Defending T.J. Duckett

T.J. Duckett has been pitted against Justin Forsett. After Forsett's two week preseason spectacular, Duckett has unilaterally gotten the worst of it. The (flimsy) pretense for this discussion is that Seattle will only keep three running backs and with Maurice Morris and Julius Jones mortal locks, the discussion turns to Duckett V. Forsett. There is no discussion; just like there is no logical basis for the contention that Duckett should be cut. There are an awful lot of irrational arguments, locked in hearsay and incomplete information, but to that in a second.

See, a roster is a bit like a draft. You have your needs, but your greater goal is best overall talent. The argument that either Duckett or Forsett is "on the bubble", while Kyle Williams or Charlie Frye is "safe", simply because the team must have x number of running backs and y number of offensive tackles or quarterbacks defies not only common sense, but common practice. There's no one way to build a roster, not in the NFL, not in Seattle, and no well-run team will ditch better talent in favor of needs. Why then should Seattle cut Forsett or Duckett? Do they represent two of the least valuable players on Seattle's roster? Why, if Duckett is on such unstable footing, did he get a quarter+ snaps in each of Seattle's two preseason games?

He's not, and, sad to say, this "controversy" seems like pure media fabrication. To wit, I listened to this interview to audit this post by Frank Hughes. Upon further review, what a snow job interpretation. This is Mike Holmgren's answer about Duckett in its entirety. The question starts at 18:49 if you want to listen along.

Well it's, it's gonna be a tight call going down to the wire. T.J. comes in; clearly he has the ability to move the pile. And in short yardage situations, goal line situations, there's real value there.

I think he's a better than average pass blocker. So that - there's value there.

The problem is how to use him and when to use him and things like that. You have - and it's not his problem, it's the fact is we have, the pile is pretty big. Y'know, you got Morris, you have Jones and you have Weaver, but, y'know, TJ's a great guy. He's working hard and, uh, we'll just see how it plays out at the end. It's tha - the, the - a couple positions are going to be a real tough call at the end.

Interpret that as you will, but I challenge you to find more than praise and coach speak.

The second tier of the cut-Duckett argument centers on his 19 preseason rushes. And I know where the vitriol stems, it's as plain as paper, the vitriol stems from fans who either don't watch the games or watch them drunk or distracted. I'm not digging their fandom, one does not become a better or worse fan because they live outside the local broadcast. No, but fans who do not watch or do not watch attentively are often victims of hype and bad stats. I've talked hype, now let's cover bad stats.

Duckett's yards per rush is 1.9. An ugly number, no doubt, but a number that speaks more of Duckett's usage than ability. Of those 19 rushes, nine have come on short yardage downs. Most if not all against a stacked box. On those nine rushes, Duckett has been successful six times, gaining two yards on first and five, converting four first downs and scoring a touchdown. That's a 67% success rate in "power situations". Seattle as a team converted just 52% of power situations in 2007. Right off, nine of Duckett's 19 rushes are not only in situations where yards per attempt is reduced, but also meaningless. Go ahead and cut out three more attempts from Saturday's overtime victory. Duckett rushed three times starting from Chicago's 21, essentially to position the ball for Brandon Coutu.

That leave seven runs. Seven runs to build a case on. Seven runs and bollocks.

Sorry to take the piss out of this controversy. I know something had to supplant Bobby Engram's riveting holdout, but not only has Holmgren not bad mouthed Duckett, he praised him and seemed more concerned about finding him touches among the sure starters (Jones, Morris, Weaver) than cutting him. And not only has Duckett not played poorly, he's done exactly what was asked of him. I don't get it, isn't football exciting enough without all the TMZ drama?

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