Friday, August 17, 2012
Running into a human wall -- on purpose
By Mike Sando
Experienced NFL quarterbacks know an unfavorable matchup when they see one.
Instead of running the ball into a stacked front, they'll change the play to something more favorable.
The St. Louis Rams plan to do this to an extent, but in an effort to establish a physical mentality, they also play to run the ball even when defenses know what's coming. We discussed this subject in the "Camp Confidential" item two weeks ago.
"Everyone wants to throw the ball, but if you look at the teams for the most part over time that have consistently had success, they are physical," Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said from training camp two weeks ago. "And when the team that you are playing knows that you are going to run the ball, and you can still run it, that is a pretty good thing."
The chart, produced with data from ESPN Stats & Information, shows where NFC West teams ranked in yards per carry against "loaded" fronts -- those featuring more defenders in position to make tackles than available blockers on offense. I've included figures for the New York Jets because Schottenheimer coordinated their offense. The Rams actually had more carries against loaded fronts than the Jets had, but the Jets had a higher average against them.
"We want to develop a physical mindset around here that goes with offense, defense and special teams," Schottenheimer said. "Coach (Jeff) Fisher demands that and plays that way. It’s more of a mindset. They’re going to load the front because we're going to be good at running the football. We'll call runs and still run them. If there's a free guy, Steven (Jackson), Isaiah (Pead), they'll handle it."
The approach will be more effective, in theory, if the Rams have sufficient perimeter weapons to prevent defenses from focusing too heavily on the run. Of course, many things will become more effective for the Rams if that is the case.