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Running backs are a weapon in the NFL. This is indisputable. And not just as receivers out of the backfield either Womens Germain Ifedi Jersey , this is not a mind game I’m playing with you where I flip the script in a second and say that running doesn’t matter. Of course it matters. Ezekiel Elliott is a great example of a running back who is a weapon on the ground and successful in spite of the Dallas Cowboys having nary the whisper of a passing game threat. Elliott has led the NFL in rushing yards per game in each of his first two seasons and he’s doing it again:73 carries, 426 rushing yards, 5.8 yards per carry, and without him the Cowboys would almost certainly be 0-4 instead of 2-2. He’s a weapon on the ground. No question. He’s the best running back in the league ... and Dallas is 30th in scoring.Ok, I might flip the script a tiny bit. A few pages at least.I still want to make it clear though that it would be ludicrous to pretend like running backs don’t matter at all; they’re a rich and important piece of the history of football. They remain viable threats among the 11 players who start on offense, specifically among the five skill players you expect to see in most offensive formations. The question isn’t, “Do running backs matter?”The question instead that should be focused on is: Do running backs matter the least out of those five skill players on the field? More and more evidence is pointing to the answer being “Yes.” People fighting against that answer — especially people who argue that running backs matter the most out of those five skill players on the field — are potentially still holding onto a version of football that has not existed in quite some time.And they have little-to-no evidence to support an argument that the running back could be nearly as important as the quarterback, or even more important than a number one receiver, number two receiver, or tight end. Instead the argument seems to always fall onto the side of not, “This is why I believe running backs are still as valuable as they were in the 1900s,” but: “I just don’t believe you or those odd-looking stats you cite.”When it comes to presenting evidence that running backs can still have a 50/50 contribution to an offense (that teams would split the responsibility between the QB and the RB, or that running plays are as valuable as passing plays), there simply isn’t any. There’s really none. Here is a little bit of evidence that not only are running backs or rushing not near the level of important of quarterbacks and passing, but that they might now be relegated, for the most part, to being a relatively small piece of an offense; a weapon that you dispatch at times knowing that a completed pass will likely get you much more.In other words, running backs are more like a WILL linebacker to an offense than they are a number one pass rusher or a shutdown corner.2018 has taken the run-pass imbalance to the next level and I would think that virtually all of the notable single-season and single-game passing records will be broken. Why? Well ... why not? If passing is this efficient, why would you go back to a style of offense that is decades past its effectiveness?The Top OffensesKansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes broke the record for most touchdown passes through three games, totaling 13 before the Chiefs’ Week 4 MNF game against the Denver Broncos. Mahomes added a touchdown against the Broncos and hasn’t throw an interception yet. If you’ve watched Mahomes this season, at any point did you think to yourself, “Damn, Chiefs need to run the ball more”?He, more than any other QB, seems to represent a further shift in the evolution of quarterbacks and the passing game. His number one target is a tight end. His number two is a 5’10 speed guy who likely could have been a running back in a not-so-distant past life. His number three is more of a classic “#1 WR” type who was the fourth overall pick a few years ago. Kareem Hunt went into Monday Night Football with 52 carries for 168 yards (3.2 YPC) and only three targets. Hunt was a Pro Bowl running back a year ago and instead of leaning on him, Andy Reid has shifted almost all of the focus to the talents of Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Sammy Watkins. Hunt had 63 targets last season. He might be lucky to get a third of that. Folks may turn to MNF and say, “Well, Hunt carried it 19 times for 121 yards and Kansas City won while scoring 27!” but that is an abuse of context.Hunt ran it a lot and ran it well in the first three quarters of the game. The score going into the fourth quarter: Broncos 20, Chiefs 13. Hunt was killing it and perhaps the best offense in the NFL prior to Week 4 was relegated to just 13 points. It became Mahomes’ offense in the fourth quarter and things were right again, with KC scoring two touchdowns to come from behind and win the game on the road.And snap counts among skill players? WR Chris Conley, 73TE Travis Kelce, 73WR Tyreek Hill, 70WR Demarcus Robinson http://www.seahawksfootballauthentics.com/sebastian-janikowski-jersey-authentic , 45RB Kareem Hunt, 45So even when you add in the 24 snaps by running back Spencer Ware, the combined snaps of KC’s top two backs still doesn’t equal the individual snaps of Conley, Kelce, or Hill. This is a top-two offense in the NFL.Not that Reid minds an offense without a rushing attack: This is his 20th season as a head coach and he hasn’t had an offense that finished top-10 in rush attempts since 2002. He’s had eight teams that finished top-10 in pass attempts. And what does that do for a ground game? Reid’s had a team rank top-10 in yards per carry in 15 of his previous 19 campaigns. It’s not about running a lot, it’s about running efficiently; Reid’s “elite” backs? LeSean McCoy (52nd overall pick), Brian Westbrook (91st), and Hunt (86th). They’ve all helped a Reid offense finish top-three in yards per carry, as did Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware in 2015.If you wanted to argue against Reid’s credentials as an offensive genius, 2018 would not be the time to do it.The other 4-0 team with a new world offense is the LA Rams.The Rams are second in scoring at 35 points per game, which is five points per game better than their NFL-best scoring output in 2017. The biggest reason for that: Jared Goff. Sean McVay has managed to help get Goff from 62% completions, 8 Y/A last season to 72% and 10.5 Y/A in 2018. His current passer rating of 127.3 would be an NFL record (and Mahomes is also on pace for breaking that record) and how much of that has to do with Todd Gurley?Some.In their recent 38-31 win over the Minnesota Vikings — a defense I was told many times is great — Gurley ran it 17 times for 83 yards and no touchdowns. He caught four passes for 73 yards and one touchdown. Gurley’s value as a runner was nowhere near his value as a receiver. Goff threw it to Gurley six times and gained over 10 yards per attempt, more than double his 4.8 yards per carry. Of course you can’t abandon the run (I mean, that’s really more of a hypothesis until we see a team do it), but how difficult is getting 4.8 YPC from any NFL caliber back behind this offensive line? Gurley’s DVOA as a runner: 9.4%Gurley’s DVOA as a receiver: 21.2%The snap counts were more even than in Kansas City’s game, but still emphasized that Gurley is more like “one of the guys” than “the guy.”WR Robert Woods, 55 snapsWR Cooper Kupp, 53 snapsRB Todd Gurley, 53 snapsWR Brandin Cooks, 52 snapsAnd season yardage totals for these four players? It goes 452 receiving to Cooks, 348 to Kupp, 338 rushing to Gurley, and 323 receiving to Woods. Add in his 192 receiving and Gurley leads the team in total yardage, but as a runner, his contributions feel more mandatory than anything else.In both cases, let me ask you this: Pete Carroll knows what it’s like to be told “You aren’t cutting it here” and needing to find a different avenue towards greatness. Though he’s had countless “stop and go” moments in his life, perhaps the most notable was after Carroll was fired as head coach of the New England Patriots in 2000. After a year off from coaching, Carroll emerged as the new guy in charge at USC, his first job below the pro level since 1983. Even at that, Carroll was not the Trojans’ first choice, but after some other candidates turned them down, he was the best man standing.Coming off of a 5-7 season under Paul Hackett, the expectations could not be that high for Carroll right out of the gate, and sure enough USC went just 6-6. But there were bright spots: Out of three early season losses to ranked opponents, the Trojans lost by just four points, two points Womens Quinton Jefferson Jersey , and three points. All of those teams were in the top 12. Oregon, the national runner-ups in 2001, needed a last second field goal to beat USC.Then in the final regular season game, needing a win to get a bowl game, the Trojans beat 20th-ranked UCLA by a score of 27-0. Pete Carroll was in Southern Cal = defense was in Southern Cal. They lost the Las Vegas bowl 10-6 to Utah, but did allow just 37 total points in their final four games. After finishing 79th in scoring defense in 2000, USC ranked ninth in Carroll’s first season. The star of that defense? Safety Troy Polamalu, certainly. But not far behind, and the highest-drafted Trojan in the 2002 NFL Draft:Cornerback Kris Richard.The 2001 USC team was obviously not the one that Carroll had a chance to recruit. These were mostly the guys he was dealt by Hackett and few would go onto success like the players that Carroll would bring in over the next decade. However, something clearly clicked between Carroll and Richard, who coincidentally (now) became a third round pick of the Seattle Seahawks.Richard spent six years in the NFL, mostly bouncing around, rarely playing, before ultimately coming to the conclusion that so many 20-something former pro athletes must come to: “I need to find a new job.”That led him back to USC as a graduate assistant in 2008, a year after the Trojans finished third in the AP poll and were looking to find their way back to a national championship. That team finished 1st in points allowed, but a Week 3 Thursday night