Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jamal Lewis

The Cleveland Browns start the year with a new running back, Jamal Lewis. Since 2000, Lewis has been the starting back for the Browns' division rival, the Baltimore Ravens. Last year Cleveland used Reuben Droughns as their main back and he only rushed for 758 yards on 220 carries. Is Lewis an upgrade? Will Baltimore regret letting their longtime RB play for a division rival? Should you draft Lewis in a fantasy football league? Let's look at Lewis' career production (he missed 2001 with an injury).


Clearly Lewis has played badly over the last two seasons, at least if you compare his Yards Per Carry to what he'd done previously. Do we blame Lewis? Or could it be his team's offensive line? Let's examine the combined numbers for all other Baltimore running backs in that time:


Well, acknowledging that some of the sample sizes are small, it sure looks like Lewis was much better than the other backs on his team each year through 2004. And some of those backs were good (Priest Holmes in 2000 and Chester Taylor in 2004). Afer that, Lewis was far worse than his team's other backs. Lewis averaged 4.7 YPC from 2000-2004 and 3.5 YPC from 2005-2006. While Lewis suffered this huge drop-off, the rest of the team's backs remained ultra-consistent despite the changing cast of characters. The Ravens'other backs averaged 4.1 YPC from 2000-2004 and 4.2 YPC from 2005-2006. I'd say Lewis was the problem. My own observations of last year's Colts-Ravens playoff game also lead me to conclude Lewis is finished, washed-up, done, obsolete, a shell of his former self.

The man Lewis is replacing, Rueben Droughns, averaged only 3.4 YPC for the Browns last year. Could Lewis at least be an upgrade over that? Not so fast. The rest of the Browns backs ran for 265 yards on 93 carries, an atrocious 2.9 YPC. So Droughns was actually half a yard better than the other backs on his team! Now by drafting Joe Thomas and signing Eric Steinbach the Browns are hoping for a much-improved o-line in 2007, but it'd have to improve by a lot just to be equal to Baltimore's line in 2006. I wouldn't be too optimistic about Lewis this year. The Browns might be planning for him to carry the ball 300 times, but I think there's a good chance he'll be benched at some point during the season.

1 comment:

Mike said...

A sobering commentary on Jamal Lewis. But cmon...he did go to Tenessee. (I know, Peyton went there too. But so did Tee MArtin)