Contextualizing the Run: Offensive Run-Game Win Value – Week 12

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December 1, 2017

Contextualizing the Run: Offensive Run-Game Win Value – Week 12

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. For example, on a standard 1st down, the offense has 3 plays (assuming a punt on 4th) to gain 10 yards. To “win” first down, a run would need to pick up 4 yards. If the offense starts from 1st and 10 and picks up 4 yards every play, the series will result in a touchdown every time. This logic extends to any down and distance needed. On 2nd down the team has 2 plays to gain the necessary yardage, so they need to pick up half of it to “win” the down, while on third and fourth down they need to gain the yardage necessary for the first to be labeled a win.

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 Twelve.

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving and didn’t miss their weekly OrW update too much. While week 11 got skipped, I will say it continued the trend of ugly rushing weeks that we’ve seen for most of the second half of the year. Lot of negative OrW values. Looking at week 12, the NFL is finally back to a 16 game slate and it brought some level of success back to running the football. 14 teams finished with a positive OrWV, and 3 additional teams were within a half-point of average, with another three within a point.

The Cowboys and Falcons paced the league, despite both missing their star running backs. The Cowboys, in particular, are very surprising with how bad the offense looked live on Thanksgiving afternoon. Alfred Morris and Rod Smith both fell just short of qualifying for the upcoming players section, but each posted a value of 2+. The Bengals made their way into the top 5 behind Joe Mixon’s strong day, while the Bucs managed to piece together a top-6 performance despite an injury to Doug Martin.

Looking at the other end of the spectrum, it’s interesting to see the symmetry at each end. The Bears, like the Cowboys, were a significant distance from the next-closest team, while most of the rest of the bottom/top third was within a point or two of each other. The Chargers and Seahawks managed to climb just out of the bottom five this week, while the Jaguars continue their slide towards wasting an all-time great defense (yes, it is) with an inept offense.

All hail Dion Lewis. New England’s running game has completely transformed since Dion Lewis took over as the main guy on the ground, and his OrW value reflects that. Behind him is a trio of young backs who have either recently been freed or need to be freed and given the reigns to their offenses. I’m not sold on Joe Mixon as a star, but he’s clearly the best back the Bengals have. DeMarco Murray should be closer to inactive than the lead back, yet Derrick Henry is still stuck behind him, while Tevin Coleman does have a better (when healthy) back in front of him, but could be the lead back on a number of teams.

This feels like the year where we really have seen a changing of the guard at the running back position. Young guys have started to take over, while established veterans like LeSean McCoy (-3.77, not sure why his name blocks his value) and DeMarco Murray have clearly lost a step or two. For all the young backs prospering, however, the two early-season darlings have had some of the shine wipe off of them as the season progresses. Leonard Fournette hasn’t been the same guy since his ankle injury, partly due to that but mainly due to the injuries Jacksonville has suffered on the offensive line. For as dominant as Fournette can be beyond the line of scrimmage, he needs the blocking to get him there first, he isn’t someone who creates in the backfield. Kareem Hunt is, quite frankly, still as impressive as he was at the start of the year but Alex Smith went back to being Alex Smith and as a result there are no lanes for Hunt to run in, despite his continued ability to make something out of nothing. It seems like anytime he does break free and rip off a chunk play it gets called for holding too. Get Mahomes in there, please Chiefs.

Lastly, your weekly reminder that Melvin Gordon STINKS. Free Austin Ekeler.

That’ll do it for week 12 folks. The third quarterly update will be here next week as teams solidify their playoff status or make a push for one. Check for that next week, only on settingedge.com.