Of all the projections that we've done and will continue to do before the opener in two Sundays, none are, or will be, as intriguing as the ones for Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall. Let's start with Willie Parker, the incumbent starter.
Ever since we received confirmation this preseason that Parker's leg was healed, there has been very little conversation about our RB who was in contention last year for a rushing title. Part of that is our understandable excitement to see our new rookies Rashard Mendenhall and Limas Sweed. It's also partly because we were so consumed with the offensive line situation this offseason. Not that any of that really matters, but I would actually guess that Parker is more than happy flying under the radar. He's done it his whole career, and risen up every time to force people to notice.
This past Saturday, Parker again demonstrated his difficulties running against superior rush defenses. He was limited to just 18 yards on 10 carries. Fortunately, our offense is so versatile that we'll no longer need to pound the ball with Parker futilely, which, if nothing else, might keep him fresh deep into the season.
The real question though, is how Coach Tomlin and Coach Arians plan on dividing up the carries between him and Mendenhall. Will there be some sort of quota that they try to fill for both backs each game? Or will they wait to see who's feeling it and running well that week and adjust the game plan accordingly. I don't know, but I can't wait to find out.
One thing we can do that might be useful is to see how some other teams have managed the dual RB situation. Of course we all know that most teams have adopted this philosophy in recent years, so I thought about which tandem might be somewhat congrous to our situation. I ultimately decided the Jaguars were a worthwhile comparison.
In 2007, Maurice Jones Drew had 167 carries, while Fred Taylor had 223. Combined, they accumulated 1790 yards (1202 for Taylor). I think we might see a very similar split between Parker and Mendenhall, with FWP receiving the larger share, and Mendy perhaps getting a few extra touches in the passing and return game. If I had to guess though, I think Parker
2007 stats: 321 carries, 1316 yards, 4.1 avg., 2 TDs, 4 Fumbles
2008 Projection: 234 carries, 985 yards, 4.4 avg., 5 TDs
What do you think?