loss to Oregon State sealed their fate. Despite winning their next nine games, including three shutouts and two games of allowing 3 points, USC was held out of the national championship and sent to the Rose Bowl, where they beat number six Penn State 38-24. The BCS championship instead featured 12-1 Oklahoma vs 12-1 Florida, with Tim Tebow getting the better of Sam Bradford. We’ll never know if Mark Sanchez (but really: the Trojans defense) was more deserving of a shot at Florida but ... probably.A year later, with Carroll and his staff beginning to get questions from the NCAA on potential violations, USC fell to 9-4 and relative mediocrity. In January of 2010, as you know, Carroll left college and went back to the pros. One of those going with him: Richard.He spent the first year as assistant DBs coach, then was promoted to cornerbacks coach in 2011. From 2012-2014 he served as “Defensive Backs Coach” as the Seahawks made history centered around their secondary, which as we know now features anywhere from 2-3 future Hall of Famers. When the team lost Dan Quinn to the Atlanta Falcons, a few names for promotion came up, but Richard ultimately landed his first pro job as defensive coordinator, some 14 years after meeting Carroll, seven years after joining him at USC, and five years after his first assistant job in the NFL. In 2015, Seattle’s defense ranked fourth in DVOA, including third against both the pass and the run.In 2016, they ranked fifth, but fell to 13th against the pass and were third against the run.But in 2017, with injuries to Cliff Avril http://www.seahawksfootballauthentics.com/chris-carson-jersey-authentic , Kam Chancellor, and Richard Sherman, the Seahawks dropped to 13th overall, 13th against the pass, and 14th against the run. It’s still pretty impressive given the injuries, but Carroll must have felt pressure to do things differently as Seattle missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011.On January 10. 2018, it was reported that Carroll would allow Richard to leave for another position if he wanted to. Interpretation: Go find work. I love ya, but we’re making a change. Richard went to work as a defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, while the Seahawks re-hired Ken Norton, Jr to be the new defensive coordinator. (Richard and Norton both joined Carroll’s staff at USC the same year, both went with him to Seattle.) It seemed as though Carroll felt he was doing the best he could do for Richard while also trying to do the best he could for the Seahawks.And maybe the best case scenario for both worlds really worked out.As Seattle and Dallas prepare to face off this Saturday in the wild card round, the hottest name in the coaching circuit among them is not Brian Schottenheimer. It’s not Norton. It’s not Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. And it’s certainly not their offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Nope. It’s Richard.At least three teams are looking to schedule interviews with Richard for their vacant head coaching positions: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, and New York Jets.In the season after getting (basically) fired, Richard is now getting immeasurable credit for turning Byron Jones into a Pro Bowl cornerback and getting increased value from slot cornerback Anthony Brown and perhaps safety Xavier Woods. He’s not the DC, but he’s the one guy on the staff that Dallas fans are dripping sweat over the idea of losing. It seems as though they may have no choice.Richard could be the third defensive coordinator under Carroll in Seattle to land a head coaching job after Gus Bradley and Quinn, which is impressive considering he’s only had four DCs with the Seahawks including his current one. Richard’s got options, but are any of them at this point, good?The Jets have the most apparent upside at quarterback with Sam Darnold, plus a rising star safety in Jamal Adams, but plenty of work left to do as they lost nine of their last 10 games on the year. Is it possible that Tom Brady is finally at the end of his career? Or is the next New York head coach in line just the next one to fall in Bill Belichick’s wake?Double goes for the Dolphins. They have some good DBs that Richard could covet — Minkah Fitzpatrick, Xavien Howard, Reshad Jones — but a lot of work left to do on the roster, including at quarterback. Consider this when looking for an opening at head coach: Does the team have a QB in place? Because there aren’t likely to be any good ones on the market or in the draft this year.Finally, the Bucs have Jameis Winston, but is that a good thing or a bad thing? Tampa Bay has some talented players, but what are the odds that the Bucs will overtake Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South next year? Or the year after?For now, Richard can just focus on trying to stop Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, the team that let him go a year ago, before worrying about those questions. It’s the opportunity he’s been waiting for, and the opportunity that Carroll wanted him to have.
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