One Step To Take: RB Benny Snell

I’m bringing back a series I had a lot of fun exploring the last several offseasons. Every player wants to improve, to elevate his game in all areas from one season to the next. Understanding that, we’re going to isolate just one area, one faction of a player’s game. The biggest area for improvement.

Benny Snell – Improve Yards After Contact

Much of the Steelers’ 2020 run game woes can be blamed on a faulty offensive line. But not everything. And running backs can absorb some of that responsibility, too. Snell was drafted and profiled as a power runner. Not a guy who was going to outrun your average linebacker (or even speedy defensive lineman) but a guy who would plow ahead, move the pile, and get yards after contact.

That didn’t happen last year.

According to Pro Football Reference’s Advanced Stats, Snell averaged just 1.9 yards after contact in 2020. That number fell from 2.8 as a rookie, a considerable drop.

And while the Steelers’ offensive line was as bad as its been last season, it wasn’t that much better in 2019. And if you look at the numbers, he had a higher yards before contact in 2020 than in 2019. In 2019, he averaged 1.2 yards before contact. In 2020, that number was 1.4. So the issue wasn’t all because he was getting smacked in the backfield before he could get his wheels spinning.

Of the 47 running backs with 100+ carries last season, Snell’s 1.9 yards after contact was one of the lowest marks in football. It tied for 35th worst among those 47. Here are the names who surrounded him.

Joshua Kelley: 1.5
Malcolm Brown: 1.5
Phillip Lindsay: 1.6
Kenyan Drake: 1.7
Adrian Peterson: 1.7
Joe Mixon: 1.7
D’Andre Swift: 1.7
Raheem Mostert: 1.7
Todd Gurley: 1.8
Gio Bernard: 1.8
Benny Snell: 1.9
Damien Harris: 1.9
Jamaal Williams: 1.9

Aside from the oddball name like Joe Mixon, most of these guys are backups or bottom-level starters. If you’re wondering who the top five are, here’s that list:

Ronald Jones: 3.0
Aaron Jones: 2.9
Devin Singletary: 2.9
J.K. Dobbins: 2.9
Derrick Henry: 2.8

I didn’t look at how Snell’s 2019 number stacked up to other backs that year, but I’m guessing that 2.8 YAC was one of the league’s better numbers. In 2020, he was among the league’s worst. Assuming Najee Harris sticks as the team’s bell cow, Snell’s role will likely be even smaller than it has been the past two years. He may not even hit the 100-carry mark he’s reached in 2019 and 2020.

So he’ll have to make the most of his scarce opportunity and carving out a role in short-yardage to replace Harris in the middle of long drives could be his ticket. But that’ll mean churning out yards after contact and getting his YAC number back up. I’d set the bar at 2.4 and above. Like everything else in the world, forget about 2020 and return to 2019.

To Top
error: Alert: Content is protected !!