The stadium debate is over. So, now what? Well, it turns out we have players who play for our team. I suppose it makes sense to talk about that, as out of practice as I am.
With rookie camp over and preseason workouts just ahead, I thought it would be productive to take a look at some of the top performances at a number of our positions from 2011 as well as some of our worst. I figured this would be much more interesting if I started off with some of our less well-known players, then if the series is still popular, highlight players like Jared Allen and Adrian Peterson.
Join me for some Gerhart analysis after the jump.
Toby Gerhart is a downhill runner, known for picking up steam and playing a physical game to shed tackles. Patient in setting up his blocks, he rarely displays agility or straight line speed on the field, but intuitively knows how to get yardage. While never receiving plaudits for his burst, his power at the line more than makes up for the flash that catches the attention of so many NFL scouts.
There is even an argument to be made that Toby Gerhart is one of the 15 best running backs in the league, but this is neither here nor there.
Where did Toby Gerhart come out ahead this year? Well, his best individual performance was against the Denver Broncos, whose defense was not particularly stellar that week. Beyond that, Gerhart showcased his strengths as a runner (and the team called plays that met his strengths).
Below, I've cutup his plays against Denver. Take particular attention to the first one, as it showcases everything we like to see when Gerhart runs. Patience for the hole to develop, the right timing to punch the hole, and the ability to break tackles with power above anything else. (Ignore the random mouse cursor that appears on a few plays):
Gerhart was only asked to run the ball 21 times in this game, and so accumulated a relatively low total of 91 yards. There are a number of things that stand out about this game, however. The first is that he broke 6 tackles over the course of play, averaging 4.3 yards a carry. In fact, in 2011, Toby Gerhart had the second most missed tackles per rushing attempt, with 0.21. The average in the NFL is 0.12. Another way of looking at it - in 21 carries, the average running back will force 2.6 missed tackles, which Gerhart doubled that on that day.
In addition to his running game, Gerhart was dominating in the passing game, catching all 8 passes thrown his way. With 42 additional passing yards, Gerhart accumulated 133 all-purpose yards that game. As you could see, most of his throws were short checkdowns with lots of yards after the catch. While not displaying extreme route-running skills (he has in fact been OK in this area), it does show good control of the ball, excellent transition from receiver to runner, and hands that are good for reception and possession. In this game, he also produced an excellent 3.3 yards after contact - something that only Fred Jackson and Ben Tate were able to do on a consistent basis.
His relatively low speed was rarely an issue in the game (although taken advantage of by Mays twice, I believe) as he knew where to follow his blocks, substituting power for agility when need be.
If he had a game like this every other week, he would be better than most starters in the NFL right now.
While I would normally in this section highlight a bad game by the spotlighted player, Gerhart had so few games and carries this season that he did not have a single "bad" game (although his worst was week 12 against Atlanta), so instead I will post an accumulation of his play failures over the course of a season:
A couple of these showcase some of Gerhart's poor agility and ability to cut, most particularly the screen pass against Chicago (in week 6). Some other plays reveal Gerhart's weakness going outside, largely because of his lack of burst and overall speed. If I were to identify his biggest weakness, it would be his performance on outside runs. His ability to break tackles is fantastic, but we don't often get to see extraordinary Gerhart runs - he ranks 30th in the league in runs over 15+ yards per attempt. In addition, despite running in a one-cut running game, I would still like to see Gerhart perform better on his cuts and directional shifts. He can't seem to generate much lateral movement after moving forward, and that will always limit his ability to make huge plays.
Every so often Gerhart will make the wrong decision, but this isn't a consistent problem we've seen. Every so often we'll see him give up pressure and once a sack, but again this is not a huge problem for him over the course of the season. He also struggles at adjusting to throws to his back shoulder, dropping a few of them, and tipping two for interceptions. If Gerhart wants to be a premier back in the league - something he is more than capable of, working on his hands might be the best solution. It's difficult to increase speed, and he's generally very reliable as a runner - adding a threat in the pass game would make him a great back.
Like I said, I'd like to highlight other players, mostly players who aren't covered in the national media as much as we might like. My plan is to do a highlight/lowlight reel for Joe Webb, next. Who do you all think I should cover?