After his hire, Brad Childress emphasized how important the running game was to a successful offense. And while the offense was not as good as the Vikings would have liked, Childress was seemingly successful in establishing a better ground game then the Vikings had the year before.
This season, the Vikings called run plays 43.1% of the time, good for 442 carries and 1820 yards. This was an increase from 2005, when the Vikings rushed only 40.3% of the time, with 381 carries for 1467 yards. The increased focus on running wasn’t the only difference between 2005 and 2006. In 2005, the load was split between Mewelde Moore, who lead the team with 40.7% of the carries and Michael Bennett, who got the handoff 33.1% of the time. This year, the Vikings featured Chester Taylor, who despite missing a game due to a rib injury, had 68.6% of the carries.
This concentration of the carries was no surprise, considering that neither Moore nor Bennett were able to get comfortable splitting carries and that Taylor was brought in to be the feature back. That does not, however, mean that Childress allocated the carries efficiently.
According to Football Outsiders, Chester Taylor was mediocre at best this season, amassing only 6.7 Defensive Points Above Replacement and only having -10.1% Defensive Value Over Average. DPAR is “the total number of points scored due to plays where this RB carried/caught the ball, compared to a replacement-level RB in the same game situations” and is adjusted based on opponents, while DVOA “represents value, per play, over an average RB in the same game situations” and is also adjusted for opponent.
What makes it worse is that the Vikings had a better player cooling his heels on the bench in Mewelde Moore.
Now, when I say that Mewelde Moore is a better player than Chester Taylor, I am not advocating that
As we saw this year, running the ball more often does not guarantee a good offense. If those carries aren't allocated properly, it can actually become something of a drag on the offense. While the running backs added more value this year than last, they could have added even more if the carries had been allocated differently. And that’s why the Vikings need to shift their rushing philosophy by lessening the load on Chester Taylor and giving Mewelde Moore more opportunities. Just by doing that, the Vikings should have a better running game (and thus a better offense) in 2007 than they did in 2006.