Between the Tackles, Part 2

| December 19, 2013

Between-the-Tackles2In this second part of his look at inside vs. outside runs, Matt Claassen focuses on the best and worst marks in yards gained after contact in each category. Click here for Part 1.

General expectations are that bigger, more powerful backs will typically have more success running between the tackles due to their size and perceived ability to break tackles. In contrast, small and/or speed backs are expected to be better outside the tackles where more ‘open space’ exists.

In addition to our Signature Stats, found among the vast amount of data in our Premium Stats section is each player’s rushing statistics broken all the way down to individual gap. With this data we can take a look at what frequency a player runs between the tackles as opposed to outside, and which players are the most and least productive in particular areas. While this breakdown may offer an idea of how each player is performing, I want to emphasize that our grading system will still provide a better understanding as to a player’s overall performance.

*To qualify for this study, a player must have a minimum of 80 total carries. Reverses and other atypical runs have been omitted and non-running backs have been excluded from the NFL averages. Inside runs are defined as rush attempts between the offensive tackles in either ‘A’ or ‘B’ gaps, while outside is considered ‘C’ gap and out.

Beyond the First Hit

In a continuation of yesterday’s look at rushing between and outside the tackles, we take a look at the running backs after defenders make contact. All yards after contact are one and the same on paper, but they do come in different forms. A ball carrier who shakes off the first tackle to continue another 5 yards before being met by another defender is certainly different than one who is hit by one or more defenders yet can drag them another 5 yards before going down. Both scenarios would equate to the identical amount of yards after contact, but do not look the same. One is not necessarily better or more preferred than the other, as every situation and scheme is different. It should be mentioned that quick/speed backs could be at a disadvantage when measuring yards after contact as they may be able to outrun a defender that would otherwise get to a slower ball-carrier.


rainey-insetIn yesterday’s look at yards per carry in inside runs, DeMarco Murray ranked first at 6.92 yards. While he may be averaging more than 3 yards per carry before contact, he still ranks as one of the best after contact as well. Bobby Rainey has earned his yards as much as anyone this season, and not just on inside carries. He has by far the highest percentage of yards after contact this season with 73.5% of his yards coming after the first defender reaches him. While impressive, Rainey is nowhere near the 92.2% season-high set by Larry Johnson in 2009 on inside attempts. Another fact worth noting is that only four running backs are averaging more than 3 yards after contact, a number that was as high as 12 backs in 2009.

Top 10, Average Rush Yards After Contact – Inside

# Name Team Yards After Contact YCo % of Yards After Contact
1 Donald Brown IND 142 3.74 60.2
2 Bobby Rainey TB 226 3.28 72.2
3 DeMarco Murray DAL 271 3.15 45.6
4 Rashad Jennings OAK 268 3.01 63.5
5 Alfred Morris WAS 382 2.77 54.3
6 Adrian L. Peterson MIN 373 2.76 69.9
7 Montee Ball DEN 170 2.50 58.4
8 C.J. Spiller BUF 236 2.48 48.8
9 Andre Ellington ARZ 121 2.47 50.2
10 Marshawn Lynch SEA 397 2.47 56.3
NFL Average 2.18 52.6

As we saw in Part 1, Danny Woodhead tends to receive more inside carries than most running backs. On such carries he is well below the league average in yards after contact. Chris Johnson might be one who seems to best fit the narrative that speed backs are not as effective between the tackles. Johnson ranks second-to-last in both yards after contact and percentages of yards after contact, and has done so the last couple of years.

Bottom 10, Average Rush Yards After Contact – Inside

# Name Team Yards After Contact YCo % of Yards After Contact
NFL Average 2.18 52.6
39 Knowshon Moreno DEN 221 1.73 47.6
40 Willis McGahee CLV 119 1.72 60.7
41 Steven Jackson ATL 104 1.70 69.3
42 Rashard Mendenhall ARZ 150 1.67 56.2
43 Bernard Pierce BLT 125 1.60 57.9
44 Darren McFadden OAK 94 1.59 52.5
45 Danny Woodhead SD 89 1.59 42.0
46 Ray Rice BLT 216 1.57 44.1
47 Chris D. Johnson TEN 174 1.53 40.1
48 Lamar Miller MIA 137 1.47 41.0


jackson-insetFred Jackson’s 76% of yards on outside runs coming after contact is the highest in the league this season. Although it seems like a significant portion, it is 15% lower than the lowest league leader since 2008, including one player who actually had more yards after contact than total yards outside the tackles.


Top 10, Average Rush Yards After Contact – Outside

# Name Team Yards After Contact YCo % of Yards After Contact
1 Andre Ellington ARZ 194 4.62 66.0
2 Chris Ivory NYJ 280 4.44 69.5
3 Fred Jackson BUF 234 3.60 76.0
4 Adrian L. Peterson MIN 439 3.33 64.1
5 LeGarrette Blount NE 148 3.02 65.2
6 Giovani Bernard CIN 178 2.97 54.3
7 Maurice Jones-Drew JAX 248 2.85 68.3
8 Lamar Miller MIA 179 2.80 60.9
9 Zac Stacy SL 312 2.79 63.7
10 Rashad Jennings OAK 164 2.78 64.1
NFL Average 2.38 58.7

One surprise in looking at the lowest average YCo on outside runs is C.J. Spiller. Spiller ranked in the Top 10 in the same category last year while his own teammate is averaging nearly 2 more yards per carry. Similar to yesterday’s look at the Bottom 10 in yards per carry, Baltimore has two of the Bottom 3 running backs. With Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce having relatively high percentages of yards after contact, there is likely more to the issue than just their performance.

Bottom 10, Average Rush Yards After Contact – Outside

# Name Team Yards After Contact YCo % of Yards After Contact
NFL Average 2.38 58.7
39 Le’Veon Bell PIT 220 1.98 68.8
40 Trent Richardson CLV/IND 171 1.88 74.0
41 C.J. Spiller BUF 125 1.87 48.5
42 Willis McGahee CLV 123 1.81 67.2
43 Arian Foster HST 85 1.81 40.1
44 Doug Martin TB 91 1.78 62.8
45 Rashard Mendenhall ARZ 171 1.78 55.2
46 Bernard Pierce BLT 104 1.76 64.6
47 BenJarvus Green-Ellis CIN 142 1.75 60.7
48 Ray Rice BLT 84 1.42 73.0

Be sure to check out two of our Signature Stats for running backs: Elusive Rating and Breakaway Percentage to find even more enlightening numbers. As I stated earlier, though, our grades will still provide a better evaluation of overall performance than any statistic alone can convey.


For Part 1 of this look at inside vs. outside runs, click here


Follow Matt on Twitter: @PFF_MattC

Comments (3)

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  1. Michael Canaan says:

    Jennings is a stud. And he doesn’t have too many miles on him at all at age 29. Real interesting case. Him and Latavious Murray should be a nice punch next year for Oakland and what should b DENNIS ALLEN OR ILL CRY

  2. tequila0341 says:

    Where is this information in premium stats? Still trying to find it.