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Using detailed analysis to project 2019 rushing stats for Raiders backs

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NFL: Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

In this article I will examine Jon Gruden’s offense through the years and the current Raiders personnel in an attempt to predict how the carries will be distributed to the players on offense. Like last weeks article projecting the receiving stats, this article will first look at how Jon Gruden’s rushing offense has operated from a historical perspective.

Jon Gruden’s offense historically

The starting point for this projection will be to examine how Jon Gruden has divvied up the carries to his running backs through the years. For the readers who are unfamiliar with this type of statistical analysis it is called a “market share analysis.”

Market share analysis is used by fantasy football aficionados to gain an advantage when trying to predict what opportunities a player will have in a specific offense. For example:

  • Player A had around 75 carries in 2 different seasons in X offense that gave its number 2 runningback 15% of the carries.
  • When player A signs with Y offense who traditionally gives its number 2 running back 25% of the carries you should expect that player’s opportunities to go up.

Jon Gruden’s offense traditionally gives one running back around 50% of the total rushing attempts. After the primary rusher, the 2nd and 3rd options are often a more equally split with less than 10 percent difference in 7 out of the 12 years Gruden has been a head coach.

There have been exceptions to this rule however when Jon Gruden had a great complementary back at his disposal like Charlie Garner or Mike Alstott he has distributed the carries more equally between the primary ball carrier and the 2nd option.

If Isaiah Crowell hadn’t torn his achilles this may well have been the approach Gruden took with Josh Jacobs. The Raiders brought Doug Martin back after the Crowell injury and while Martin did have 44% of the carries in 2018, he rarely got on the field while Marshawn Lynch was healthy early in 2018. In this projection Martin will be viewed as an insurance plan more than a committee to pair with the first round running back.

Adjustments

The average rushing attempts market share in the black column from the above table will be the starting point. That being said the 2005 season perhaps could shed the most light on predicting the Raiders rushing plan in 2019. The season that saw Gruden give the ball to his lead back with the most frequency just happens to be the only season he’s had a first round rookie running back at his disposal—Cadillac Williams.

In 2005 Tampa Bay rookie Cadillac Williams had an astounding 290 carries while averaging 4.1 yards per attempt. He finished the season with 1178 yards rushing and 6 touchdowns on the ground.

The thought process around giving such a large workload to a rookie running back is the “fresh legs” theory. Running backs with less wear and tear should be used more than backs with thinner tread on the tires.

No running back in this year’s draft had fresher legs than Josh Jacobs due to playing in a backfield (and offense in general) with so many future draft picks. The workload Cadillac Williams received in 2005 could be an indicator that Jacobs, barring injury, will receive higher than the 49% average rushing attempt market share in Jon Gruden’s offense.

Method for final projection

Before getting to the numbers let’s go over the thought process that brings us to the final result. I used the average market share percentages as a starting point before adjusting based on the thought process explained above.

The numbers in this table predict what percentage of the total rushing attempts a player will receive in 2019. The average rushing attempts in a Gruden offense is a little over 440 total attempts.

Since the projection in the previous article about passing numbers was pushed up 20 pass attempts over the Gruden average, I will push the projection for rushing attempts down 20 underneath the average in order to compensate. This means that if Jalen Richard gets 14 percent of 420 rushing attempts he would end the season with 59 rushing attempts.

The next part of the prediction uses the following statistics to predict what each player will do with the rushing attempts they receive in Gruden’s offense. Both of the following statistics will be used to predict the statistics a player will have after finding their projected rushing attempts.

  • Yards per carry measures how many yards a runner gains with each carry.
  • Touchdown rate measures how often a player turns a carry into a touchdown.

For veterans Martin and Richard their career average in both yards per carry and touchdown rate was used in this projection. In order to predict Jacobs’ statistics I found the average yards per carry and touchdown rate for each 1st round running back in their rookie season since 2015. For the “other runners” category I found the median statistic from 2018 and applied it to the group market share projection.

With all of these details considered these are the Raiders rushing projections:

Josh Jacobs: 223 attempts, 979 yards, 4.4 YPC, 7 touchdowns

Doug Martin: 76 attempts, 318 yards, 4.2 YPC, 1 touchdown

Jalen Richard: 59 attempts, 276 yards, 4.7 YPC, 1 touchdown

The remaining yards from all other runners including Derek Carr projects to be 63 attempts for 239 yards and 2 touchdowns. This means the Raiders would end the season with 1812 total rushing yards and 11 scores on the ground.