Greene: fumbling away his chance?
Posted Sep. 01 at 06:28 AM
The Jets are hoping to replace LaDainian Tomlinson with Shonn Greene. Greene will be their starting tailback, and they’re looking for big things from him. He brings a lot more power to the table than Tomlinson.
But ball security has been an issue for Greene. He fumbled 3 times as a rookie, and he fumbled 3 times again last year. That’s 6 fumbles in two years, even though he’s handled the ball only 309 times.
How is Rex Ryan going to react if Greene starts coughing the ball up when he’s asked to carry the ball up to 20 times per game?
On average so far, Greene is fumbling the ball once per every 51 carries. Only running backs with at least 300 touches the last two years, only five backs have fumbled more often.
(Note that the Jets have another running back with a potential fumbling problem. They would like Joe McKnight to be their No. 2 or 3 back, and he spent most of his rookie year on the bench after fumbling 3 times in the preseason.)
RUNNING BACKS / TOUCHES PER FUMBLE, 2009-2010
(300 carries minimum).
Han F H/F
307 1 307.0 Ryan Grant
751 3 250.3 Steven Jackson
702 3 234.0 Ray Rice
410 2 205.0 Cadillac Williams
365 2 182.5 Marion Barber
705 4 176.3 Maurice Jones-Drew
316 2 158.0 Michael Bush
306 2 153.0 Pierre Thomas
405 3 135.0 Joseph Addai
768 6 128.0 Chris Johnson
615 5 123.0 Rashard Mendenhall
600 5 120.0 Thomas Jones
480 4 120.0 LeSean McCoy
455 4 113.8 Arian Foster
303 3 101.0 Kevin Smith
396 4 99.0 Brandon Jacobs
396 4 99.0 Ronnie Brown
529 6 88.2 Michael Turner
344 4 86.0 Justin Forsett
343 4 85.8 DeAngelo Williams
514 6 85.7 LaDainian Tomlinson
676 8 84.5 Adrian Peterson
667 8 83.4 Cedric Benson
398 5 79.6 Felix Jones
318 4 79.5 Jerome Harrison
541 7 77.3 Jamaal Charles
303 4 75.8 Jason Snelling
494 7 70.6 Knowshon Moreno
603 9 67.0 Matt Forte
402 6 67.0 Darren Sproles
530 8 66.3 Frank Gore
583 9 64.8 Fred Jackson
309 5 61.8 Beanie Wells
427 7 61.0 Jonathan Stewart
372 7 53.1 Marshawn Lynch
309 6 51.5 Shonn Greene
513 10 51.3 Ahmad Bradshaw
454 9 50.4 Ricky Williams
396 9 44.0 Darren McFadden
356 9 39.6 Peyton Hillis
380 10 38.0 Tim Hightower
Posted by Richard Loppnow | Sep. 01 at 08:07 AM
So how often has Greene fumbled this preseason? Once? Twice? Not at all yet?
Posted by Richard Loppnow | Sep. 01 at 08:08 AM
Given that Rex Ryan hardly has a coaching monopoly on disliking fumbles, are you of the opinion that the guys below and around Greene on that list are also on probation?
Posted by IAN ALLAN | Sep. 01 at 08:13 AM
Of the guys on the list above, I would be most worried about Hightower and Hillis. Hillis, with his playing style, I think is prone to fumbles. If Hightower starts fumbling in Washington, he won't stay the starter for long.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Sep. 01 at 01:22 PM
I wonder if there might be a significant element of luck involved pretty much all the way through the list. Adrian Peterson was a big fumbler in 2008-09 (9 fumbles, then 7), then not at all in 2010 (1). Maybe he "worked on it," or maybe he just happened to avoid the punch-outs and blind-spot tackles that cause so many drops. The difference between being a big fumbler and not at all is about one play every ten quarters; assume bad luck some seasons and good luck others and you know what we get? Adrian Peterson, with 19 names below him on the list and 21 names above him. I agree that Hillis may be asking for extra fumbles by refusing to go down without a skirmish on every play. (For that matter, Hightower got a disproportionately high number of close-range carries in Arizona, no? And we might expect those skirmishes in short-yardage situations and especially around the goal line.) But any back toward the bottom of the list for whom bad luck HAS played a substantial role might be due -- as Peterson was, apparently -- for better things going forward.
