There is so much to look at in a running game. So much to consider in details, so much to see in terms of plays made that are so close to failure, but here, in this article, we will take away most of that detail and compare two great runners and how they specifically helped their running offenses succeed.
Now we will just compare the runners straight up with all the offensive line and stuff out of the way and I have four basic areas I looked at when judging them. Let's start with Curt Warner
1. Athleticism: Warner separates by a large margin here. His speed and agility are off the charts. I definitely admit Warner is more fun to watch because of this. He has one of the most wicked spin moves I have ever seen
2. Vision And Decision Making: Rarely gets caught in between, he sees a hole and attacks fast and his decisions are solid and quick and help extend good blocking and can help a broken play work by seeing and reacting to a bad block before it becomes a disaster.
3. One On One Vs The Defenders: Not really a dynamic tackle breaker he tended to take an angle and try to outrun a tackle. He doesn't have the power you'd typically want in short yardage but his lack of size was not a huge liability because of his quickness.
4. Play Making: His speed and vision allowed him to become a scary sight in the second level, it's typical to see defenders look frozen, as if unsure of which way to take Warner on and by the time they make the choice they look like they're throwing themselves at him trying to get in his way.
So now we bring in Shaun Alexander and I have to tell you, I found myself scratching my head a little with my own perceptions of this guy. Watching his game outside of being a fan, there are some things I really didn't appreciate and a few things I found aggravating. So let's break down his game.
1. Athleticism: Not very fast or agile, he's every bit his 4.55 combine number. He does a lot of his good work with unbelievable power. His ability to change direction in the second level without slowing down made him a nightmare to bring down for anyone. He has solid balance and great foot work that allows him to instantly change his momentum into short bursts of speed when he needs it.
2. Vision And Decision Making: Very solid football IQ, probably one of the most aware runners I've ever watched. He's always aware of his blockers and defenders, somehow always able to get an angle on a defender or setting up an angle so Mack Strong could get a better shot at a guy. Never late using good blocking and that allows him to turn shorter big gains into 40 and 88 yard runs.
3. One On One Vs The Defenders: Shaun shines here, it's the best part of his game. Though I'm sure some would disagree and that's where the perception comes from. When he breaks tackles it's not violent and therefore it's not memorable, but he often took them on in a way that allowed their own momentum to break the tackles for him. This is why you'd see guys slipping off of him like he had oil on his jersey, especially those helpless safeties in the redzone.
4. Play Making: Shaun was a little indecisive in both 2002 and 2003 logging 41 and 38 negative plays and most of the 38 in 2003 are on plays in which he gets himself caught up by trying to out think the flow of the defense. When plays break down he's not as good early as he eventually becomes though. When the offense is heaped on his shoulders in 2004 and 2005 and defenses start playing the run first Shaun puts up his best statistical years and his least numbers of negative plays.
Comparison And Conclusion:
Shaun and Curt are both high IQ guys, they don't miss big plays and always seem to be patient despite early failure or even mostly failing throughout a game. They both seem able to make big plays whenever they are presented by blocking. Warner and Alexander have opposing athletic skill sets, but both are physically dominating with their available tools. In one on one situations Shaun wins, but that doesn't mean Warner lacks ability he needs, just a component worth noting for the final analysis. In play making skill, Warner wins this battle because of Shaun's slow start to becoming good at it, though if we compared them during both their peak years it seems close to even.
So who the hell wins? In my own opinion that really depends on what you need. If you need a simple basic running game that depends on a runner to keep you on time Alexander is probably your best bet for a simple man to man blocking scheme. He's not really built for much else.
If you're looking for a guy that can provide a big spark and hit a few homeruns a game, Curt Warner is going to be your option. Warner's speed also presents a few more problems for the defense and so you can probably utilize toss plays more effectively. Also, he's probably the ideal fit for the flexibility of a zone blocking scheme, but in a man to man blocking scheme he would have some definite struggles.
So that wraps it up and I look forward to the debate and your questions. I tried to somewhat limit the scope of my article because, well, I'm a nerd for this stuff and I could go on and on forever. Also, please let me know if there is some historical topics you'd like me tackle with the Seahawks. I'm a little short on ideas. Thanks guys.