Does short-yardage define run success?

September, 30, 2011
9/30/11
4:32
PM ET
The definition of a successful run team need to be changed, says Trent Dilfer.

He makes a pretty good case in his Insider piece.
Offensive line play has shifted from a position of power to a position of resistance.

And it drives offensive linemen crazy. My buddy Mark Schlereth always talks about this; it goes against the mentality offensive linemen want to have, he says. These are guys who like to set the tone in a game that, even in a passing league, is still all about physicality. Always on the retreat, they lose something all their physical preparation says should define them -- the ability to impose their will on a defense. But increased passing is here to stay, and because of this, there needs to be a new standard for what constitutes a successful NFL running game. For me, it's short-yardage dominance. What makes a team a great running team has nothing to do with yardage, it has to do with running successfully when both teams know that's what the plan is. Whether it's 1 yard or backed up against your own goal line.

This year, according to Elias, teams still feel compelled to throw on third- or fourth-and-1 over 25 percent of the time. And of the 167 third- and fourth-and-1 plays through Week 2, teams have converted on runs just 66 percent of the time. On passing attempts, it's at 55 percent. Amazing -- a 1-yard run has been harder to convert than a free throw for a below-average shooter. Short-yardage running dominance has to be the new standard of great running teams.

The AFC South has been a run-based division with the Titans keyed around Chris Johnson, the Jaguars keyed around Maurice Jones-Drew and Houston heavily reliant on Arian Foster. The Colts need to convert such situations more than ever now that they don't have Peyton Manning to offset troubles. They drafted Delone Carter to help.

How are our teams faring under Dilfer’s new criteria?

Jason.Starrett of ESPN Stats and info checked it out for me and came up with this.



Wow. Those are some great numbers for Houston, and some better-than-expected numbers for the Titans on third- and fourth-and 2 or less. And those are some atrocious numbers for the Jaguars, who need to start converting such chances to give rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert his best chance to be effective.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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