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hurrykaine 01-12-2006 12:59 PM

Good article on Shaun Alexander
Big numbers don't all add up yet for Alexander
Jan. 11, 2006
By Pete Prisco
CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer

Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander has put up some gaudy numbers the past couple of seasons, numbers good enough to earn him NFL MVP honors for 2005.

Shaun Alexander must deliver in his third shot at the playoffs.

He is generally considered by many to be one of the top two or three running backs in the league. At 28, he still has good years left in his legs, a player in his prime.

So why is it that he's playing under the one-year franchise tag and so far has been unable to get the Seahawks to agree to terms with him on a long-term deal?

Here are two numbers to consider: 2.3 and 2.7.

Those are the per-carry averages for Alexander in his two career postseason games. In 2003, he rushed 20 times for 45 yards in a loss to the Green Bay Packers in a wild-card game. Last season, he ran for 40 yards on 15 carries in a wild-card loss to the St. Louis Rams.

The Touchdown Man, as some have taken to calling him after he scored 27 this season and 87 the past fives, did not crack the end zone in those two playoff losses.

To put it bluntly: So far he's been a playoff bust.

As the Seahawks ready to face the Washington Redskins on Saturday at Qwest Field in a divisional playoff game, we offer these words of encouragement to Alexander:

Show us you're worth the money.

Show all the doubters out there -- including some inside your own locker room -- that you are truly an elite back.

Show us that nickname of Soft Shaun doesn't fit.

It might come off as lunacy to question somebody who is having the type of season Alexander is, a season full of record numbers. He is a Fantasy Football delight, racking up touchdowns better than any player in the league and making many question the sanity of the Seahawks for not giving him a new deal.

That could be because there's still a perception he isn't truly one of the greats and that he flourishes running behind one of the best run-blocking lines in the league. The left side of the Seattle line -- featuring tackle Walter Jones and guard Steve Hutchinson -- is the best side of any line in the NFL.

I could gain 1,000 yards going through some of those holes.

"Do you see the room he has on some runs?" said one NFC personnel director. "He's good, but that line really helps him get going."

Alexander ran for 1,880 yards this season, which is impressive, no matter how he got it. He led the league in rushing and did it with an easy running style.

Yet there are still questions about his toughness. His teammates have called him Soft Shaun in the past. Some coaches on the Seattle staff have questioned his toughness when it came to gut-check time. The flip side is that he hasn't missed a game in his six seasons, which has to mean something. He shows up each week, which is more than many other backs.

If you don't believe the Seahawks have questions about him, then why in the heck were they peddling him around the league before the 2004 season for a draft pick -- a second-round pick, no less. Seattle called the Dallas Cowboys to ask if they had any interest, but the Cowboys told them the price was too high.

A second-round pick for Shaun Alexander? That seems like a steal. Only the Cowboys didn't bite.

There has to be a reason, right?

In the past two seasons, Alexander has rushed for a combined 3,576 yards. That's an astounding number, the best in the league over that span.

But I wanted to look deeper into the numbers, to see how he did against defenses that finished those seasons ranked in the top 10. The reason for that is there is a perception he puts up big numbers in bunches against lesser defenses.

Alexander has played 11 games the past two seasons against teams that finished ranked in the top 10 in total defense. Of those 11 games, he went over 100 twice, both against Arizona this season.

He dominated the Cardinals, rushing for 313 yards in two games with six touchdowns. And, yes, the Cardinals did finish ranked in the top 10 in total defense.

In the other nine games against top-10 defenses, Alexander didn't fare as well. He had 639 yards and four touchdowns. His per-carry average was 3.78. If you include those two Arizona games, his per-carry average is 4.4 against top-10 defenses, which isn't all that bad.

But when you compare it to his 4.9 per-rush average over the past two seasons, it's significantly lower.

To check the theory closer, I wanted to see how he did against defenses that were ranked among the bottom 10 in the league. If his numbers were significantly higher, maybe the theory would be even more solid.

