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Behind the Running Game....

Last week we talked about how Verron Haynes may be poised to take over more responsibility in the running game.  Haynes has been the Steelers' 3rd down threat and has never really had an extended opportunity to showcase his abilities as a feature back.  I know his traditional stats don't seem all that impressive, so let's use some alternative metrics to examine his performance and potential.

2005 traditional Stats :

Verron Haynes: 74 carries, 274 yards, 3.7 yards/carry, Long=20, 3 TD, 1 fumble. Willie Parker: 255 carries, 1202 yards, 4.7 yards/carry, Long=80, 4 TD, 4 fumbles.Duce Staley: 38 carries, 148 yards, 3.9 yards/carry, Long=17, 1 TD, 1 fumble.Nothing really stands out in these numbers, except it's nice to be reminded how awesome Parker was for us last year.  As for Haynes, well, his stats reflect his role as a third down back.  He average more than 3.5 yards/carry which is solid, and he got into the endzone three times.  But, he never really busted a big run and only had double digit carries twice during the season. From these numbers, it makes no sense for Haynes to truly merit tons more carries, especially if Staley remains healthy and can run the ball 8-15 times a game.

I reference Football Outsiders quite often, and foor good reason.  They are the leading authority on sophisticated statistical analysis and are quite good at making their work comprehensible to the amateur statistician (like most of us except reader schnifin).

Here is Football Outsiders explanation of their metric system for analyzing running backs: Running backs are ranked according to  DPAR, or Defense-adjusted Points Above Replacement. This number represents the total number of points scored due to plays where this RB carried/caught the ball, compared to a replacement-level RB in the same game situations. DPAR (and its cousin, PAR, which isn't adjusted based on opponent) is further explained here.

The next statistic given is DVOA, or Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. This number represents value, per play, over an average RB in the same game situations. The more positive the DVOA rating, the better the player's performance. DVOA (and its cousin, VOA, which isn't adjusted based on opponent) is further explained here.

The final statistic is Success Rate. This number represents the player's consistency, measured by successful running plays (the definition of success being different based on down and distance) divided by total running plays. A player with higher VOA and a low success rate mixes long runs with downs getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage. A player with lower VOA and a high success rate generally gets the yards needed, but doesn't often get more. Success Rate is further explained here. It is not adjusted for opponent.

These numbers do not separate the performance of a running back from the performance of his offensive line. (You'll find numbers that try to do that on this page.) Be aware that one will affect the other.
"Points scored due to plays" is based on a larger model of how yards are translated into points, and is not a measurement strictly of touchdown passes.
All fumbles are considered equal, whether recovered by the offense or defense.

In simplistic terms: DPAR means a running back with more total value. DVOA means a running back with more value per play.
For a further explanation of the stats click on the link above.

2005 Alternative Stats:Verron Haynes:DPAR= -4.0, PAR= -2.2, DVOA= -27.7%, VOA= -21.4%Willie Parker: DPAR = 14, DPAR Rank = 16th, PAR = 16.7, PAR Rank = 15th, DVOA= -1.1%, DVOA Rank = 24th, VOA = 1.5%, Success Rate = 48%, Success Rate Rank = 12th. Duce StaleyDPAR = .6, PAR = 1.9, DVOA = -9.4%, VOA = -1.6%Ok, now what does this mean?  I have several observations.  First, Verryon Haynes was not all that valuable in 2005.  His DPAR was in the negatives, and his DVOA is even worse.  This means Haynes becomes less valuable per play as he plays more. Secondly, Willie Parker was extremely solid in 2005.  His DPAR ranking put him in the top 1/3 of the league.  However, he was less valuable per play than many other running backs (DVOA Ranking of 24th).  In other words, much of Parker's value came in his 'big-play ability' rather than his steady, workman like consistency.  So, perhaps Haynes' numbers are too small a sample size and not indicative of what he could do if given a greater role in the running attack.  I think we all agree that Parker is going to need to be relieved throughout the season by both Staley and Haynes.  These metrics back up that assumption.  The question, then, is whether Staley or Haynes will be more effective at sharing the extra carries with Parker.Tomorrow, I will attempt to further explain why Haynes should maintain his niche as our third down back using similar metrics to evaluate his impressive value in the passing game.