by: Chris Sullivan
Matt Williamson on Scouts, Inc. has had a series of little guest posts over at Sando's NFC West blog over the last two days. In these posts, he's broken down the weaknesses of each NFC West team. They're all worth a look (uh, click each word, or at least the last one... ooh linkfest!).
Willamson, predictably, picks Seattle's running backs as our top weakness, and other than the hardcore Russell haters, I don't think many would disagree. We've seen nothing from Julius Jones to indicate he can handle the load this year, and even less from TJ "I'm not sure how to use him" Duckett. Forsett remains somewhat enigmatic, but I imagine we can expect for him to remain a largely unknown quantity through this year barring injury to Jones.
The issue I take is with Williamson's breakdown of TJ Duckett:
Last season with the Seahawks, Duckett converted 26 of 62 carries into first downs. Duckett rushed for eight touchdowns, but on those 62 carries, he managed a measly 172 yards for an average of 2.8 yards per carry. Granted, in short-yardage situations, runners are not going to often break off long runs, but 2.8 yards per carry is dreadful. Duckett is extremely one-dimensional. He is just a big, strong guy who can get a needed yard. Nothing more, nothing less.
To look at Duckett, we have to look at not just what he was last year with a coach who admitted he did not know how to use him, but at his previous experience as well. In 2007, on basically the same number of attempts for a much poorer team (Detroit), Duckett doubled his yardage -- 335 yds on 65 carries, averaging 5.2 ypc and scoring 3 touchdowns in the process. He also snagged 16 first downs. What does this tell me?
That the Lions used him differently -- as a running back, rather than strictly as a bruiser. Remember that 19 of Duckett's 62 carries (that's 30%!) came in one game (St Louis, week 3). Outside of that game, his longest run was 9 yards, and what would you expect from him? When you're in the game for three carries, its rare to see a back build up much of a rythym, especially when it is already known that you're going to be rushing up the gut for a two-yard first down.
I'm not trying to insinuate that Duckett is a superstar, he isn't. His best years were under Knapp and Mora in Atlanta, and it was clear last year when we signed him that we were doing so for Mora and (presumably) Knapp. Holmgren didn't want him and didn't know how to use him. That will not be the case in 2009.