Stats & Info: O.J. Simpson

Why Jones-Drew could have a down season

September, 2, 2012
Kim Klement/US PresswireMaurice Jones-Drew led the NFL in rushes and rushing yards last season.
Maurice Jones-Drew might be as valuable to the Jacksonville Jaguars as any player in the NFL is to his team. But don’t expect Jones-Drew to have the same impact this season.

Jones-Drew accounted for 47.7 percent of the Jaguars' offense last season, easily the highest percentage in the league. Only Ray Rice (38.2 percent) was even within 15 percentage points of him.

MJD’s percentage is the highest since O.J. Simpson accounted for 50.7 percent of the Buffalo Bills' offense in 1973, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

When Jones-Drew was on the field last season, the Jaguars averaged 4.4 yards per rush and had nine rushing touchdowns. When he was off the field, they averaged just 2.7 yards per rush and didn't score a single rushing touchdown in 250 plays. With Jones-Drew on the field, the Jags scored a touchdown twice as often as they did when he was off the field.

Since becoming the Jaguars' full-time starter in 2009, MJD leads the NFL in rushes and rush yards per game.

Expect 27-year-old Jones-Drew to have a down year after carrying the ball an NFL-high 343 times in 2011.

Since 2006, all eight running backs age 26 or older with at least 340 carries in the previous season saw a significant drop-off in rushing yards and touchdowns. Five of the eight running backs had more than 800 fewer yards the next season and seven of the eight had a drop-off of at least seven rushing touchdowns.

Here are the eight running backs since 2006 age 26 or older with at least 340 carries in the previous season:

• In 2009, Clinton Portis had almost 1,000 fewer rushing yards and eight fewer rushing touchdowns than 2008. And Michael Turner had 828 fewer yards and seven fewer touchdowns.

• In 2007, Larry Johnson had 1,230 fewer yards and 14 fewer touchdowns. LaDainian Tomlinson dropped by 341 yards and had 13 fewer touchdowns. And Rudi Johnson had 812 fewer yards and nine fewer touchdowns.

• In 2006, Tiki Barber, Edgerrin James and Shaun Alexander saw a drop-off. Barber dropped by only 198 rushing yards and four touchdowns. James had 347 fewer yards and seven fewer touchdowns. But the big drop-off was by Alexander. Coming off his record-setting 2005 campaign, he totaled nearly 1,000 fewer rushing yards and 20 fewer touchdowns.

For the second time in three seasons, Jones-Drew led the NFL in rush attempts between the tackles last year. In all, 51.3 percent of his attempts went up the middle, well above the league average of 39.8 percent. Since 2009, he has 100 more carries between the tackles than any other player.

On top of being such a workhorse, there’s the holdout factor. If Chris Johnson last season is any indication, Jones-Drew could be affected by missing training camp for so long. Johnson averaged 20 fewer rushing yards per game last season than he did in 2010. And how about Larry Johnson in 2007? He held out during training camp and ended up with 42 fewer rushing yards per game than he had the previous year.

History against Chris Johnson reaching 2K

September, 8, 2010

AP Photo/Frederick Breedon
Chris Johnson wants to run for 2,500 yards in 2010. History, however, says he can expect to get about half of that.

Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson entered the record books last season, becoming the sixth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. During training camp this year, Johnson said he could get 2,500 yards “as long as I stay patient and keep working hard.”
Chris Johnson

So while his stock has arguably never been higher, Johnson may have paid a huge price in gaining 2,006 yards last season.

Of the five running backs before Johnson to top 2,000 yards, none even reached 1,500 the following season. Also, all five saw their yards per attempt drop by at least one yard the next season. Minus Terrell Davis’ 1999 season (he suffered a knee injury and played just four games), the average rushing yards by a player following a 2,000-yard season is 1,214.0

The last player to reach 2,000 yards before Johnson was Jamal Lewis in 2003. In 2004, Lewis served a two-game suspension, battled an ankle injury and finished with 1,006 yards in 12 games. His yards per carry dropped as well, from 5.3 to 4.3.

As noted earlier, using Davis’ numbers following his 1998 season isn’t exactly fair. Due to injuries, Davis played only 17 more games over three seasons after rushing for 2,008 yards in 1998.

Following his 2,053-yard campaign in 1997, Barry Sanders played all 16 games in 1998. He went from 6.1 yards per carry in ’97 to 4.3 in 1998. He also had just one 100-yard rushing game in the final six weeks of the season.

Eric Dickerson's 1984 sophomore season saw him set an NFL-record with 2,105 rushing yards. But a contract dispute kept him out of training camp as well as the first two games of 1985. He still finished with 1,234 yards in 14 games, but he averaged just 102.8 yards per game in 1985 compared to 131.6 in ’84.

O.J. Simpson was the first player in the NFL to rush for 2,000 yards (2,003 in 1973). That year he averaged 6.0 yards per carry -- only Sanders' 6.1 yards per carry in 1997 is higher among the 2,000-yard backs. In 1974, Simpson averaged 4.4 fewer carries per game and his yards per rush dropped by nearly two yards to 4.2. However, in 1975, "The Juice" bounced back and led the NFL with 1,817 yards and 16 touchdowns.