FanPost

Harbaugh's 2014 Goal: Fix the Running Game

Everyone seems to be focused on improving the pass game, and ripping Greg Roman for not doing a better job. But if you look at where we've actually produced, its been in the passing game -- and Kap's legs -- while the rush attack has collapsed.

I'm going to use Expected Points Added (EPA) to measure offensive production -- the unadjusted EPA from AdvancedFootballAnalytics.com (formerly AdvancedNFLStats.com). I think EPA is the best way to measure offensive performance in a non-leveraged (i.e. non 'clutch-weighted) manner. First, let's take a look at offensive passing efficiency - EPA/play:

Team Off EPA EPA/P Off WPA SR(%) Run EPA Run EPA/P Run WPA Run SR(%) Pass EPA Pass EPA/P
DEN 274.3 0.2 7.79 51.2 19.7 0.04 0.94 44.1 254.6 0.29
SD 169.3 0.15 6.15 49.4 9.4 0.02 2 43.2 159.9 0.25
NO 152 0.13 3.34 48.6 -11.6 -0.03 -0.32 43 163.7 0.21
SEA 105 0.09 3.01 44.9 5.3 0.01 1.16 43.4 99.7 0.17
PHI 145.3 0.13 4.21 47.2 57 0.12 2.2 49 88.3 0.15
CHI 99.1 0.1 4.74 46.2 6.6 0.02 1.3 41 92.5 0.14
NE 115.9 0.09 4.59 47.3 3.7 0.01 0.84 44.7 112.2 0.14
SF 66 0.06 2.66 42.8 -6.4 -0.01 0.95 40.5 72.4 0.13

As you can see, we were ranked 8th in pass EPA/play -- that excludes QB rushes but includes QB sacks. Now, run EPA/play:

Team Off EPA EPA/P Off WPA SR(%) Run EPA Run EPA/P
PHI 145.3 0.13 4.21 47.2 57 0.12
GB 113 0.1 2.73 47.1 37.6 0.08
MIN 38.6 0.04 2.5 41.9 33.5 0.08
DAL 93.5 0.09 2.59 47.7 15.9 0.05
DEN 274.3 0.2 7.79 51.2 19.7 0.04
CAR 75.9 0.07 3.13 44.4 22 0.04
IND 72.7 0.06 3.07 45.3 17.6 0.04
SD 169.3 0.15 6.15 49.4 9.4 0.02
CHI 99.1 0.1 4.74 46.2 6.6 0.02
TEN 56 0.05 2.37 43.5 7.2 0.02
OAK -7.9 -0.01 -0.59 40.3 9.1 0.02
SEA 105 0.09 3.01 44.9 5.3 0.01
NE 115.9 0.09 4.59 47.3 3.7 0.01
KC 51.4 0.05 1.33 43.7 5.4 0.01
CLV -41.3 -0.04 -0.18 39.9 -1.6 0
NYJ -55.3 -0.05 0.39 40 2.2 0
SF 66 0.06 2.66 42.8 -6.4 -0.01
ATL 74.4 0.07 0.38 46.5 -4.5 -0.01
CIN 58.2 0.05 1.93 45.1 -3.7 -0.01
WAS -16.9 -0.01 0.29 43.8 -3.1 -0.01
BUF -52.6 -0.05 -0.03 40.8 -4.9 -0.01

In rushing efficiency, we were in a 5-way tie for 17th! In 2012, we were #1 in rushing efficiency (rush EPA/play) -- NUMBER ONE. If you exclude QB rushes/scrambles, the drop off is even more stark (Kap was second in QB Run EPA). Now, its not all great news for the passing game. In terms of success rate (SR%) -- which is the percent of plays that resulted in a positive EPA, we were only 21st in pass SR% -- 21st in rush SR% as well. SEA was also fairly weak in pass SR%, so it may be a function of more play-action passes out of the run game (higher variance, bigger payoff!).

So you tell me: where are the problems at, where are the strengths? We draft a running back in the 2nd and a center high -- where are Harbaugh's concerns? To me, I think the passing game still has room to improve, shockingly. Our pass EPA/play was actually the same in 2013 as 2012 -- with Stevie Johnson and BOTH Boldin and Crabtree and VD for a season -- we should improve there (we've never had all three before).

But the rushing game? pffft. It was lousy last year. Either we improve it in 2014, or we just start passing more because WE ARE BETTER AT PASSING THAN RUSHING right now. But I don't think that's Jim's style -- turning into a pass-first team. So, #1 camp priority for the offense is getting back to the elite level we were at in 2012.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.

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