The guys over at ProFootballFocus have utilized their yearlong data to create a new statistic for running backs called Elusivity. It's a combination of yards after first contact, missed tackles in the running game and missed tackles in the receiving game. It's an excellent work of statistical data and worth a look for those people interested in how the rest of the NFL is doing.
The first thing to look at is how the New England Patriots fared. Due to injuries to other Patriots running backs, only Kevin Faulk and Laurence Maroney were included in the compilation of this data (players needed 228 snaps to be counted in the research). Out of the 63 running backs included in this research, Maroney finished 29th and Faulk finished 35th. That's pretty average.
However, the 63 backs also include some players with as few as 27 carries, despite being on the field for so many snaps. So in order to narrow the field even further, I decided to set a minimum limit for how many carries a running back must have in order to qualify for the rankings. I set 175 carries as the limit in order to narrow down the players to either primary or secondary runners on the team. In these new rankings, Faulk is eliminated from consideration, leaving only Maroney.
Maroney ranks 14th out of 28 backs who qualify. Which goes to show: Maroney is just a straight up average running back.
Here are some AFC East headliners that may be of interest (still using the 175 carry qualifier):
Fred Jackson, RB Buffalo Bills: Finishes 2nd out of 28. He has given us pain in the past and has caused numerous defensive players to look foolish. Expect more of the same next year as Jackson pairs up with C.J. Spiller and, despite a terrible O-Line, will make our defense look silly. While the Bills won't be able to win as long as they can't pass the ball, it's still aggravating to watch them control the clock.
Ricky Williams, RB Miami Dolphins: Finishes 26th out of 28. He had to step up in place of the injured Ronnie Brown, who didn't reach the 175 attempt qualifier, and definitely notched up the yardage. However, while Williams was capable of racking up yards after contact, he was unable to cause tacklers to miss, which hurt his final score. With extra offensive weapons stretching the field, look for the Dolphins running backs to perform better next year.
Thomas Jones, RB Formerly of the New York Jets: Finishes 28th out of 28. Jones, like Williams, was hurt due to his lack of missed tackles- which goes to show how powerful the Jets' O-Line was. Only half of Jones' yardage was after contact (as opposed to 60% of Maroney's), which means that the O-Line earned a lot of Jones' yards. Does this mean that the Jets may have as much success next year with LaDainian Tomlinson?
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB New York Jets: Finishes 27th out of 28. I don't think so. Tomlinson was last out of the qualifiers in causing tacklers to miss. Dead last. In fact, he was the only back out of the 28 in single digit missed tackles. While Tomlinson may benefit from being behind a better O-Line (which is weakened with the release of guard Alan Faneca), don't expect him to make any plays beyond what the O-Line gives him.
Backs that didn't reach the 175 qualifier:
Ronnie Brown, RB Miami Dolphins - Actually 5/63 overall before his injury.
Marshawn Lynch, RB Buffalo Bills - 12/63
What does this mean for next year? The Patriots obviously won't be a powerhouse running team. Look for the three other AFC East teams to far outstrip us next year in the running game.
My AFC East Running Back Rankings
1. Miami Dolphins
2. Buffalo Bills
3. New York Jets
4. New England Patriots