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A positive way to look at the Giants' running backs

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We all know the 2009 New York Giants did not run the football up to the standards the team had set in previous seasons.

Well, the folks at Pro Football Focus have come up with an interesting way to measure the effectiveness of individual backs. They are calling it the 'Elusive Rating,' and the results actually show some reasons for optimism about Giants' running backs.

Both Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw scored pretty well using this unique PFF metric.

First, what is 'Elusive Rating?' Here is how PFF explains it, and the formula used to compile it.

The goal of this stat is to filter out the performance of back's blockers and solely focus on a runner's contribution. ... To determine the Elusive Rating, we combined receptions and carries to create a "ball-handling opportunities" figure, and then combined total missed tackles forced. Next we divided the total missed tackles forced by the ball-handling opportunities. Then we multiplied this figure by the player's average yards after first contact x100 to make the end figure.

Now, let's look at how Jacobs and Bradshaw -- the Giants' primary ball carriers -- scored.

Many, both here at BBV and elsewhere, criticized Jacobs for tip-toeing in 2009 and wondered if he still had the desire to be the punishing back he had been in 2007 and 2008.

PFF's Elusive Rating for Jacobs would indicate his ability to gain extra yards has not diminished. The formula shows that Jacobs gained 69% of his 835 yards after first contact. No back in the league with more than 200 carries did better.

What does that tell me? Nothing I did not already know, but it does confirm something. Though I still have lots of questions about Jacobs' long-term effectiveness the biggest problem in 2009 was not whether Jacobs ran hard or not. It was that he had no place to go.

Bradshaw also had some impressive numbers.

He placed seventh in the league in PFF's ElusiveRating. He averaged 2.9 yards gained after first contact on running plays, and only a handful of rushers were better. Overall, Bradshaw also forced 44 missed tackles on 184 touches between rushing attempts and pass receptions.

One thing that struck me in Bradshaw's numbers was this. He caught 21 passes, and forced 8 missed tackles on those receptions. For me, that says there is untapped potential there for Bradshaw as a receiver. Perhaps if he is actually able to practice in 2010 and work with Eli Manning the Giants can incorporate more ways to get him the ball in space.

So, none of these numbers actually mean that the Giants ran the ball well in 2009. They didn't. The numbers do, however, indicate that a little better blocking will go a long way toward alleviating the running game issue.