Posted by Richard Loppnow | Sep. 01 at 02:02 PM
That would be a very interesting research question, Justin. Does fumbling ping pong up and down? My anecdotal impression is 'no'. But my anecdotal impression is that good-but-fumbler backs (Barber, Peterson) do fix the problem while remaining good. (eh-but-fumbler backs won't get the opportunity to fix things)
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Sep. 01 at 03:02 PM
Richard: The theory makes an interesting test case of Hightower. Obviously not a talent on the level of Peterson or Barber, but it sure looks like he'll get his chance to hold on to the ball (or not) in D.C. this season. I note, though, that Hillis had never fumbled until last year (actually, he'd fumbled once on a kick return, but if last year represents his actual level as a "fumbler," he should have fumbled twice on previous runs/catches), and that Marshawn Lynch fumbled much less often in his first two seasons (when he worked a lot more). So some guys get better, some worse; I'm just not sure what we're seeing here.
Posted by Brian Grzybowski | Sep. 01 at 04:56 PM
Luck has something to do with it, but any coach worth a darn can spot a guy on tape that is a candidate for a fumble. Heck, most of us here will watch a game at full speed and say "Put that ball away!" at some point. I'm sure that Defensive coaches show film and showcase tape on guys that might not have the best ball security. Some coaches aren't as harsh on fumblers, but there's no way that Rex Ryan is going to stay with a guy that fumbles every 51 touches. That's once every 2-3 games! However, if you look at the game logs you'll see that Greene fumbled twice in the opener last year against Baltimore but only fumbled once the rest of the year. So there's some evidence that he's getting better. Maybe.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Sep. 02 at 01:47 AM
Brian: Of course I scream at my TV, too, but it isn't usually running backs who LOOK like they're going to fumble. And the rest of your comment is exactly what I mean: Greene came into last season with a real chance of unseating Tomlinson. When the second fumble happened on MNF in Week 1, I was live-blogging the game either here or at Twitter, and I wrote in real time that he had probably blown his chance to get the bulk of the carries in 2010. And, indeed, Tomlinson held him off for one more year. But look at Greene's game log for the season. Six touches that first game, two fumbles. Then 16, 10, 22, 10, 9, bye, 7, 12, 23 -- eight games over nine weeks, a total of 109 touches -- without one. Did he "get better" immediately, or might nerves and luck have played a role in pairing those first two fumbles? If the answer is that he was "more focused" on not fumbling right after Week 1, was that still true in Week 10 (the 23-touch game), more than two months later? Then why not in Week 11 (15 touches, one fumble)? I think there probably are butterfingered backs and Fort Knox backs, but I also think it's probably impossible for us to know who's who based on anything less than several seasons' worth of touches. Think again about Peterson: four fumbles, then nine, then seven, then one in a four-year career. He fits all three narratives! If he fumbles a bunch this season, he's butterfingered. If not, he "worked on it" and got the problem fixed ... or maybe he's just been a product of luck all the while. In many cases (as with Greene in-season in 2010) we're looking for patterns without sample sizes large enough to justify thinking we can find them. If you draft Greene this year, you'll have a narrative ready no matter which way he goes: either you should have known better or he was obviously getting better. But the one thing we know for sure, since we can't know which way he'll go before you draft him, is that there's luck involved for you (whether or not it's mostly luck for him).
Posted by IAN ALLAN | Sep. 02 at 03:14 AM
I believe there are a few guys who fumble because of poor fundamentals -- holding the ball incorrectly or refusing to carry it with the correct arm (was it Ahman Green who could carry the ball with his right hand even when running a sweep around left end?). For the most part, though, I think that the players who are the most physical, tackle-breaking runners will fumble more. Hillis, Peterson, Hightower, Greene, Marion Barber, Beanie Wells, Brandon Jacobs -- those guys should tend to fumble more than other running backs.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Sep. 02 at 06:05 AM
Agreed, but then there are a couple of those guys (Barber, Jacobs) and some other relatively rugged types (Jackson, Turner) above Peterson on the list. Maybe the actual trend is something like this: forget how many touches a guy gets; he'll tend to fumble once every X or so times he comes into contact with a would-be tackler. So the guys who take on extra defenders will indeed tend to fumble in fewer touches (but in about the same number of coming-into-contacts, to coin a term, as anyone else). That begins to make sense to me; it suggests that there's luck involved in how often would-be tacklers succeed in forcing fumbles, but a non-luck component to which guys tend to "drop" the ball and which guys tend not to. What we need, then, is someone to track coming-into-contacts, so we know how many of those each back averages per touch. I suspect that would be a decent predictor of fumbles going forward.
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