Friday, June 13, 2008

The Purple Jesus' Chances at 2000

About a month ago, Adrian Peterson, the Purple Jesus himself, said that he wanted to rush for 2000 yards. My first reaction? He's not going to do it. And, after doing some research, I think my first reaction was the right one.

Now, I don't doubt that Peterson has the ability--I mean, after last year, could you really argue that he doesn't have the rushing talent of Barry Sanders, O.J. Simpson, Jamal Lewis , Eric Dickerson and Terrell Davis? I don't think you can do that. Even if you discount the fact that Peterson has had injury issues throughout his career (including missing the majority of three games last year), the odds are against him setting the record (it's only been done 5 times, remember), and even more so because of his teammate, Chester Taylor.

Last year, the Vikings ran the ball 494 times. Peterson lead the team with 238 carries, 81 more than Taylor's 157 attempts. Neither of those statistics bode well for Peterson's chances to crack the 2000 yard mark. Of the five backs to rush for 2000 yards, only O.J. Simpson and Barry Sanders did so with less than 350 carries (332 and 335 respectively). That means that Peterson's going to have to carry the ball at least 100 more times next year to have a shot at 2000 yards, and even more than that unless he increases his yards per carry average (at last seasons total of 5.6 YPC, he would have needed 357 carries to get to 2000 yards). That's a lot of carries nowadays, even for a team as reliant on the run as the Vikings are (to put that number into context, Clinton Portis lead the NFL in carries last year, with 325). And that's a lot of carries for a team with a second back as good as Taylor. And in order to get those carries, Peterson would have to get the ball on an even higher percent of the running plays than it looks like on the surface, because Tarvaris Jackson had 54 carries, meaning the Vikings really only called a running play about 450 times.

And make no mistake about it--if Peterson's going to get to 2000 yards, he's only going to do so by taking Taylor's carries. There have been 23 running backs to rush for at least 1750 yards. Only O.J. Simpson in 1975 (1817 yards) had a teammate that had more than 150 carries (Though, to be fair, in 1973, Simpson had a teammate with 98 carries and one with 148 carries, and he rushed for 2003 yards. That team also ran the ball 605 times, something I highly doubt the Vikings will do next season).

Aside from those two Bills teams that featured O.J. Simpson, only three other running backs rushed for 1750 yards and had a teammate with more than 100 carries, and all three had less than 1900 yards. (Eric Dickerson had 1821 yards in 1986, Larry Johnson had 1750 yards in 2005 and Walter Payton had 1852 yards in 1977).

So, unless Peterson adds more than 100 carries next year (mostly by taking Taylor's carries) and maintains his yards per carry average, he's not going to be able to reach 2000 yards next year. And that's probably for the best, since Peterson would likely feel the effects of all those carries the next year, and possibly the rest of his career. All five backs that cracked 1000 yards rushed for 500-1000 yards less the next year, and Terrell Davis never played more than 8 games in a season after he topped the 2000 yard mark.

2000 yards is a good goal for Peterson to have. It's not, however, a good goal for the team to have for him, unless they want to alienate Chester Taylor and shorten Peterson's career. I think the Vikings are smarter than that. I hope they are, at least.

1 comment:

Jason said...

In the summer, every back will rush for 2,000 yards, every defensive end will have 20+ sacks, and every team is going to the Super Bowl. (If you're the Vikings, you have all three, at least in the minds of AP, Ray Edwards, and Jared Allen.) It's a lot harder to do in the fall.