Last time, I wrote about the quarterback, the most visible football player on the team. The next one to discuss is the running back. Besides the quarterback, this is usually the only other position that lines up in the backfield prior to the ball being snapped (the play starting). All the other players are required to line up on the “line of scrimmage” (imaginary line that runs the entire width of the field at which both teams line up, facing each other before ball is snapped).
The purpose of the running back is to run with the football, preferably to the end zone to score a touchdown. As simplistic as that might sound, it is a lot more complicated than that. The game of football has become a science of strategy and thinking outside of the box and this position isn’t just about fast runners. In fact, speed might not even be the top factor in getting a running back. As I compared quarterbacks to family matrons last week, running backs need to have a bit of Tasmanian devil in them. They should embody the chaos, unpredictability and fearlessness of our childhood cartoon. Running backs are ideally a bit shorter than the average NFL player, the reason being: a lower center of gravity (makes them harder to bring down). They have monstrous thighs in order to help them break tackles (gain yards even if they get hit by a defender). Speed is still a very important skill for the running back, although most of the speed comes in quick, short bursts. Vision, meaning that the running back needs to see and predict how the players will move while the play unfolds. That way, the running back can predict if a hole opens up for him to get a running lane for a few more yards. They have to have strong hands. Defenses are trained to not only tackle a player but to viciously swipe down on the ball as they tackle to force a fumble. Running backs are trained to hold the ball in the most extreme of situations. Another thing that they are expected to have is durability. The average amount of yards that the top 49 NFL running backs get every time they run the ball is 4.6 yards (NFL.com). In other words, they run the ball 13.8 feet on average. In those 13.8 feet, chaos erupts. Defenses want to tear the ball from their hands, tear their heads from their necks, and tear their will to live from their hearts. Instead of avoiding this type of attention, the running back looks for it and helps create it.
When it comes to Tasmanian devil mentality, the running back that comes to mind is Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks (for those of you who are not Seahawk fans, I apologize for the amount of times they will be used in my blogs. They are my home team and the personnel that I know the best). Nicknamed “Beast Mode”, it probably comes as no surprise that he is a running back that welcomes violence. One of his best known runs came in Jan 2011 in a playoff win over New Orleans. As he ran, he stiff armed opponents and shoved another one into the ground before he scored. In another game, he was flagged for a personal foul for deliberately lowering his head and plowing down a 49er defender. Even as my family and I watched a recent Seahawk game, we just had to shrug our shoulders as he chose to sacrifice some extra yards on a carry in order to turn right and hit a Jacksonville defender.
So up to this point, we have talked about the matrons of the family and Tasmanian devils. Next week, we will meet more positions of the offense and see what transpires from there! Happy football watching!