There’s been an interesting trend the last couple weeks of websites looking into how teams did when running the ball against defensive fronts with 8 or more defenders.
PFF was the first to look that this. First they looked at running backs who faced 8 in the box more the most often, then they separated it out from formations with 1 WR vs those with 2 or more WRs. The problem was that their analysis didn’t look at how successful team’s were in those situations, and they didn’t look into the number of blockers vs those 8 defenders.
ESPN followed that up with a study of their own. They looked more into when teams “loaded” the box with more defenders than blockers. There’s also some discrepancies since the 2 organizations define “in the box” slightly differently. Overall though, the numbers are very similar, and they lead to some very interesting discussions.
As one might expect, The Seahawks led the league is runs against a “loaded” defensive front, accounting for 20.1% of Seattle’s rushing attempts. It didn’t help too much though, as the Seahawks still averaged 4.5 yards per carry in those situations, which was among the best in the league.
Oddly though, Lynch and the Seahawks were all the way down at 19th in terms of the percent of runs against 8 or more in the box. What this means is that when teams brought the 8th man in the box against the Seahawks, it wasn’t because of the Seahawks adding extra TEs or other personnel groups that would give them 7 or more blockers.
I expect Lynch to not have this problem in the coming season. One of the difficulties of having a rookie QB is that they don’t usually have the power to audible out of running plays when opponents stack the line. As Wilson continues to develop, I expect the coaches to give him the power to do so. When opponents stack the line to try and stop Lynch, expect Wilson to check into a passing play.
Seattle’s biggest rival, the 49ers, ran the ball against 8 or more players in the box more than anyone in the league, but they often did so when they had extra blockers in their formation to account for the extra defenders. 42.25% of their runs were against extra defenders in the box, but only about a quarter of those (11.1%) were loaded in a situation where there was more defenders than blockers.
Interestingly, the 49ers faced 8 men in the box more often with Kaepernick under center than they did with Alex Smith. This is partly because due to Kaepernick’s running ability, but I think it had more to do with the 49ers losing Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams to injuries. Even though Kaepernick is a much better passer than Smith, opposing teams had less of a reason to respect the 49er’s receivers.
Comparing the 2 teams, what you see if that the Seahawks rarely used more than 7 blockers, while the 49ers did so with regularity. We like to think that having 8 defenders in the box is stacking the line, but when the offense has 2 TEs and a FB, having 9 in the box necessary just to win the numbers game.
I’m not sure there’s some definite point that can be made here. There’s a lot of information, but it ends up leading to more questions than answers.