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A Concern Over Running Back by Committee

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by DropKickFlutie, Apr 29, 2011.

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  1. DropKickFlutie

    DropKickFlutie Rookie

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    I have a concern related to the running back by committee concept. Unpredictability is a big part of keeping a defense on its toes. Now, if an offense is rotating running backs based on publicly known stereotypes where one guy is known as an inside runner, or another is more of a 3rd down passing down back, isn't this completely giving away what you are doing?

    I would imagine that an all around RB who can play every down, is highly valuable because it isn't transparently obvious what type of play will be run. I can agree that 3rd down specialists have a role in the NFL, but these players have exceptional pass catching and pass blocking skills that must be especially great since the opponent knows the play is likely a pass. What I don't understand is going after RB specialists who are only used in games for their publicly known strengths.

    I bring this up because I have a hypothesis that one big reason the Patriots have gotten spanked in 2 straight playoff games now, is how completely predictable the offense is related to rotating the running backs. The offense did a good job of mixing things up in the regular season, but in both playoff losses, the offense fell in love with using the 3rd down RB far too much, and it made the offense much easier to defend against.
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2011
  2. jmt57

    jmt57 Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    That's a great question, but if that is the case and that does happen, then I would say that the blame for the predictability would fall on the play calling of the coaching staff rather than on the personnel.

    If for example a team always hand the ball off to player X when he is in the game and opposing defenses see that, stack the line and stop him, then isn't that more on the OC than the RB? Similarly, if every time OLB Y comes into the game the defense has him blitz from the left and opposing offense figure that out and run plays to neutralize that threat, is it player Y's fault that he has so few sacks and QB pressures? I would say the fault is on the DC, not the player in that scenario.

    While certain players will continue to enter the game in sub-packages based on down and distance, the key is to not run the same play with that personnel every single time. I think for example play-calling when Maroney entered the game became very predictable when he entered the game late in his career with the Pats; if he was in it was a run and if he wasn't it was a pass.

    On the other hand when Woodhead, for example was in the game last year he might run the ball, he might catch a screen pass, or he might stay back to pick up a pass rusher. The key is to keep the playbook open regardless of personnel - not the personnel themselves.
  3. serifyn

    serifyn Rookie

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    id say the most balanced RB on the patriots is still BJGE, he can run decently up the middle and can be a pass catching option in a pinch, id say he is still the player who gets the majority of the snaps.

    Woodhead and Vereen might be kind of similar, they are both elusive speed-merchants with great pass catching ability who are deadly in space, id like to see some sets where the 2 of them are in there running routes, it would give defensive coordinators headaches especially when their linebackers have to cover our tight ends.

    Ridley is a closer, LSU used him to get tough yards and close out games for them, he had great production against SEC talent in his final year.

    people say faulks career might be over and maybe it is, but with 2 new runningbacks, and how well faulk coached up woodhead last year, the patriots might bring him back if only for camp to help out the newbies.

    Anyway, the patriots are really setting themselves up to run outside which is woodhead, BJGE and Vereen's Strength, price and solder are apparently extremely good run blockers, solder can pull off of the line and be 5 yards upfield in less than 2 seconds.

    YouTube - Sport Science: Nate Solder
  4. AndyJohnson

    AndyJohnson PatsFans.com Veteran PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I get your concern, but it really isn't related to running back by committee.
    If a RBs strengths and weaknesses are tells to what you are going to do, it is as much a tell with one guy who gets all the carries as 2 who share.

    I would agree the 3rd down back can create this dynamic, but they are in on passing downs, and every team, one primary back or a committee uses one.

