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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Coller: Stop the ‘Peterson has slipped’ conversation

By Matthew Coller

Peterson chart 1

There’s a statistical term called “arbitrary endpoints” that we can use when pointing out the flaws in some recent analysis of Adrian Peterson’s game. The phrase can be used to point out that sentences like, “In his last six games, Peterson only has one over 100 yards,” are fundamentally flawed. Drawing a line in his game log right *after* the great games is arbitrarily lumping numbers in a particular way to fit a pre-formed opinion.

In the five games before the last six, the Minnesota Vikings’ star running back 127 yards per game, 5.4 per carry and scored five touchdowns. Nobody asked then if he was done.

After a 19-carry, 31-yard performance against the Tennessee Titans, the dark age clouds naturally started looming over the 31-year-old running back. It is fair to be on high age-curve alert with any veteran star in the NFL considering the punishment they take, but we are far from having enough evidence to suggest Peterson is finished being a good running back. And it’s questionable how much we should even care.

There are a few problems with the age curve: Very few running backs are anywhere near Adrian Peterson’s caliber. Sure most running backs are out of the league by age 27, but most running backs are only pretty good, not all-time great.

Pro Football Focus contributor Eric Eager created charts of post-merger Hall of Famers and their age curve. It’s still noticeable, but less clear than for non-HOFers.

Even the Hall of Fame running backs aren’t all 6-foot-2, 220-pounds and most running backs weren’t privy to heart-rate monitoring, GPS, sleep tracking, range-of-motion data and scientifically-crafted offseason workout plans. That element of professional sports has changed greatly in the last five years.

If we look at the current list of NFL rushers, New York Jets running back Matt Forte is the same age as Peterson and has 196 yards rushing through two weeks, Frank Gore tumbled for 1,106 yards and 4.3 Yards Per Carry in his age-31 season in San Francisco and is still the feature back in Indy and DeAngelo Williams (33) opened the season with 143 yards for the Steelers (and led the league in touchdowns last year).

Those players’ success at older ages isn’t proof that Peterson will be fine, but it is evidence that some of the best-of-the-best can remain effective into their 30s.

At age 31….

Curtis Martin led the NFL in rushing with 1,697 yards

LaDainian Tomlinson managed 914 yards and 52 catches

Fred Taylor averaged 5.4 YPA and racked up 1,202 yards

On the other side, at age 31…

Edgerin James played seven terrible games for Seattle and averaged 2.7 YPA

Marshall Faulk gained only 774 yards rushing

Corey Dillon dipped to 3.5 YPA from 4.5 the previous season

There are so many factors which go into determining the success or failure of a running back that is impossible to pin down whether the running backs who were great at age 31 were still actually great or if they benefited from favorable circumstances. DeAngelo Williams looked pretty good, but he also has one of the three best quarterbacks in the league. When Martin had his huge age-31 season, the Jets were at the peaks of Hall of Fame-worthy linemen Nick Mangold and Da’Brickashaw Ferguson.

Peterson will certainly need better work from his offensive line going forward.

He will also need his team to already be winning.

In baseball terms, Peterson is more of a closer than a starter. When his team is ahead, he is able to finish the job.

In 2015, Peterson averaged 5.6 YPA in 163 carries when the Vikings were leading and just 3.5 in 163 carries when tied or trailing. In the fourth quarter, he rushed 60 times and gained a whopping 414 yards (6.9 YPA).

This isn’t just a small sample, single season thing with Peterson. For his career, he averaged 5.1 YPA when leading and 4.7 when tied or trailing and 4.4 in the first quarter and 5.1 in the fourth.

Against Tennessee, Peterson had five carries when his team was leading. He missed an entire drive when Shaun Hill and the boys were up on the Titans. .

In this 2010 article Football Perspective writer Chase Stuart pointed out Peterson wasn’t greatly impacting his team’s Win Probability all that much despite being historically good.

A running back alone can’t simply account for too many wins. He can cause defenses to focus their attention on him, but the question often still comes down to whether or not Christian Ponder can deliver; Peterson alone is rarely enough,” Stuart wrote.

The year has changed, but the sentiment is still true. Last year, the best two running teams in Yards Per Attempt both missed the playoffs when No. 29, 30 and 31 all made it.

If Peterson could carry an offense, the Vikings wouldn’t have spent a first-round pick to acquire Sam Bradford. That isn’t to say a good running game won’t help. Just like Mariano Rivera helped the Yankees win six World Series’ but he was far from the main reason they won them.

Each week will be another episode of “Is Adrian Done?” but we probably won’t know for sure until more than halfway through the season and his success or failure probably won’t be a huge determining factor in whether the Vikings make the postseason.

So maybe we should leave the Adrian debate alone (for now).

The post Coller: Stop the ‘Peterson has slipped’ conversation appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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