At the halfway point of the season, the league’s most effective short-yardage runner is … Joe Flacco? Well, that’s what the numbers say.
Once per week, I like to look at the overview stats from one of the areas we track – usually passing, rushing or receiving around the end zone. For this week, I’m looking at key rushing plays. That is, when a team needs to pick up 1 yards on either third or fourth down to keep a drive alive, or has the ball on the 1-yard line of an opponent, who does it tend to give the ball, and is that player effective?
Turns out Joe Flacco is the current clubhouse leader. They’ve used him 9 times on quarterback sneaks, and he’s converted all of them. Similarly, Marcus Mariota is 8 for 8 on such plays.
Nine players have handled the ball at least 4 times on such plays and converted every time, and all but one of those players is a quarterback. Phillip Lindsay is the running back leader, hitting on all 5 of his plays.
Three other running backs have converted over 80 percent of such plays: Alvin Kamara, LeGarrette Blount and Derrick Henry.
Five players have run the ball on at least 13 such plays, and they’re all running backs: Todd Gurley, Ezekel Elliott, James Conner, Sony Michel and Jordan Howard. (While Michel has had a lot of those carries, he hasn’t been that effective – 7 of 13.)
Two others have double-digit short-yardage carries, but neither has been that effective. Carlos Hyde has gone 6 of 11, while Alfred Blue has converted 5 of 10. We tend to think of Lamar Miller as Houston’s starting, featured running back, but he has only 1 carry all year when the Texans were looking for a yard – Blue has had 10 times as many attempts.
In Buffalo, Chris Ivory has gone 3 of 5 on these plays, while LeSean McCoy just 0 for 1.
Jordan Howard looks like the main goal-line choice for the Bears. He’s gone 8 of 13 when they’ve been looking for a key yard, while Tarik Cohen is just 0 for 1.
You might logically figure Mark Ingram would be the goal-line back in New Orleans. He’s more of grinder than Alvin Kamara. But Ingram is just 2 for 2 on these kind of plays since coming back for their last four games. With Kamara, they can use Taysom Hill has a zone-read quarterback. Hill is 3 for 3, while Kamara is 6 of 7.
For the Eagles, they’ve used a league-high 8 different players for these kind of plays. Carson Wentz is the only one with 3 attempts.
|"AND ONE" RUSHING (individual leaders)|
Here are the team totals. Tampa Bay is the only team that’s converted on all of its running plays, but it has a league-low 3 attempts (only three other teams don’t have at least double-digit carries).
Only two teams have converted fewer than half of these kind of running plays – Raiders and Texans. Everyone else is over 54 percent.
|"AND ONE" RUSHING (team totals)|