Cory's Corner: Reincarnation Of The Running Back?

Is this the reincarnation of the running back?

We've seen what Derrick Henry can do for an offense basically by himself and it's only a matter of time before other teams will want to mimic what the Titans have done. Let's face it, the NFL is a copycat league and teams want a quick fix. And the best way to get that quick fix is to mimic the successes of other teams.

There were eight backs that had at least 250 carries this year. Last year, there were six.

Running backs are also asked to do a lot more. When running backs come into the league, they better be able to pass block, catch passes out of the backfield and read a defense as a true running back.

The reason this is so hard to believe is because the NFL is geared for the passing game. The quarterback has quickly turned into the most coveted player in all of sports. Teams continue to sacrifice all of their future on rookie quarterbacks.

Maybe this new switch to the running game will change all that. It won't put as much pressure on the front office to nail the quarterback. Instead, franchises will just take a quarterback in the third round, where there isn't as much risk.

Look at the upcoming NFL Draft. There are six prospects that could be game changers on NFL teams tomorrow. There aren't that many quarterbacks that could say the same thing.

Also, the running game isn't as dependent on anyone else. The only other group that a running group really needs is a solid offensive line, but a quarterback also needs that. When it comes to the passing game, the team needs a quarterback, receivers and a scheme. The running back just needs a hole and plenty of burst to plow through daylight.

Obviously, quarterbacks can turn teams around quicker. However, the risk is a lot less with a running back. If a team can get a versatile running back that can do everything that teams now want, there shouldn't be any argument as to why the team shouldn't take him.

I also think we are on the doorstep of watching more guys like Derrick Henry. He's 6-foot-3, 247 pounds. We all saw how important Henry is to an offense, because defeneses didn't want to tackle him in the third quarter. Opposing defenses get sick and tired of tackling a Mack Truck.

I know nobody wants to remember this, but look at Raheem Mostert. As soon as Tevin Coleman left the NFC Championship Game, I thought the Packers had a chance. However, the 49ers proved that a running game can blast through a defense and not the other way around. Nobody knew who Mostert was and now he has a great chance to gallop for over 100 yards in the Super Bowl. And the funny thing is, the 49ers are a team that actually traded for a wide receiver in Emmanuel Sanders.

Many people may not want the running game to take a giant sidestep forward. However, it's only a matter of time. Defensive edge rushers are 260-270 pounds that can run and quarterbacks won't be able to outran them forever.

It isn't sexy, but the best way to win in football is through the running game. Offensive linemen like to run block and time of possession still matters in this league. The longer you keep opposing defeneses on the field, the better you are in the second half when the secondary has zero interest in tackling someone that is inflicting more pain they are.
 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (18)

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BBlake's picture

February 01, 2020 at 07:24 am

As you mentioned, the key to both the running game and the passing game is having a solid offensive line.

Control the line of scrimmage, it's been the key to football since the game first started.

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murf7777's picture

February 01, 2020 at 07:28 am

No worries the running game isn’t going to take over anytime soon. The NFL wants offense because that sells advertisements and fills the stadiums. Passing creates more offense. Sure you will have the Lamar Jackson type QB that will inflate the running stat but that still comes from the QB position. By a large percentage, if you want to get to the big game you will still need “the guy”, a franchise QB.

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Houndog's picture

February 01, 2020 at 08:00 am

We all love a great running back, and there's no question to the value or the excitement they bring to the game, but I think QB is still the most important position on the team.
When the 49ers got out front of the Packers, and the Chiefs in front of the Titans, it took a lot of the running game away for the now-trailing team.
Granted, what the 9ers did to the Packers with their running game was amazing (and disheartening), but the fastest way to stay in or get back into a game is to score quickly, and that takes a great passing attack.

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MarkinMadison's picture

February 01, 2020 at 08:06 am

With most teams, including the Packers, playing predominantly nickel, it was only a matter of time before someone looked up and said, "Yeah, we'll run the ball at that front and make them pay." It's really just that simple. Teams with a ground game are going to make defenses be honest, even if the rules of the game heavily favor the pass.

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Guam's picture

February 01, 2020 at 08:26 am

Spot on MinM. It is not about either the run or pass game, it is about offensive balance. If a defense is playing a seven man front (either 3-4 or 4-3), you should pass; if the defense is playing a six man front, you should run. The offense that is well balanced will have the best chance of beating a defense. Which is why MM's pass happy offense got the Packers in trouble in 2017 and 2018. Defenses had adjusted by playing nickel and MM didn't adjust in return.

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dobber's picture

February 01, 2020 at 09:18 am

10 Likes for you, mark.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 01, 2020 at 11:28 am

Belichick won his last two SBs with the running game and passes to White out of the backfield. Football 101.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

February 01, 2020 at 08:35 am

If the RB was more important than the QB the Titans not the Chiefs would be in the Superbowl. The Vikings with Adrian Peterson in his prime would have made it to the SB. The reason Henry found success in 2019 was Tannehill provided a threat in the passing game and created more opportunities for Henry. Balance is the key. Running opens up the play action pass.

Rbs also rely on TEs and WRs just like QBs. After they get through the hole at the first level created by the OL the TEs amd WRs block at the second level along with the OL that are able to get to the next level. Football is a team sport regardless of your position.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 01, 2020 at 09:36 am

Running keeps your quarterback healthy and your defense off the field. Most of the playoff teams were above average running teams.

