Running Back Breakdown: Pre-Contact Rushing Yards

We take a look at how much yardage running backs gained in 2014 before they were contacted by defenders.

| 2 years ago
RB Week 1

Running Back Breakdown: Pre-Contact Rushing Yards

RB Week 1We 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 connection between running back statistical performance and offensive line blocking, and 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.

Rushing Yards Pre-Contact

Today we are going to take a brief look at how much help a running back receives from his offensive line in terms of yards gained before contact. Now, there are times where a player can force a missed tackle without getting contacted or where poor vision can lead to contact on a good block—situations that our grading takes into account—but this can provide a general idea of the concept.

Most Pre-Contact Rushing Yards


YPCn Table 1

—Latavius Murray leads the way with an average of 3.2 yards gained before contact, which was equal to or higher than five qualifying running backs averaged total per carry.

—Justin Forsett had the second-most total yards gained before contact with 821, behind only DeMarco Murray with 939.

—All four AFC North teams featured a player in the top ten and nine of the ten come from the AFC.

Fewest Pre-Contact Rushing Yards

YPCn Table 2

—Donald Brown may have been last among the 57 running backs in yards per attempt, but with just 41 yards gained before contact on 82 rushes, a half-yard average is not a lot to work with.

—Trent Richardson is a fascinating case study in many ways, but it is notable here that he is one of two players to not gain at least a yard before contact on average while teammates Dan Herron and Ahmad Bradshaw was ranked sixth and 23rd with 2.37 and 1.87 yards before contact per attempt, respectively.

—LeGarrette Blount was one of two out of the group to still average at least four yards per carry. He averaged slightly more yards before contact with New England (1.37) than he did with Pittsburgh (1.07).

| 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.

  • lightsout85

    A good way to identify possible “vision problems”, is to compare teammates. If one gets noticeably less yards pre-contact than his teammates, he probably doesn’t have as good of vision. Unfortunately, back-up backs may not have enough carries for a trustworthy comparison.