He played 11 games against defenses that were ranked in the bottom 10 of the league the past two seasons. Of those 11 games, he went over 100 in nine. He also rushed for 19 touchdowns, which means he did have more success. But his per-carry average is down slightly to 4.36 against those teams because he carried it more.

So does Alexander play better against the lesser teams? Some, but it's not as eye-opening as you would expect, other than the touchdown numbers.

Even so, there are still doubts about him. Maybe the Seahawks are waiting until after these playoffs to decide whether to give him a long-term deal. There has to be something holding them up.

When a superstar player wins the MVP, shouldn't they be racing to sign him to a new deal? Instead, there is no deal, only uncertainty as to whether they will sign him long term. There is talk in Seattle that all he cares about is the money, that he's a malcontent who wants what's best for Shaun Alexander.

Isn't that what all players really want anyway? I won't fault him for that. There's talk that he isn't a teammate's teammate. When I talked to a few Seattle players about him before a game last year, some smirked and shook their head. Maybe he isn't endearing. One Seattle newspaper recently did a story on him and had this sentence: Content or Malcontent?

To see him is to think he is as content as any player in the league. He's always smiling, always seemingly having a good time.

Yet something seems to be missing. Like a long-term commitment from the Seahawks, perhaps?

Maybe their message is this: Show us in the next three weeks that you're worth it.

Peyton Manning sure has a lot of pressure coming in the next two weeks in his bid to get to the Super Bowl, but Shaun Alexander isn't far behind.

He has to show he's a money player, a guy who will make it happen in the postseason, that he's somebody who will do it when the going gets tough.

Soft Shaun or Star Shaun? Which one is it?

The playoffs may bring us our answer -- and might get Alexander a big, fat contract.

irish 01-12-2006 01:15 PM

Re: Good article on Shaun Alexander
I cant argue with his sorry playoff stats but why would any team sign a RB to a long term deal. RBs are a dime a dozen and more than any other player seem to always be one play away from retirement. I think its a smart move by Seattle.

12thMan 01-12-2006 01:21 PM

Re: Good article on Shaun Alexander
I think SA is a very good back. He can only play against who's lined accross from him.

And as far as any back could run behind that line, well I think that's true of all great backs. Which one didn't have a great line they weren't running behind? Even our very own Clinton Portis is running behind a very good OL.

BrudLee 01-12-2006 01:32 PM

Re: Good article on Shaun Alexander
More crucial than his Oline is his fullback. Mack Strong may be the bet run blocking fullback in years. Alexander himself will say that he owes his great season to Strong.

JoeRedskin 01-12-2006 01:38 PM

Re: Good article on Shaun Alexander
Bottom line though, if he were racking up those regular season numbers with the same line in Chicago, New York, LA or any other large market, he would be everybody's All-Pro all the time.

TheMalcolmConnection 01-12-2006 01:43 PM

Re: Good article on Shaun Alexander
Good thing is, Taylor has been blowing up fullbacks. In the Chargers game, he completely HALTED Lorenzo Neal when he was leading for LT.

djnemo65 01-12-2006 02:43 PM

Re: Good article on Shaun Alexander
[QUOTE=JoeRedskin]Bottom line though, if he were racking up those regular season numbers with the same line in Chicago, New York, LA or any other large market, he would be everybody's All-Pro all the time.[/QUOTE]

The guy did win MVP. It's not like he doesn't get [I]any[/I] credit

MTK 01-12-2006 03:27 PM

Re: Good article on Shaun Alexander
There's something about Alexander that I don't like. Not sure if it's the way he seems to be hung up on personal stats or what it is, I just think he's a bit overrated.

Daseal 01-12-2006 05:28 PM

Re: Good article on Shaun Alexander
[quote]nd as far as any back could run behind that line, well I think that's true of all great backs.[/quote]

More evidence for Barry Sanders being the best ever.

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