Coach Tom Bass on Early Season RBs
From a coach's perspective, I would also like you to consider the following factors:
1. Consider the defense that your running back has to support him.
Nowhere is this factor more evident than in the performance of a top running back on an ineffectual defense. If his team falls behind in the first quarter, his opportunities to run the ball will be curtailed or eliminated.
Playing catch-up will force a team to go to a passing offense and often times forsaken their top-tier RB.
The opposite can be true if your running back's team is playing great defense. Now the offense will be more content to play it close, run the ball, eat the clock and feel that they can control the game with great defense and a strong running game.
2. The offensive play caller factor.
Unfortunately many offensive play callers, be they coordinators or head coaches, have become so enamored with the passing game that they only pay lip service to running the ball. They may be willing to run on first down or on short yardage or goal line situations, but their reputations are built on the success they have with the passing game. Check out your offensive play caller and see if he is committed to winning or building a reputation.
3. The passing ability of the quarterback.
This can be a plus for you. If the team features an average or below average quarterback or a rookie quarterback, the team may rely heavily on the running game. Although the defense may play eight in the box [8 defenders thinking run first], the team will have spent appropriate practice time preparing to overcome this style of defense allowing them to run the ball effectively. The quarterback may be asked to pass when necessary, but as much as possible the team will feature the running game. The San Francisco 49ers are a prime example of this factor coming into play.
4. An offense that features multiple personnel formations.
Teams that are constantly changing the personnel in the game often have a great deal of difficulty in running the ball. Teams featuring a single back set, a formation that does not allow for a lead blocker, are finding it harder and harder to run the ball with any consistency. Because of the limited preparation time, coaches who use this style of offense never seem to spend the necessary time needed to perfect their running game. When a team starts featuring three and four wide receivers they have seriously hurt their opportunity to run the ball.
5. Run defensive rankings of the opponent.
This is a statistic that can fool you if you are not careful. A team may have a high ranking in defense versus the run because they have a terrible pass defense. Teams often will elect to pass the ball because it is the easiest way to attack the defense not because the defense is necessarily strong versus the run. Check the number of runs and the yards allowed per rushing attempt instead of the team ranking.
6. Injuries and experience of the offensive line and tight ends.
Many teams have introduced veteran players to their offensive line and tight end position through free agency or are being forced to play rookies. To run the ball effectively requires great continuity among this group of players and it takes time for them to gell. Do not expect an infusion of foreign talent at these positions to result in a smooth operating running game this early in the season. They may and probably will come together but it will take time.