Faster Than Your Average Bear

Posted by: Tony on Thursday, June 12th, 2008

Best at LaTech

With all signs still pointing towards Jahvid Best being fully recovered for next year, and it looking like the Bears will have at least one RB with gametime experience, I found myself asking “hey, how good is Jahvid Best anyway?” My general impression is “quite good.” But with only one truncated season to judge, its really hard to substantiate that impression one way or the other. It’s the kind of question that calls for statistics. So with that in mind, I thought it might be fruitful to compare Jahvid’s 2007 stats with the freshman performances of other tailbacks. Here’s how Jahvid’s rookie year stacks up against recent Bears (and a few rivals from Tail Back U as well, just for good measure):

ATT

YRDS

AVG

LNG

TD

REC

YRDS

AVG

LNG

TD

Jahvid Best ‘07

29

221

7.6

64

2

13

74

5.7

16

1

James Montgomery ‘07

36

171

4.8

20

2

4

48

12.0

24

1

Marshawn Lynch ‘04

71

628

8.8

70

8

19

147

7.7

29

2

Justin Forsett ‘04

11

49

4.5

13

1

-

-

-

-

-

J.J. Arrington ‘03*

107

607

5.7

68

5

22

185

8.4

36

0

Joe Igber ‘99

148

694

4.7

55

2

13

78

6.0

19

0

Adimchinobe Echemandu ‘99+

10

24

2.4

13

0

4

44

11.0

27

1

Joe McKnight ‘07

94

540

5.7

65

3

23

203

8.8

32

1

Emmanuel Moody ‘06

79

459

5.8

48

2

3

39

13.0

33

0

Reggie Bush ‘03

90

521

5.8

58

3

15

314

20.9

60

4

LenDale White ‘03

141

754

5.3

66

13

6

15

2.5

10

1

* J.C. Transfer

+ Then Joe Echema

A few things jump out from these numbers. The first is Jahvid’s yards-per-carry average which, at 7.6 yards, blows away everyone on the list other than Marshawn’s star-making 8.8 yard average in 2004. Even tail backs with famous first years tend to hover around the high 5’s in terms of yards-per-carry. So the numbers more-or-less confirm what our eyes have told us: Jahvid Best is an explosively efficient back.

Of course the next thing that jumps out is Jahvid’s lack of productivity relative to the other backs with knockout averages. Jahvid had fewer than 30 carries last year, and his 221 total yards indicates that his ridiculous average might be more numerical fluke than nascent phenomenon. It should be noted, however, that Jahvid’s carries were limited due to his missing three games at the end of the year. Also, while Tedford tends to employ a duel tailback running game in most years (which has allowed many of the freshmen on the list to rack up yards in a substantial backup role), in 2007 Tedford more or less abandoned this approach midway through the season (when the freshmen started fumbling). As a result, Forsett had over 300 carries on the year, more than any other tailback during the Tedford era.

From my point of view, I don’t think Jahvid’s average was aberrational. Extrapolating his performance over a full 13 games, I have no doubt Jahvid would have produced well over 300 yards rushing and 500 all-purpose yards. But one question the numbers can’t begin to answer is how Jahvid would perform as an every-down back (or at least the A-back in a duel RB system). Aside from the obvious durability questions, I wonder if he can be the type of back who runs through and wears down a defense. I have nothing but love for Justin Forsett, but the Bear’s sorely missed having a bruiser in the backfield last year. I suspect that much of the stagnation in play calling last year stemmed from the fact that Cal just didn’t have a back who could guarantee short yardage on obvious running plays.

Jahvid may not be that back and he may not need to be. Problem is, I don’t see any other super-200lb bruisers in our lineup either. There’s no doubt we’ve got loads of speed. The ultimate question may be who can step up and take a hit.




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