OrW tracks both teams and players and evaluates one thing—the frequency with which the subject can win the play by running the ball. How do we define this? An offensive run-game win is any run play (excluding kneel-downs) that keeps an offense on track to pick up a first down, or a touchdown if it’s a goal to go situation.
This stat, on a team level, will show who has the most efficient and reliable running games. On a player level, while it shouldn’t be viewed as a be-all end-all stat to evaluate running backs, combining it with a stat like Justis’ that tracks what RB’s do past the line of scrimmage, or Ryan Jackson’s ANRY/A that adjusts running backs yardage for efficiency, it can paint a pretty good picture.
Over the season, I will be posting the weekly results here on settingedge.com, and every four weeks I will be giving a big-picture, season long look at how teams and players are faring. With all the introductory stuff out of the way, let’s take a look at Week Three.
Looking at week three (with improving but still in the process charts), the Panthers good-on-paper run game finally came through, pacing the league in OrW% after coming in at 21 and 14 in the two weeks previous. They, of course, played the Saints, a natural cure for offensive woes in general, but 77% is good for the second highest mark in any week on the season to this point. Looking at the rest of the top 5, the Steelers also appeared to get back on track against the Bears, while the Ravens make it a third consecutive week where the team playing the Jaguars finishes in the top 4. With the talented back 7 and pass rush Jacksonville has, it appears that the way to consistently find success against them is to run the ball. Like Jacksonville, the Patriots defensive struggles extend to the run game, as their opponent grabbed a top 10 finish for the second time in three weeks.
Kansas City finds themselves back near the top after dropping a bit last week, while the Bills finished tied for last after having last to themselves in week 2. Despite this, the Bills are 2-1 and looking much better than anyone anticipated. If the run game gets going, they could cement themselves as wild card favorites. Others worth noting: the Raiders have been less successful in the run game each week as the season has progressed. It’s great having Marshawn Lynch back in the league, but it’s something worth noting on a team where the offensive line can’t be used as a big excuse. For all the talk of the Titans run game, they’ve only been slightly above average in games they don’t play Jacksonville. The Lions continue to struggle succeeding in running the ball despite their newfound commitment to it, while the Eagles have posted back to back top 10 weeks despite having a consensus weakness at running back.
Transitioning to individual players, we see some usual suspects back at the top. Lamar Miller and Kareem Hunt climbed back towards the top after rough week 2’s, while Todd Gurley continues to build his comeback tour with a second consecutive impressive week. In Chicago, Jordan Howard and Le’Veon Bell had their most successful weeks of the season, while Tarik Cohen found the second worst success rate of all players with 10+ rushes. While his role of breaking off big plays minimizes the harm his unsuccessful runs have, this is his second consecutive week where he struggled to consistently win the down.
Something is up with LeSean McCoy in Buffalo. After struggling in week 1 and coming in dead last in week 2, McCoy’s mark of 36% ties him with four others for the 4th worst OrW% of week 3. Jay Ajayi continued to look like an average running back, and despite his first game without reaching the end zone, Mike Gillislee continues to find success fairly consistently for New England.
As for the rookies, Kareem Hunt took his place back on top of the throne after a down week, while Dalvin Cook passed Leonard Fournette this week, who finished tied with Joe Mixon. D’Onta Foreman fell 2 carries shy of qualifying, but his mark of 38% would have placed him directly behind Fournette and Mixon, and directly ahead of Semaje Perine. All four of those rookies finished with an OrW% between 37%-39%, so there isn’t much to separate them there. As for Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Stewart got the vast majority of the carries this week (12-4), and found a good amount of success with them. For now, it doesn’t look like McCaffrey is going to be too much of a factor running the football.
That’ll do it for this week. Next week marks our first quarterly update, where we’ll take a look at how teams and players are doing on the season as a whole instead of each individual week. Look for that, exclusively on settingedge.com.