A different look at the RB conundrum

I've been a little surprised by the amount of people in favor of cutting Betts or Rock in favor of Mason on HH recently.   CJ had a pretty good post about it today.  He also asked me a good question in the comments when I said I felt if Portis got hurt tomorrow Betts could give us 1100 yards as our feature back.   "And what have you seen out of Betts since ‘06 that says he can produce 1100 yds as a feature back? I don’t think he’s had a 100 yd game since that year, and Portis has been out a few times."  That prompted me to do a little research and see if I still felt the same way.  After writing out the whole comment I figured I'd just make it it's own post and give some other thoughts about the RB situation.  This isn't really a rebuttal of CJ's post cuz I agree with many of his points.  His post and comment just prompted me to put my thoughts in a semi-coherent manner for once.  Poll and some thoughts after the jump.

As for Mason over Rock I think it's kinda obvious the team figures they are gonna keep Rock.  They lost Thrash, Khary Campbell, Demetric Evans and Fincher in the last year from ST.  Thats alot of Vet leadership.  I don't think they'd let Fincher go if they were also gonna let Rock go.  He's not only our returner he's a ST leader and a great tackler.  I feel the team has already decided to keep Rock and I actually agree with them.  He's too important to our ST to be replaced by someone who is bad at teams.  Especially if we keep Marko and have him learn ST on the fly.  Also remember MM is in his 3rd preseason.  He's not a draft pick who can rest on his laurels to make a team.  The fact that a guy who has to do everything he can to make a team is still so bad at ST in his 3rd preseason tells me he'll either never be good at it or he just hasn't put in the effort necessary.  I don't like either scenario if we are expecting him to contribute in any way on ST this year, which is a must if your gonna cut Rock.

As for Betts I still feel he is our best option at RB if Portis goes down for the season early.  In 2006 he ran for 1100 yards in basically 2/3rds of a season.  He is now 29 but has had only about 200 touches the last 2 seasons and has only missed 3 games over the last 3 seasons(including two 16-game seasons).  So I feel like he is fresh still and in good shape.  I also doubt the coaches would be raving about him if he had significantly lost his game over the last 2 seasons.  I agree that Betts hasn't shown that he's a 1,000 yard rusher since 2006 but I feel that is due to lack of carries.  I don't believe the fact that he hasn't had a 100 yard game since is a very compelling piece of evidence against him.

I decided to go and look through all the game logs at Pro Football reference to get a better grasp of his ability to be the feature back if Portis goes down early.  I decided to compare Betts history of being the feature back with the man he would be asked to replace since I feel like Betts can replace most of Portis's production if he had too.  Since 100 yards a game is a pretty round and easy number I chose that to use as a benchmark for a succesful rushing game.  Since I was talking about feature back here and to eliminate fluky outliers like Rock's 9 carry 100+ performance I chose to look at just the games where Portis or Betts had 20+ carries as 20 seems to be the minimum amount of carries to be considered the feature back for a game.  I felt that comparing their whole careers would help compensate for any disparity in O-lines during their games.  Portis had 2 great lines in Denver which should help compensate for any bad O-line years he might have endured in later seasons(like last year).

While Portis has often been banged up and hasn't finished every game, he has played in all 33 games the skins have played in the 2007 and 2008 seasons.  In that time Betts has only gotten double digit carries twice(11,17).  Tough to get a 100 yards when your averaging like 7-8 carries a game.  Part of this is because the 3 games Betts has missed the past 3 seasons happened to coincide with the stretch last year where Portis was banged up and couldn't go all game.  Unfortunate luck.  I also feel like CP would have sat those games if Betts had been available instead of limping through a half which underscores the necessity to have a guy who can take up Portis's slack if need be even more.

I looked through every game in Betts's career and he has gotten 20+ carries 9 times.  He reached 100 yards in 7 of those games.  The ones he didn't he gained 83 and 92 yards.  This meant he got a 100 yard game in 78% of the contests he got 20+ carries.  A third of his 20+ games were only 20 carry games.

I then looked at CP's career.  He has gotten 20+ carries 62 times.  He reached the 100 yard mark 39 times in those games for 63% percent.  He had a way higher percentage of his carries in the 25-38 carry range than Betts did. 

So when you are comparing portis and Betts's 20+ carry games Betts has had less carries on average in those games but still gained 100 yards 15% more often than Portis did.

By no means am I saying Betts is better than CP.  8 out of the 9 times Betts got 20+ carries was in 2006 and the fact that his sample size was so much smaller than CP's leaves a large margin of error.  Still I wanted to point it out when I say that I feel Betts has delivered as a feature back almost as often, if not as often, as Portis has in his career.  Betts hasn't gotten many opportunities as a feature back over his career due to the presence of CP but when we have rang the bell he has delivered at a very dependable rate for us.

This is a veteran team with a still developing QB and young receivers.  If Portis goes down we need a dependable replacement if we wanna go to the playoffs.  Betts has proven he can do that.  Especially in comparison to MM.  MM has 2 nice blocks in the Pats game but also struggled on several other plays(at least one of which he was blown up by Merriweather getting Campbell hit and forcing an incompletion).  While Betts isn't as strong as Portis as a blocker he is a stronger blocker right now than MM and I don't wanna fool around with someone who hasn't proven an ability to be a decent pass blocker or reciever out of the backfield yet. 

I gotta admit I just don't see what everyone else does in MM as a runner.  That is subjective so feel free to disregard but it's not like the dude has been tearing up the preseason.  He has only been the lead rusher once and was mediocre against the Patriots first team last game.  He also doesn't really fit the mold of a change of pace back he is more in the mold of CP and Betts.  I 100% would love to get a speedy elusive guy to throw in for 5-8 plays a game as a complement to Portis/Betts.  I agree Betts is too similar in style to be a great change of pace for Portis but they can split 30-32 rushes a game between them keeping them both fresh all game/season and find 5-8 carries in addition to some pass touches for a speed guy.  I can see that really helping this team but that doesn't sound like Mason.  It sounds more like Aldridge than Mason.  If we could find the roster room I'd love to keep CP, Betts, Rock and Aldridge or Dorsey or some other speed guy.  That way Betts is always there to take over if Portis goes down early in the season and we add another element to the offense.  If we can't find the room then we can just go with the CP/LB/RC this year and look for a decent speed back next year maybe even with a late round draft pick.  I just feel like if we let Betts go and Portis get's hurt for an extended time we would regret cutting Betts.  Plus guys like Aldridge and Mason are always available if Portis or Betts go down.  Our D and most of our offense is meant to make a playoff run this year and I don't want to waste it if Portis gets hurt.  Especially since we have no cap reasons to cut Betts now anyways.  What do you guys think?

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