I think it's high time we start thinking about a two-back system.
Don't think of this as some CJ-hate served up because of some deeply rooted feelings of bitterness brought on by the "lazy" stereotype that gets thrown his way. I have always been a supporter of #28 and nothing about that has changed. That said, the NFL is changing. In a game that's been making a gradual shift away from the run for the better part of at least half a decade, it's time for the Titans to adapt or to continue wallowing. Not only has the NFL become pass oriented, the run game is changing, too. The "feature back" is becoming less and less prevalent. In the years 2004-2006, the NFL's leaders in carries were all players that broke (in lots of cases, comfortably broke) 300 carries on the year. Curtis Martin led football with 371 in 2004, Shaun Alexander topped the league with 370 the year after, and in 2006, Kansas City's Larry Johnson re-wrote the record books with 416 carries in one season. To appear on the top 10 in carries between those three seasons, 300+ carries was almost a pre-requisite. Between those seasons, only one player on the top 10 leaders in rushing attempts didn't break 300: Willis McGahee with 284 in 2004.
Let's flash forward to 2012. Five players in the league topped 300 carries last year. True, 300 is an awfully arbitrary number, but instead of treating as if it means something important, just treat it as a way to help illustrate a change in the times. Not only are teams moving away from pounding the rock 25 times a game, teams are moving away from using just one player to do their running. And why shouldn't they? It can preserve a running back's shelf life, in theory* it should start to make running backs a lot cheaper (think relief pitchers in baseball), and it forces defenses to prepare for different looks.
Well, last year Chris Johnson got 276 carries. The only other player on the team to even break 20 carries was Jake Locker with 41. The two backup running backs, Jamie Harper and Darius Reynaud, earned 19 and 16 carries, respectively. So much for throwing different looks at 'em.
*I say in theory because clearly no one told the Titans about this...
So what's the deal? Why do we care? Well I'm going to attempt to understand that myself in this next wall of text.
First off, let's take a look at the top rushing teams from 2012.
- Washington Redskins: 169.3 YPG (DVOA: 12.6%)
- Minnesota Vikings: 164.6 YPG (DVOA: 7.8%)
- Seattle Seahawks: 161.2 YPG (DVOA: 16.7%)
- San Francisco 49ers: 155.7 YPG (DVOA: 12.6%)
- Kansas City Chiefs: 149.7 YPG (DVOA: -7.0%)
- Buffalo Bills: 138.6 YPG (DVOA: 5.3%)
- New England Patriots: 136.5 YPG (DVOA: 11.9%)
- Houston Texans: 132.7 YPG (DVOA: -3.6%)
- Carolina Panthers: 130.5 YPG (DVOA: 5.9%)
- Chicago Bears: 123.1 YPG (DVOA: -4.3%)