What's Wrong w/ the Running Game??

Despite my efforts, I've come to find I'm not much of an analytics person -- I'm more of a 'big picture' guy nowadays, even if I use stats to ultimately get there.

And when seeing the forest for the trees with our running game, something just ain't right. Since AP's opening 78yd rushing TD, he has averaged just shy of 3yds per carry on the season.

So in wanting to dive into why the running game is suffering so much, I decided to compile AP's rushes over the first three weeks to see where he found success (and, more importantly, where he didn't). The stats are courtesy of Pro Football Reference -- and while it's merely directional data and doesn't assume pulling linemen, lead blockers, etc, it's a somewhat telling look into what is working and what isn't.

In our first three games, AP's rushes occurred to the:

Left End - 5 att / 10 yds - 2.0avg

Left Tackle - 6 att / 15 yds - 2.5avg

Left Guard - 12 att / 41 yds - 3.4avg

Middle - 16 att / 119 yds - 7.4avg -- (Note: 2.7avg sans first run of the year)

Right Guard - 11 att / 61 yds - 5.5avg

Right Tackle - 13 att / 32 yds - 2.5avg

Right End - 6 att / 3 - 0.5avg

For how much is left to be desired in his pass protection, Fusco appears to be turning into quite the road grader. Perhaps something is getting lost in translation there, but just something to think about.

Generalizing a bit more...

Ends - 11 att / 13 yds - 1.2avg

Tackles - 19 att / 47 yds - 2.5avg

Guards - 23 att / 102 yds - 4.4avg

Somewhat depressing here is how AP isn't finding success bouncing it outside. Is it because our WRs aren't blocking effectively?? Even to the tackles -- Loadholt has been a superior disappointment in the one area he is lauded for (and his run blocking is literally the only reason he received a big fat contract in the offseason), and Kalil has hit somewhat of a sophomore slump.

Fusco again appears to be propping up the nice average when running behind the Guards, and he actually may end up being a decent long-term starter for us (with CJohnson in a contract year, I think we'll be looking to the draft for a starting-caliber OG to replace him).

Though I also think Sullivan should be credited for these interior runs, so breaking it down even further...

Outside - 30 att / 60 yds - 2.0avg

Inside - 39 att / 221 yds - 5.7avg -- (Note: 3.8 avg sans first run of the year)

Even when disregarding the first run of the year, AP is nearly twice as effective rushing inside... which is something that could have been determined simply from the eye test.

But how can we explain the poor running game overall -- and can we predict anything going forward this season??

For starters, we've been without our Pro Bowl FB. We've also faced some tough Run Defenses -- the Bears are a top 10 Run D, and before AP's Week 3 performance (lackluster, by his standards) there wasn't a single RB who averaged more than 3 YPC against the Browns; in fact, Cleveland's Defense ranks 2nd in yds/att. And even though we've seen more downfield passes compared to last year, the situational play calling has been rather untimely when trying to set up the run -- with tweaks to the game plan, things can open up a bit more.

Looking forward -- with Felton back, we should see an immediate increase in production, particularly in London against Pittsburgh. Though after that, there are really only a handful of 'juicy' games, namely against teams in the NFC [L]East -- Giants, Redskins, and to some extent the Eagles. We also have a 'wild card' issue with the QB that could go either way -- maybe Cassel will be more effective than Ponder when spreading defenses out (particularly considering the preseason chemistry we saw between Cassel and Patterson); on the other hand, it's entirely possible things will be worse with Cassel under center.

Bottom line is, we have no way of knowing whether or not thing will get better in the running game -- hopefully, they won't get any worse. Tomorrow's game is going to be telling about what direction this team will be heading in. Regardless of the turnout, we should have quite a bit to talk about over the Bye week -- and one way or the other, some major changes may be looming.

What do you think -- do you see anything in the rushing data above that I missed, and do you think there are brighter days ahead this season for AP?? Is hell freezing over and Fusco is actually developing nicely?? Will Cassel succeed in keeping defenses more honest, or is the sky falling??

This FanPost was created by a registered user of The Daily Norseman, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the site. However, since this is a community, that view is no less important.

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