Yesterday we examined the performances of Haynes, Parker, and Staley using both traditional stats, and alternative metrics devised by Football Outsiders. The purpose was to see whether Haynes was more productive than his traditional stats might suggest, and the answer was a resounding no, at least in the running game. In the passing game, however, Haynes does a better job standing out. Here are his stats as a receiver:DPAR = 2.5, PAR = 2.6, DVOA = 24.9%, VOA = 26.6%, Catch % = 65%. His VOA is second highest in the league of backs who caught b/w 10-25 balls in 2005. He was second to only...guess who? Willie Parker, who had a VOA of 48.7%. His DVOA of 24.9% is tied for second as well with Nick Goings, trailing only Parker at 47.7%. Before I saw this data, I was expecting to see that Haynes was extremely effective catching the ball out of the backfield. This much is true. In fact, Haynes' value per play catching the ball is much higher than I expected, yet he didn't get thrown the ball too much (only 17 total catches). What I didn't expect to see was Parker's effectiveness catching the ball. Combined, the two do a formidable job giving Roethlisberger and Wisenhunt a viable threat to catch the ball and make a play out of the backfield. So, I guess the answer isn't to make Haynes the exclusive 3rd down receiving back. Instead, the Steelers should continue to utilize both options in the passing game. It worked effectively in 2005, and we can probably expect to see a similar distribution of passes in 2006. In other words, don't expect Haynes or Parker to turn into Larry Centers or LT and catch 60-90 balls this year. This leads us back to Haynes and his niche. It seems as if Haynes' role simply can't be categorized as conveniently as we may want. His numbers in the running game were less than impressive, yet the organizatino and us fans seem to think he's meritorious of an opportunity to carry the ball more. At the same time, we still want to utilize his talents catching the ball, without forgetting about Parker, who has also been extremely effective in the passing game.All in all, I'd have to say the Steelers are in an enviable position. Not too many teams have three running backs who are proven contributors when healthy. I'm confident Wisenhunt will utilize all three without being overly preoccupied with massaging egos. All three will be counted on to contribute, and nobody will truly be 'The Guy.' I thought that this exercise would lead to some definitive answers about who's effective in which situations, but the data simply does not suggest this.
RBs and the Passing Game....
By Michael Bean