I don't know if anyone else noticed this, but Toby had 2 touchdowns this afternoons against the New Orleans Saints. But, they weren't rushing TDs. Nope, they were receiving TDs. In fact, Toby was the leading receiver on what was an abysmal day through the air. With Peterson out the past few weeks with his high ankle sprain, Toby has seen more work than at anytime in his short career. But not where you think. Sure, he was the lead back in weeks 12-14, and he looked like the powerful, between-the-tackles horse we've expected him to be. He was a bruising runner out of Stanford, and that's exactly what we got when Peterson hit the sideline with an injury. But what caught my eye was not his talents as a runner, but his talents as a receiver. During weeks 1-11, Toby caught a grand total of 5 passes. Five. During the past 4 weeks, including the weeks he was "the guy" he's caught 17. 17!
Toby is not really known for his receiving abilities. In three years at Stanford, Toby caught all of 39 passes (an average of just slightly more than 1 pass per game). But I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that we miss a guy like Chester Taylor. C.T. was "Mr. Reliable" on 3rd down and was a key safety valve for us as his versatility as both a runner and a receiver out of the backfield allowed us to remain unpredictable on 3rd down. If Toby can continue to develop this part of his game and become a reliable receiver out of the backfield, look out. I for one, am excited about the possibility of Toby emerging as a viable 3rd Down Back. He currently fits into a nice back-up role for Peterson, spelling him a few times per game and coming in as the starter when AP is injured. But, after what he's shown in Peterson's absence, I think he warrants more playing time. While he may never be as elite or explosive as Adrian Peterson, the more we can keep Peterson fresh for key moments in the game, the better. Check out these receiving stats from Gerhart the past 4 weeks:
Week 12 vs ATL: 2 for 19 yards
Week 13 vs DEN: 8 for 45 yards
Week 14 vs DET: 3 for 19 yards, TD
Week 15 vs NO: 4 for 46 yards, 2 TD
There has been some mention by people in various comments that we should keep Toby, or maybe trade Toby. I'm convinced that Toby is excellent insurance for AP, and he's clearly a talented RB. I think he's more valuable to our team as a member of our team, as opposed to trade bait for draft picks. The options behind Toby aren't very good, so it doesn't make sense to trade him. I'm liking what I'm seeing out of Toby, and I hope he finds more of a role on the team in 2012, perhaps as a reliable 3rd Down Back, ala Chester Taylor. What do you think?