Many predicted that the loss of James would be too huge for the Colts too
rebound from, especially if they were going to rely on a rookie plus a reserve
running back - Dominic Rhodes - to fill the gap.
They couldn't have been more wrong as the tandem worked together to fill the void and help Indianapolis claim the Lombardi Trophy as World Champions. But how did Addai fare strictly as a runner during his 2006 rookie year versus James in 2005, his final season in Indianapolis? Let's take a look.
In 2005, James was the primary back, carrying the ball 360 times for 1,506
yards and a 4.2 average per rush. While Addai eased into the offense, he
got just 63 percent as many carries (226) as James did the year before, but
averaged 4.8 yards per rush for 1,081 yards.
One glaring difference between the two backs' rushing averages is how they performed at the RCA Dome versus as a member of the visiting team. The rookie thrived at home with a 5.6-yard rushing average versus a 4.1 average during away games. He also scored five of his seven touchdowns at home. James was more consistent regardless of location with a 4.4 average at home and a 4.1 average away. He split his touchdown production in similar fashion with 7 home touchdowns and 6 away from the dome.
(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Addai produced a higher percentage of first downs with his rushing attempts
than James did, but just narrowly (29.2 percent versus 26.1 percent
respectively). The rookie's stats were impacted by spurts though, while
the veteran was more consistent in this important area of moving the
chains. Twenty-two of Addai's 66 first downs were achieved in just two
games (versus Philadelphia and Houston). James rushed for 10 or more first
downs in five games while producing 94 rushing first downs.
Both running backs protected the ball well. Considering James' additional carries, his two fumbles - with only one resulting in a turnover - was remarkable. Addai also only coughed up the ball twice on his fewer carries, losing both, once in September and then not again until December.
The big knock on James was that he had lost a step and couldn't get to the
third-level for big gains of 10-plus yards as frequently. Addai did show that
his younger legs and moves were able to get slightly better results in this
area. He posted 24 carries that resulted in gains of more than 10-yards (10.6
percent of his runs). James had 28 of those types of runs, but it took him more
carries, only averaging a big run on 7.8 percent of his chances. The net result over the course of the
season is about 5 more big runs by Addai had he continued at that clip for the
workload that James carried.
Another interesting difference between the two backs in this area is that 75 percent of Addai's big runs took place during the first ten plays of the game. By contrast, James split 75 percent of his big runs evenly between the first five carries of the game and his 16th-25th carries. Addai's single longest run was 41 yards versus 33 for James.
There really isn't a significant difference between the backs when you look at their frequency of getting stuffed by the defense. Addai was stopped before hitting the line of scrimmage on 8 percent of his carries while James suffered the same result on 7.5 percent of his carries.
The Tough Yards
Inside the opponent's 10-yard line, James averaged just 1.9 yards per carry, but scored all 13 of his rushing touchdowns in that area of the field. Addai scored 4 of his 7 touchdowns from there and averaged just 1.4 yards per carry. So while he was a more effective third-down back, the rookie wasn't as effective at moving the ball and converting carries to touchdowns inside the ten.
Addai definitely benefited from the Colts' tandem approach as his rushing
average stayed consistent throughout the season. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry
during his first eight games and 4.6 during the last half of the season while
James went from 4.6 yards to just 3.7 yards during the same time periods in
Addai's performance spiked during the third period of games with a 6.5 yards rushing average while James seemed to be at his best in both halves when he was fresh. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry in both the first and third quarters.
Where the backs found their success running is also an interesting contrast.
James was at his best on the Colts' stretch play -- but only to the left sideline
where he averaged 6.0 yards per carry (versus just 3.4 to the left sideline).
James anywhere between the tackles resulted in 3.8 to 4.3-yard averages.
While the rookie found his best success on the stretch run to the left as well (5.7 yards per carry) running anywhere between the middle and the left side yielded his next-best results with no worse than a 5.3-yard per carry average. But ask him to run right, behind Jake Scott and Ryan Diem, and he only averaged 3.5 to 3.7 yards per carry.
Consider the difference in age and salary cap hit and you have to give the Colts their due praise for their decision to let James go and replace him with Addai, at least in purely addressing their running game. Perhaps the only worrisome areas that the team will have to be sure to address as they determine who will be Addai's tandem partner for this season will be the spurts (and resulting droughts) in touchdown production, especially inside the opponent's 10-yard line, lack of success in running right, less big runs as the game marches on and the rookie's lower productivity away from the friendly surroundings in the RCA Dome. Some of those areas should improve simply from Addai having a full year of action added to his resume, but with Dominic Rhodes now in Oakland, a strong partner in some of those performance areas would certainly be an asset as the team prepares for another run at a Super Bowl title.Statistics referenced in this article are from Stats, Inc. and were used with permission.
|A member of the Professional Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's NFL and college football player interviews and features have been published across the Scout.com network and syndicated through FoxSports.com's NFL team pages.|