Running Back Breakdown: Hit In the Backfield

Which running backs were hit in the backfield the most often in 2014, and which escaped relatively unscathed?

| 2 years ago
RB Week 2

Running Back Breakdown: Hit In the Backfield

RB Week 2We have broken down quarterback play and our receiver route data over the last several weeks, and now we are going to give running backs a similar treatment by taking a closer look at their success and usage from a statistical standpoint. Naturally, there is a correlation between running back statistical performance and offensive line blocking, but we believe our grading still provides the best overall picture of a player’s success beyond their blocking.

Beyond traditional rushing data, we gather a whole host of extra information on each rushing play. From the specific gap of the point of attack to run concepts and blocking schemes to first contact defender and location, all of which is utilized by NFL teams. Which player has the most success running ‘power’ concept plays? Who really faces eight defenders in the box the most often? Do players see a benefit from running behind a lead backfield blocker?

-To qualify, a running back must have had a minimum of 70 rush attempts, with 62 players meeting the qualification.

-Post-season data is included.

Hit In the Backfield

One of the toughest things as a running back is dealing with and adjusting to defensive penetration into the backfield. This part of the series looks at players getting hit in the backfield, and who is the best at still gaining yardage. There are times where an ill-advised read or cut can be the cause, and times where a back might be able to avoid contact despite being forced to change the point of attack, but more often than not these runs are the result scenarios out of the running back’s control.

Hit in the Backfield Most Often


— Carlos Hyde just edges out a handful of players here for the top spot. It’s worth noting that Frank Gore was hit behind the line of scrimmage 10% less often than Hyde.

— With Ryan Matthew and Donald Brown in the top five, Branden Oliver should feel lucky he was only hit in the backfield on 18% of his runs.

Hit in the Backfield Least Often


— The Broncos’ offensive line was far from the top as run blockers but they consistently did enough to keep their backs from getting hit in the backfield too often.

— Chris Johnson was one of just three players (C.J. Spiller, Toby Gerhart) to average less than one yard after contact when hit behind the line of scrimmage.

Highest YCo When Hit in the Backfield


— No running back made more of a bad situation than rookie Jeremy Hill, who managed a league-best 3.68 yards after contact when hit in the backfield.

— Oddly enough, Trent Richardson average more yards after contact when hit in the backfield and presumably less to work with than he did when he reached the line of scrimmage untouched.

Most Often Hit 3+ Yards Behind the Line of Scrimmage


— As if getting hit in the backfield was not tough enough, the two Chargers’ running backs were hit deep in the backfield more often than anyone else.

— Alfred Morris just missed the list, but he averaged over 5 yards after contact on the 22 times he was hit three or more yards in the backfield.

| Analyst

Matt has been an analyst for PFF since 2013. He is also a contributor to 120 Sports and a former NCAA Division-III football player.

  • malachi

    if SD fixes their issues in these regards they will be difficult to deal with this year

    • lightsout85

      As a Charger fan, I sure hope so. I knew the RBs were in a rough spot last year, but sheesh!

  • lightsout85

    I would love to see these numbers gathered for multiple years. See who consistently has been in a rough spot, and who has had it fairly easy.

    These numbers bring a bit of “aha” regarding Jamaal Charles. His OLs never rank GREAT by various metrics, but he consistently puts up consistent gains (not just YPC elevated by long runs). I’d wager while KC’s OLs haven’t been flat-out dominant, they probably have kept Charles clean before the LoS consistently over the years. Factor in his speed/agility & vision, and he’s putting up a higher % of his runs as, say, 5+ yards than most RBs.

  • sproutyx

    Is there any way to see the entire 62 RBs listed for each table?