    This is, by the way, one of the things I like about the Vereen pick because he can play in every situation. He can run inside and out, he can pass block and he can run routes and catch the ball. There will be no tell when he is on the field.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 30, 2011
  5. BKBroiler

    BKBroiler Rookie

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    In between all of the chicken littles whining about their binky not being picked, this is easily one of the most interesting questions/scenarios brought up. Personally I think that they are okay going forward because although BJGE and Woodhead have very distinct styles, they both are able to contribute running the ball, catching the ball, and in pass blocking. Now Vereen and Ridley are more unknown since they haven't played a down in the NFL and we only have college tape available, they both seem to mirror BJGE and Woodhead in that they can run, catch, and block despite having a distinct style that can help in a niche situation.
  6. AndyJohnson

    AndyJohnson PatsFans.com Veteran PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Vereen, IMO, stands apart in this way. BJGE is simply not effective in the passing game (except that he can block well), and when Woodhead is on the field its either a pass or a draw. We won't line up in a run formation with him in the game, just as we rarely line up in the gun with BJGE.
    My impression is that Vereen is equally adept at all duties of a RB.
  7. RayClay

    RayClay On the Roster

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    It is a good point if the two RBs picked up are totally one dimensional. Vereen looks like a pretty capable inside/outside guy. Maybe not an all day guy, but I'd hardly give him any daylight inside.

    Don't know about the other guy, but a goal line runner usually isn't fooling anyone. Seems like he'll be on teams, maybe FB too.

    You can't make it as a RB if you can't run inside, period.
  8. mcgraw_wv

    mcgraw_wv Rookie

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    I wanted a FB drafted this year, and I hope, and believe they will use Ridley as a FullBack. The second I saw his profile I thought... Jerome Bettis. He can line up as a RB, or even come in as a FB.

    He can get the tough yards and push the pile, or throw a mean block to spring Vereen or BJGE.

    I like the Ridley pick more than Vereen.
  9. convertedpatsfan

    convertedpatsfan PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I'd say that was the concern last year with Lawfirm and Woody. They were completely different backs and defenses knew that.

    Vereen is more of an all-around back, and in that sense, actually should lessen your concerns. Ridley could be a short yardage/goal line guy, and at that point everyone knows what's happening anyways.

    I don't see it as much of an issue. I'd love to see some two-back sets though.
  10. JMarr

    JMarr Rookie

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    I agree with you on the two back sets, CPF.

    I read a scouting report that said Ridley is also good at catching the ball out of the backfield. I'm thinking that BB may be ahead of the curve again and that we will see a trend of moving away from so many spread looks and back to more unpredictability, where the defense has to look for almost anything on 3rd down--more screens, more passes to the backs releasing out of the backfield, and the real threat of a run as well.

    Almost all of of BJGE's 8+ yard runs seemed to be on first down or second and long last year. I'm glad that BB realizes that, last year was a bit of a fluke in terms of the success of the BJGE and Woodhead tandem.
  11. TheSolderKing

    TheSolderKing Rookie

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    How is it a committee? LAW FIRM has established himself as #1


    we have another that is much like Faulk... but is able to go 3 downs. will he go 3 downs?? doubt it.

    the other guy is the normal RB no hybrid.

    law firm will not be hurt by your self proclaimed committee
  12. Rob0729

    Rob0729 PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    First of all, it seems that most teams have adopted a RB by committee. Even a lot of teams with a stud RB have another RB that they sub frequently. In fact, the # 1 team rushing for the last few years have been RB by committee. Last year it was KC (Charles had over 1,400 yards while Jones had just under 900 yards). The year before it was the Jets (Thomas Jones/Shonn Greene). The year before that, it was the Giants (Jacobs and Ward each got over 1,000 yards).

    Second, the reason the Pats drafted Vereen is because of his versatilaty. When either he or Woodhead are in the backfield, teams won't know if the Pats are going to run or pass. As Andy pointed out, you are confusing individual RB's limitations with the limitations of the RB by committee approach. If you put a RB in the game that can't catch the ball, it makes opposing defenses think run first. You put a RB who can do a lot of things and the defense won't know what to do.

