Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Regarding Westbrook

from behan:
Edge James has alot of miles on him already. He has more touches in his career than backs who have been in the league longer than he has (Tiki, Stephen Davis, Priest, similar #s to Corey Dillon). Three of those guys are already breaking down. And Edge has a history of knee problems, including one major injury. I doubt Indy gives him anything longer than a couple year deal (based on signing bonus, not the "length" of the contract).

It's hard to call Westbrook a "third-down" back when he averaged over 5 YPA when he had a) a FB, b) a change of pace back, c) guards. Most successful backs have at least two of the three, for the past two seasons Westie's had none, unless you count Dorsey, and his coach hasn't shown any committment to the run.

The reason I like signing West is he's the best receiving back in the league, and if this team is going to go 60/40 or worse, they need a guy like him the D can't match up with. He was the best player on the O during the playoffs last year, in all three games the NFL films crew caught the other team talking about how they have to look for 36. I don't expect Andy to go 50/50 next season, so for now Westie's the best the Birds can get.
you make a lot of great points, and don't get me wrong, i enjoy watching westbrook play. i think he's incredibly exciting and a threat to go all the way every time he touches the ball. however, that doesn't eliminate the fact that he does have holes in his game that other true franchise backs do not have.

qualitatively, these are the problems i see:

- he tries to bounce everything outside. the patriots game planned him perfectly in the superbowl. with the nose tackle eating honeybuns alive all game, westbrook bounced almost every run outside where brushci, vrabel, and harrison were waiting for him. bill belichick basically called him dave meggett in the days leading up to the superbowl, and he game planned for him as such.

- he cannot break tackles. he can make people miss, but once defenders get their hands on him, he's done. this means you really cannot use him on short yardage downs or other instances where you need someone to get you some tough yards.

- he is not durable. he's been injured every season. you cite the major knee injury that edge suffered. well, that's true, but westbrook had one of those in college *and* he's also had a mysterious sternum injury, a tricep tear, a bunch of ankle injuries, and now a lis franc injury. you can't give him more than a few touches per game if you want to have him available for the playoffs. edge has a lot of mileage *because* he's been durable. do i think edge has 5 good years left in him? probably not. do i think he has 2 good years left in him? yes, absolutely.

i think it's probably safe to assume that everyone agrees that last season was westbrook's finest as a pro (and IMO likely the best season he's ever going to have). well, puts his running back success rate at 43% for last season -- which is "measured by successful running plays (the definition of success being different based on down and distance) divided by total running plays". that ranks him as the 37th best running back in terms of keeping drives alive. in their proprietary "defense adjusted points over replacement" valuation system (which includes pass catching), westbrook only ranked as the 18th best running back in the nfl last season -- just ahead of tatum bell (a part time player).

in 2003, when duce staley was still here, westbrook had a success rate of 45%, ranking him 32nd in the league. duce, with the same blockers, had a success rate of 57%, ranking 3rd in the league.

again, i don't say any of this with any sort of anti-westbrook agenda. i love watching him play, but i have to be honest in analyzing what this team needs to win. he is not a complete back, and the team should not be paying him like one. at least not if they cannot now afford to go out and get themselves a good power back to complement him.


Blogger Behan said...

I didn't think there was any conspiracy, but I noticed the term "third down back" (which the sports-guy likes to call Westbrook), and that makes me think a guy isn't starter-quality. That might be true of Westbrook in alot of offenses, I don't think the Steelers would have been looking for Westbrook if he went UFA. Andy's offense is built around exploiting match-ups for big plays, though, not moving the chains and rolling the clock. There aren't any safeties or linebackers in the NFL who can both shut Westbrook down in the running game and cover him out of the backfield. He gets his ground yards in big gashes, not four yards and a cloud of dust. That might hurt his success rate, but he did average more yards per carry than Duce did in '03.

5:14 PM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

fair points. just to clarify, the patriots started to use the term "third down back" in the lead up to the superbowl. i hadn't really thought of him that way until they started mentioning it, but the more i thought about it the more the label fit him.

the skills you mention are the specific skills you look for in a third down back. westbrook may be better at those skills than any other back in the league, but his inability to gain tough yards is a big liability.

even though the eagles have relied on the big play since the acquisition of TO, that is not the design or intent of andy's offense. to andy, big plays are a bonus supplied by great players. for andy, it's all about controlling the ball and methodically moving up and down the field with short passes mixed with the occasional run -- prior to TO the knock on the birds was that they had a dink and dunk offense.

i respect that he is the best pass catching running back in the league, but running backs are supposed to run. westbrook runs very well in open space, but he doesn't run well enough in close quarters.

the other true franchise backs have no weaknesses. you cannot put westbrook in that category with the deficiencies in his skill set.

6:39 PM EST  
Blogger Behan said...

True, short yardage is a legitamate concern with Westbrook and the offense under Andy in general.

I'm not sold that the book is written on Westbrook as a pure RB. LT had a SR of 46% in 2002, 44% in 2003, and 45% in 2004 before breaking out with a 50% in 2005. I don't love what WB has been doing, but the running game has been poorly designed and executed across the board this year. I still believe that with lead blocking and a spell back Westbrook's liabilities could be well overshadowed by his ability to make things happen and being incredibly dangerous in the passing game (#1 in receiving DPAR amoung RBs after being #2 last year and #4 in the year of the three-headed monster).

Interesting point about the Eagle's offense under Andy, they haven't been better at Drive Success Rate (% of series that result in a first down or TD) than in DVOA on offense since 2000. That looks like the finger print of a big play offense. Their best rank in DSR was 10th in 2003 (also the most balanced run/pass ratio under Andy).

9:00 PM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

well, i hope you are right! i'd rather see the eagles win than me be right about this.

i will be glad to say i was wrong if westbrook a) shows that he can carry the load without getting hurt and b) shows that he can run more effectively after they dump parry's sorry ass.

9:54 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Westbrook has had 20 or more carries just twice in his career. So he's really never gotten the chance to be franchise back. His durability is definitely a concern, no doubt. The same things were said about Tiki in his first 3 seasons before he was given the chance to carry the load and become a stud. West has also been hampered by the fact that he's played with a sub-par run-blocking offensive line. And if the SB is a case study in West's ineffectiveness, then you must be joking because he had absolutely zero space to run. In this offense, West is worth every penny. Do you remmeber the offense after he got hurt in 2003, and was with Duce. And speaking of Duce, he's so valuable that the Steelers are playing 40-year-old Bettis and a first-year player in front of him. And he's more fragile than West.

9:38 AM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

westbrook has had 20 or more carries in his career only twice partly because he's in a pass first offense and partly because he has usually split carries with someone else (duce, buck, dorsey).

i'm not sure the westbrook and tiki comparison is a valid one (or warrick dunn for that matter), because even though there have been concerns about the durability of barber he hasn't been injury prone while westbrook has. westbrook has been injured *every* season while *not* carrying the load. that seems to be a pretty good indicator that he cannot, in fact, carry the load.

on top of being more durable, barber is a much better runner than westbrook. i will grant you that the eagles o-line hasn't been great this season at run blocking, but even that isn't a great argument because tiki barber has produced in seasons where the giants o-line was among the worst in the league. i would trade westbrook for barber straight up without even thinking about it. tiki is close enough to westbrook as a pass catcher that his superior running ability more than makes up for it.

again, i am not saying that westbrook is not valuable to the offense. i am not saying that he isn't fun to watch. i am not saying that he isn't productive when healthy.

what i am saying is that he has flaws in his game.

11:18 AM EST  

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