49ers rookie second string RB Glen Coffee disappointed 49ers fans last year with 2.7 yards per carry. I have heard a number of fans dismissing him as a bust already.
After leading the preseason in rushing with 249 yards and a 5.9 yards per carry average, I think he left us expecting more from him as someone who could capably give Frank Gore a breather.
Is he a bust? Did he just have rookie growing pains? Was he a product of other weaknesses? Let's take a deeper look.
In his rookie season, Coffee posted 226 yards on 83 carries (2.7 avg) in the regular season, after leading the NFL in the preseason with 249 yards on just 42 carries (5.9 avg).
Well, he didn't exactly face a lot of starters in the preseason. So you could fairly say that quality of defense was part of the drop off, right?
Well hold that thought! Almost one third of those carries came against the Minnesota Vikings, who have held teams to less rushing than the 52 yards that Coffee got against them on 25 carries. Let's be honest, nobody looks forward to running against the Vikings defense.
Against the Seahawks, he had nine carries for 13 yards after checking in to close the game. The 'Hawks had just fell victim to Frank Gore's personal record book twice, as he burned them for TD runs of 79 and 80 yards en route to a 207 yard performance. First of all, the game is over, and the run is expected. Was the goal of the team to break a long TD, or to run the clock out for a win?
Coffee posted a poor performance in St Louis with 24 carries for 74 yards (3.1 Avg). The Rams were in the bottom 10 of run defenses in the league.
He posted a more respectable performance in Atlanta with 12 carries for 45 yards (3.8 avg). Atlanta was 11th in total rush defense last year.
Against other teams, Coffee didn't have a notable number of carries.
How big of an issue was the offensive line? Well, it was big enough that we invested two first round draft picks to solidify it with glaring weaknesses in pass rushing and defensive secondary. That's a fact.
To me, the even bigger challenge for Coffee is that he went from a grade 'A' offensive line at Alabama to a grade 'D' offensive line in San Francisco. At Alabama, Coffee rarely had to worry about not making it past the line of scrimmage.
Any running back since 2004 not named Frank Gore has not fared well behind this offensive line. Kevan Barlow and Deshaun Foster also had low yards per carry in the 3.0 range behind the line. I'm glad that in spite of Gore's success, Mike Singletary sees the production of the offensive line unit for what it is.
One common theme from scouting reports for Glen Coffee was that he has a perfect frame to bulk up about 20 pounds. According to offseason reports, 15 of those pounds are already onboard! There is a huge difference between a six foot tall running back who weighs 209 and one who weighs 225. According to the same report, his 40 yard dash time hasn't changed.
You are all familiar with the concept of running to set up the pass, keeping extra men out of the box to spar the running game. I found an interesting statistic.
Of Coffee's 83 carries, 71 of them came when Shaun Hill was under center. For the entire 2009 season in San Francisco, Hill averaged a horrible 6.1 yards per pass play. Wow, no wonder he has a high completion percentage and throws less interceptions than Alex Smith.
61 of his passing yards came on a pass to Josh Morgan in the Atlanta game. 50 more came on a pass to Isaac Bruce against Arizona. Aside from those two plays, that puts the average about five yards per pass play! On a scale of one to stretching a defense ("clearing the box for your running backs"), this is a five gallon bucket of FAIL!
How is the running game supposed to nearly equal the yards per play yield of the passing game? Has any team ever done this? No, because running and passing set each other up.
This is a serious road block to Glen Coffee's production to a degree that other offensive coordinators should be watching our film to figure how we won games in spite of that statistic, and even played the Minnesota Vikings down to the wire.
Glen Coffee was the state weight lifting champion from Florida for his weight class. At 205, he bench pressed 380lbs. Oddly enough, current Alabama running back Trent Richardson was also the state weight lifting champion for his class.
Coffee rode front seat to eventual Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram when Coffee was a junior. Ingram checked into the game in shorter yardage situations. Coffee averaged over six yards per carry, and led the nation in TD runs over 40 yards.
One thing I noticed about Coffee watching him at Alabama was how good he was at running through tackles from behind, this can be seen on most of his long TD runs in his highlight reel.
As you may have figured by now, I don't believe Coffee was a bust. I think that he was not put in a situation to show what he can do. I don't believe he's going to supplant Frank Gore any time soon, but if you are expecting another year averaging less than 3.5 yards per carry, I think you've got another thing coming.
What do you think? I think a lot of people don't realize how much certain areas that the 49ers lack in effect other areas of the team. Bottom line, I don't think we got a realistic look at Coffee last year.