    Third, a RB by committee approach should make the offense more dynamic, not more predictable. If you argue that you use different RBs and defenses know how they are going to run based on which RB is in, how does that change if you have one RB?
  13. hwc

    hwc On the Roster

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    As far as I can tell, the Patriots only had two RB on the roster:

    1) Woodhead, a speciality 3rd down type back.

    2) Green-Ellis, a restricted free agent

    They had no choice but to add multiple backs to the roster. They can't go into the season with two backs. Normally, Belichick would probably sign a free agent back or two, but there are no free agent signings and no indication of when there might be.

    I would expect him to sign at least one free agent back whenever he can. I can't see him going into camp (if there is a camp) with just three RBs and a 3rd-down specialty back on the roster.
  14. DropKickFlutie

    DropKickFlutie Rookie

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    Let me clarify. I understand it's vogue now to use running back by committee, and that many teams do use this with high success. However, I'd counter that several of these teams use their #1 and #2 backs in overlapping situations (inside and outside runs and passing plays), so it's not completely transparent what the play is.

    I'm somewhat encouraged to read that the RB's we picked up can maybe play all 3 downs. I'm hoping we end up with two backs we can use who can play in all situations, and not end up using them as specialists during games.
  15. Bill B.

    Bill B. Rookie

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    Another thing to consider. When the lockout ends, there will likely be very little preparation time before the season starts. One of the easiest positions, IMO, to adjust to in the NFL, is running back. These guys will be ready to contribute faster than someone trying to absorb Belichick's complex defensive schemes. Vereen takes the place of Taylor, all around back who does a lot of things well. Ridley takes the place of Morris in short yardage situations and most likely will play fullback from time to time.
  16. rabidfireweasel

    rabidfireweasel Rookie

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    Agreed. Vereen is an all purpose back. He is not a 20 rush a game, every week back, but he is a tough inside runner who can also catch. He can be great in the 2-4 minute drill.

    I also believe that NE will run some sets (maybe not until 2012) where they line Vereen out at rb and Ridley at FB with Gronk and Hernandez. If the team defends in a bigger set, Hernandez and Vereen can split out wide, and Ridley can pass protect or be a legitimate run threat depending on how the D responds. If they respond in nickel, NE can blast away with Vereen, a FB and 2 TE's.
    NE has had its greatest offensenive success in the playoffs but being deep, versatile, and exploited mismatches- the opponents weakest link. I think this draft allows them to better revisit that philosophy.

    I think people who view Vereen as a Woodhead clone are way off base.
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2011
  17. NEGoldenAge

    NEGoldenAge Banned

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    Great post. I believe this is the change in offensive scheme that has been alluded to. I wouldn't be surprised to see another versatile TE picked up via the draft of FA/trade once free agency begins. I could see some serious personel mismatches from this scheme change, and I love it.
  18. Patriot_in_NY

    Patriot_in_NY Rookie

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    I actually do to..... Ridley is a pile pusher, north-south guy.

    YouTube - Stevan Ridley Highlights

    If you hated Maroney's dancing, you'll like this guy......... right at the friggen hole.

    That is a very nice package to add to the stable. In time, he'll be our feature back with guys like Vereen and Woody complimenting him. No disrespect to BJGE, but Ridley is better.......... and his treads have almost no wear. I really like this pick.
  19. WhiZa

    WhiZa Rookie

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    At the end of the year everyone will love Vereen and Ridley just as they loved the TEs last year (i hope). They seem to be complementing backs and they are at a need position. Having a coach like Fears doesn't hurt either.
  20. VJCPatriot

    VJCPatriot Rookie

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    It's going to be good to see the running game revitalized in New England. I loved seeing the Pats put up 30+ PPG in 2010. But I would like to see even more balance and unpredictability from the offense in 2011. That will make it even harder to shut down our offense when it counts. Also the idea of Pounding the ball down the opponent's throats and Killing out the last 3 minutes of clock with a 3 pt lead instead of punting it and sweating out whether or not the defense can hold really Appeals to me! :)
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2011
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