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Since'61's picture

February 01, 2020 at 09:44 am

If you are going to rely on the ground game to win in the NFL you will not only need a good OL but you are going to need a stout defense as well. If your defense cannot keep the game close you will not be able to keep up with or come from behind with just the running game.

Against the Packers the 49ers took the game out of Garapolo’s hands because they knew they could run effectively against the Packers defense. They were also confident that their defense could take away Aaron Jones, who they held to 58 yards rushing and double up on Adams. Without an effective defense, even with a good ground game, the 49ers would need Garapolo to play effectively and that could have been their Achilles heal. Although the Packers defense did allow 37 points in less that 25 minutes of actual game time. So much for TOP.

Look at the upcoming SB. Would you rather have Mahomes or Garapolo? If the Chiefs can keep the 49ers ground game in check it will be game over. I won’t be watching the SB but I’ll be routing for Andy Reid. Thanks, Since ‘61

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Tarynfor12's picture

February 01, 2020 at 11:10 am

"Look at the upcoming SB. Would you rather have Mahomes or Garapolo? "

Two different types of offense. SF doesn't need a Mahomes but KC does need Mahomes.
Clogging the main artery of any offense would increase the chance of victory as long as the other artery can be easier to contain. SF's offense is not of that nature as their passing game may not be like that of KC, it has more than enough to compensate for any glitch that may affect the run game. KC is the team that has the issue of having a main artery clogged and not having enough elsewhere to handle that loss.

We often read here how the Packers need to be more balanced and when another team, SF, is able to show such balance or be more one than the other when needed we attempt to dismiss that ability by them, especially after not one but two ass kicking that showed us what we cannot do running or passing, even with Rodgers as our QB, while not forgetting about the defensive collapse.

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NickPerry's picture

February 01, 2020 at 11:32 am

Spot on as usual Since '61. I think you hit on several key points but the one I want to focus on was the one I preached about at the beginning of the offseason last year, and will continue to preach about until it's fixed.

The Packers gave Aaron Rodgers a $134 million extension and even though Rodgers has developed some "Habits" we as fans don't care for, I still place much of the blame on the talent around him. Rodgers was called the GOAT for a minute because of those seasons between 2010 and 2014..Even in 2015 when Nelson was injured and 2016 Rodgers still had a lot of that magic but he still had Nelson, Cobb, and Adams for most or parts of those years and he had Cook in 2016.

There's a huge difference between Adams, Cook, Nelson, and Cobb, even in their later years than Adams and...

I believe IF you give Rodgers a WR in Free Agency or better yet trade for a WR like Robert Woods, add another WR or two in the draft with one coming no later than the 2nd round, AND still have the running game and skill sets Williams and Jones give this offense, you'll see VINTAGE Rodgers again. Yes Rodgers has lost a step BUT he had a step or three to lose he was so good. Give Gute an offseason to fix this offense and we'll be talking about next years SB all this week because the Packers will be IN IT!

The running game will always be important. But the Packers HAVE one and a still great QB...He just needs weapons and has for a few years now.

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Since'61's picture

February 01, 2020 at 09:31 pm

Nick I agree that the Packers have failed to provide Rodgers with effective weapons over the last 2-3 seasons. I don’t know if we will see vintage Rodgers again but I’m confident that we would see a much more effective Rodgers again and better offensive results.

We need at least one if not two WRs plus another effective RB. Williams plays hard but the drop off between him and Aaron Jones is significant. We need an RB who is quicker than Williams and better in space.

Our OL gets the job done and our QB is still a great one. We just need a few better skill players after Adams and Jones. Also the defense needs to keep the team in the game and give up less than the 36 point average in our playoff losses during the Rodgers era.
Thanks, Since ‘61

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

February 01, 2020 at 09:54 am

Not so sure of your prediction of a value shift. When the Chiefs sign Patrick Mahomes to a $40 million/year contract...I can't believe I would ever say a dollar figure like that for a sports figure in football, there won't be enough money left over for bigger contracts for running backs. An out of sight contract for Mahomes will escalate prices for veteran quarterbacks throughout the league. I still believe the running back value will continue to be second fiddle to quarterbacks and left tackles.

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dobber's picture

February 01, 2020 at 10:33 am

Is it possible that, instead of being a reincarnation of the RB, it's that the college game has pivoted to provide more of the kinds of RB that the modern pro game needs?

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ricky's picture

February 02, 2020 at 07:14 am

Running backs are important as long as they last. But running 250 times a year means the shelf life of the back is limited. Check out Demarco Murray of the Cowboys. They ran him into the ground, then moved on to Ezekiel Elliott. The wear and tear on a guy's body who carries the ball that much will mean a shorter career, and probably life long medical problems.

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Gort's picture

February 02, 2020 at 09:45 am

Everything on both offense and defense rely on the big uglies. Any NFL caliber RB can run for 5 on any play behind great blocking. Any NFL caliber QB can find an average receiver if the QB has enough time. The opposite is true. Move an all-pro RB to a team with a poor O-line = disaster (Le'Veon Bell to Jets = Le'Veon who?).

Great D-line (49ers) kills an average or above average O-line (Packers).

It all starts in the trenches.

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murf7777's picture

February 03, 2020 at 02:09 pm

Right on Gort....build the trenches. I could see the Packers finding DL and ILB in FA and OL and WR in the draft. TE could be either or. Problem with DL in the draft is unless you pick in top10 they normally take a few years to make an impact so I’m hoping for a good pickup in FA like Hargrave.

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