More from Your Runningbacks Part 1 | Chris Schisler | June 7, 2013

 

New Orleans Saints v Baltimore Ravens

More from Your Runningbacks Part 1 | Chris Schisler | June 7, 2013

The runningback position has evolved. In the passing obsessed game football has become the job description of runningbacks has changed. Now backs must do more than run with the football. They have to understand their role in pass protection, they must be viable options in the passing game and in some offenses they are even lead blockers for running quarterbacks. The days of dominant running offenses focused around a Jamal Lewis or a Ladanian Tomlinson are over. Even in Washington where Alfred Morris is a top rusher, quarterback Robert Griffin III is the star. The value of a great runner has gone down. This is partly because their careers are cut short from injury and partly to the large number of backs available. The Ravens made the mistake years ago of holding on to the glory days of Jamal Lewis, letting go the youthfully quick Chester Taylor. Lewis never achieved the same production and the Ravens were stuck paying for the big name. In this new day of football, teams must get more out of their runningbacks.

Runningbacks are not rare stars anymore. So many runningbacks come into the league from college. College football has trended towards pro-style passing offenses that prepare runningbacks for the NFL. Runningbacks come into the league already understanding the principles of pass protection and when they have a free release (all though these assignments are slightly different on each team). Teams are unwilling to pay runningbacks in comparison to other positions which is largely due to a large pool of talented backs in the league. Now don’t get me wrong, the best of the best like an Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster and Ray Rice get paid big time bucks. But do you think a team like the Tennessee Titans would spend the same kind of “CJ2K” money on a runner ever again? Teams want to get their backs out of the draft and if they are special they’ll get big contracts. Most runningbacks end up being role players or making an impact on special teams. The top backs are rare, but there are always runningbacks who can get the job done.

The best way a runningback can do for his career is catch balls out of the backfield. Ideally the runningback can line up or motion to being a wide receiver on some plays. A good passing game stretches the field both horizontally and vertically while attacking favorable matchups. Runningbacks who can catch out of the backfield and can run a wide variation of routes cause matchup nightmares for defenses. Think about it from the defenses perspective. In man coverage who would be responsible for what comes out of the backfield. Linebackers and strong safeties, who are often less athletic cover runningbacks. If you have a great receiving weapon in the backfield like a Ray Rice Arian Foster or Darren Sproles this could force zone coverage. These backs will get free from every linebacker, every time. This is a lot for one player to dictate to the defense. Think about this scenario. The defense is playing cover two. This means the cornerbacks are responsible for the flats and the two deep zones are governed by the safeties. Your wide Receiver runs a hitch route which the corner bites on; only to see the ball sail over his head to the running back that ran a wheel route.

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What would happen if the X receiver ran a Post? Then the corner would sit on the wheel route the running back can blow by him and the Safety would surely cover the post. All the runningback needs is a little separation from the corner and he will likely be open for a big play downfield. If the runningback fakes a little hitch the corner will probably bite because he is responsible for coverage underneath. Texas routes came about when linebackers would drop into coverage, especially with Tampa 2. The Texas route is when the runningback goes out diagonally and then sharply cuts back to the middle, where the linebacker vacated from. These routes as well as the use of screens are great ways to get more out of your runningbacks in the passing game.

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