Another pre-season and another un-drafted free agent running back turning heads in Silver and Black. This year, the recipient of the early hype is Chris Warren III. So far he leads the NFL in rushing, albeit through 2 pre-season games. Warren flashed huge potential in college but for some reason was asked to play tight end at University of Texas during his junior and final season.
Warren finished his game against the Rams with 110 yards rushing and a score on 18 carries. He was the only skill player producing consistent yards last Saturday since both Connor Cook and EJ Manuel struggled to get the passing game in rhythm. Here are a few things Warren did well and some things he can improve upon.
Running Behind His Pads
This is the lone power blocking scheme in this breakdown. Warren does a great job of pressing the line of scrimmage and even though he is met by a linebacker after 2 yards, he lowers his shoulder and drives his feet for another 4 yards.
Say hello to zone blocking ladies and gentlemen. This time it’s a lead outside zone run. The tight end, Pharoah Brown is attempting to execute a “reach block” that will allow Warren a clear path around the edge. But the Rams defensive end beats Brown inside forcing Warren to take an even further path outside. Warren does a great job here chopping his feet, squaring his shoulders, and getting the first down in spite of the blocking in front of him.
Shout out to Feliciano, Aboushi, and Silberman for driving their men back 5 yards.
Here is another zone play without the lead fullback, but this time it’s inside zone. Notice the QB bootleg freezing the unblocked edge rushers. Warren steps through an arm tackle, collides with the safety, keeps his feet churning for a few extra yards after contact yet again.
This time it’s a team effort. Warren presses the line of scrimmage in a hurry and cuts back when he sees the hole open. A lot of times ball carriers will keep dancing here but Warren knows he needs to run with power. He lowers his shoulder into the linebacker after 3 yards and keeps his feet pumping. His teammates pile on and turn the run into a 9 yard gain.
Taking Advantage of Great Blocking
There are times when all a ball carrier has to do is execute the play call. In this case Warren gets awesome blocking and is able to climb quickly into the second level. The safety grabbing his legs at the last second prevents him from finishing off this run like he should.
Warren’s Touchdown run was more of a stroll into the endzone. He might as well have walked in. Feliciano gets away with a pretty blatant holding here, electing to simply tackle the nose guard.
Warren probably wishes he had this one back. A tractor trailer size hole opens up in front of him and Warren gets caught dancing in front of the safety. He needs to finish these runs off in a violent fashion.
Warren shows off his speed in this toss around the outside. Not often can a 240+ pound back get to the second level this quickly. Warren tries to stiff arm the safety but is too late. He should force this safety to make a business decision next time. A common theme here is Warren failing to finish off his runs like a power back should.
Warren had an up and down day in pass protection. There were too many instances of Warren releasing on a route when Cook or Manuel were under pressure. Without knowing the play call or the coaching points it’s tough to say if that’s a mistake on Warren or not. In the above play Warren comes across the formation to double the left defensive end. You see Warren hesitate for a moment before striking number 49. This is a negative rep for that reason and the defensive end is able to get off the block and hurry Manuel late in the down.
Here’s a better rep where Warren executes a chip block on number 50. This is a technique designed to help the offensive lineman and make the pass rusher think twice about who is coming to block him on a given play. His size should make him a pass protection stud but Gruden said after the game that Warren “has to get better without the ball in his hands.” Pass protection is a must for every runningback, especially when you have a franchise QB in the backfield.
+ Warren has posted great production thoughout 2 pre-season games, enough to lock him in at a RB roster spot.
+ Warren has NFL pedigree (father Chris Warren II played for 10 seasons in the NFL as a runningback) and boasts a frame that is built to last.
+ Warren has sneaky speed and the ability to lower his shoulder and drive for extra yards after contact.
- He can do a better job of finishing off runs in the open field.
- Pass protection is his biggest area for growth.