As the offseason starts, we have two running backs looking at some serious rehab to get back on the field next year. A lot has changed for the Vikings since the start of this season, not the least of which has been expectations about the running game - and in particular, Toby Gerhart.
Any posts in support of Toby upping his carries earlier this year were met with a resounding "anything Toby does, AD does better" or "why would you EVER let Toby get a single carry if AD is available". Despite some evidence that AD appeared to actually benefit when Toby got a few carries in a game, there was no real effort on the part of the Vikings coaching staff to try to develop a true multi-back game (or if any effort was made, it was to use Percy Harvin or Joe Webb as alternatives). In retrospect, the paucity of touches that Toby got in the first half of the year appears really hard to understand - particularly when the Vikings coaching staff repeatedly made statements about working him into the game plan more. During the first half of the year, Toby was statistically the most underutilized #2 back in the NFL.
So as the year ended, what do the numbers show? In a season where AD was generally viewed as having a really good year until he got hurt, Toby ended up gaining roughly similar yards per game when he started (or played significantly) and averaged more yards per carry than AD (4.9 to 4.7). Perhaps more surprisingly, Toby actually had a higher percentage of his runs going for 10 yards or more than AD (Toby = 15%; AD = 13%) . And Toby was a more prolific receiver (especially as adjusted for playing time).
Runs By Yardage Receiving
Carries Yards YPC 10-20 20-40 40+ Catches Yards YPC
Toby 109 531 4.9 12 3 1 23 190 8.3
AD 208 970 4.7 17 7 3 18 139 7.7
So......the slow, lumbering fullback masquerading as a running back actually did a pretty good job of matching (or dare I say exceeding) what Purple Jesus put on the field this year. And did a better job blocking on pass protection as well.
Well folks, as hard as it is to accept, Toby is an athlete. Taking a look at respective NFL Combine performances is instructive and provides some explanation for what Toby accomplished this year. While combine performance is just that (not a substitute for or predictor of on field success), it does provide an objective benchmark of actual as opposed to perceived "athleticism". All data is from the NFL combine website.
40 Yard Dash 4.40 4.50
20 Yard Dash 2.58 2.56
10 Yard Dash 1.53 1.55
Shuttle 4.40 4.25
3 Cones 7.09 6.94
Vertical Leap 38.5 38.0
Broad Jump 127 118
Bench Press 20 22
So............what does this tell us?? Mostly that they are both really good athletes. AD is faster over distance, and can leap a little bit higher and farther (but is also 15+ pounds lighter). Toby measures up to be just as quick over short distances, more agile and stronger.
Where is all of this going? Really just a wake up call to the Vikings coaching staff (and fans!) that Toby needs to play a lot more - and developing a strategy that uses both Toby and AD in games is important, particularly in a year when both players will be coming back from injury and may not be at 100% for a while (AD more than Toby here).
Wishing AD and Toby the best in getting ready for next year!