Football Schedule Flickr Page
The running back position in the NFL is a young man’s position, more now than ever before. In fact, after the recent release of Willis McGahee by the Denver Broncos, Frank Gore of San Francisco is the only RB in the league that is over 30 years old and projected as a starter. Over the last several years, many teams have been taking the “running back by committee” approach. During the 2012 season however, 2 rookies showed that you don’t need a group to do what one fantastic back can do by himself.
The Washington Redskins’ Alfred Morris and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Doug Martin had two of the greatest rookie seasons ever by a running back, prompting many to question if the age of the feature back is not as extinct as we thought. But who is supreme? Who would you rather have in your team’s backfield? What defines a good running back? Power? Speed? Let’s compare some of those attributes:
Alfred Morris is a monster – pure and simple. The Skins showed again and again that if you need another yard or two for that first down or touchdown, you give the ball to Alfred and you get out of his way. 13 rushing TDs on a playoff team, with RG3 on the field at the same time? That’s not a fluke. Watch him run through the goal line defense of the New Orleans Saints in week 1.
Martin, a.k.a. The Muscle Hamster, is a strong runner in his own right (he doesn’t have that nickname ironically), but did have occasions throughout the season where it was difficult to pick up that extra yard, especially when the opposing linebackers knew where he was going. Look at highlights of the Panthers-Buccaneers game in week 1, for example. Martin never shies away from contact, but he should think about bulking up if he wants to play in the middle much longer.
To see an example of Martin’s speed, watch film of just about any run throughout his rookie season. He takes off like a gunshot the moment he has the ball in his gut. If you want to see something special watch the Oakland Raiders try to slow him down in week 9. (hint: they didn’t)
Morris can run in the open field. No point in denying that fact. But when speedy defensive backs (and sometimes linebackers) saw where he was headed, they were able to get a pretty solid angle of pursuit on him a majority of the time. He ran a slightly slower combine 40 time than Martin did, and it showed on the tape of the 2012 season.
Morris has a variety of quick-foot moves he uses at will on defenders, whether it is a little sidestep, a powerful stiff-arm, or a dazzling spin move. When a would-be tackler is zeroing in, he has that special ability to make them flat out miss. He used his magical bag of tricks to gain an extra yard here and there on his way to 1,613 yards, second only to the inhuman Adrian Peterson.
Martin, on the other hand, seems to not need a vast repertoire of skill moves. He relies heavily on his speed to simply blow by opponents, never worrying that they will catch him. He does have a very nice juke-step he employs frequently in the open field, but beyond that, his collection of moves is a little bare.
The “Hands” category can be approached two ways: catching ability, and ball control (i.e. fumbling). Lets look at the receiving first: Doug Martin had 49 catches (71 targets) for 472 yards over his 16 starts. In case you were wondering, that is a lot of throws to a running back. For comparison, Morris (who also started all 16 games) had just 11 catches for 77 yards. However, that wide margin between the two could very well be from the two different offensive schemes. So lets look at the ball control angle.
In 335 rushing attempts, Morris fumbled 4 times. Not great, but not that bad either, especially for just a rookie season. And Martin? 319 attempts, just 1 fumble. Well, I think that might settle it. Doug Martin has hands like glue (I will let you decide if that’s a good thing or not).
Overall: Morris 2, Martin 2
Well, what did that prove? It proves that when it comes to picking between Doug Martin and Alfred Morris, you are really splitting hairs to claim one is superior to the other. Do you prefer a power back to shoulder the load? Take Morris. If you are seeking a blow-the-game-open type of player, go with Martin. Both Washington and Tampa Bay got great, quality young backs to build around. It appears that we better settle in to watch two remarkable young careers take off.