, although Chubb was injured for four games in the middle of the schedule. And the directions of their carries bear a rough resemblance to each other. A large proportion of their carries through the inside zones. And it was through both the left and right tackle zones where the Browns had a very high rate of effectiveness.
Analysis of the rushing stats showed that they picked up the most yards of any NFL team in both these areas. In addition, the average distance of their carries in those areas rank in the top 5 on both sides. And, when all said and done, the Cleveland Browns’ overall carry average placed them only second behind the Ravens.
Those yards marched the team down the field and set them up to not only win the game, but to ensure they stayed won as well. The number of fourth quarter drives that consisted of carries was prevalent in the Cleveland game plan. And it was damned effective in keeping the W in the column.
This effectiveness proved a vital component in giving the Dawg Pound their first playoff berth for over two decades. And that’s a win in my book.
WHO DIDN’T FIND SUCCESS?
Find out next time about who were some of the losers from analysis of the rushing stats!
Until next time,