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Mailbag: How to improve yards per carry?


The running game is averaging just 3.9 yards per carry. It's been more than a decade since they've finished under four yards. Is this an offensive line issue or a running back issue? And what's the fix?  – Tori Williams/Phoenix, AZ

Nick Harris: A combination of factors has played into inefficiency in the running game, in my eyes. The offensive line has only had two games together at full strength and they haven't quite found a stride as a unit. Additionally, a lack of creativity in the running game has taken Tony Pollard out of the big-play situations he was placed in a season ago and into the role of a downhill runner. I think there needs to be more creativity with Pollard and other weapons like Rico Dowdle and KaVontae Turpin, such as more usage of counters, end arounds, etc. to solve the issue of inefficiency.

Patrik: The good news is there are still 11 games in the regular season to get this fixed so, that said, hopefully it doesn't finish under the four-yard mark in 2023. There are few things factoring into it though, to answer your question. The first being the fact Tyler Smith missed the first two games with injury. The second is in how, when he returned in Week 3, he found himself on an offensive line that was absent Tyron Smith, Tyler Biadasz and Zack Martin. They all finally took the field together for the first time in Week 4, but they found themselves trying to establish chemistry against the 49ers front, and then the Chargers front — two of the best in the league. Mix in the absence of run game coordinator and RBs coach Jeff Blasko until now and an offense that hasn't yet figured out the plan for Deuce Vaughn and Hunter Luepke, plus an offense that showed mostly no explosiveness until Week 6 (which means defenses could shrink the field vertically and make it tougher to run the ball) and, well, it's all been a recipe for a struggle. With everything now (slowly) falling into place, however, I have optimism this part of the offense will soon work itself out.

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