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Spotlight: Isaac Redman

posted by Heath Cummings on Jul 19th


Heath Cummings's thoughts

You'll be hard pressed to find someone with a wider range of possible outcomes in 2012 than Isaac Redman. The third year running back out of Bowie State will most likely begin the year as the primary back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, from that point there are a lot of questions and very few answers.

When does Rashard Mendenhall return and what does that mean to Isaac Redman? Mendenhall has been extremely positive this offseason while seemingly everyone else speculates that he'll begin the season on the PUP list. If you choose to believe everyone else, then you believe Redman has at least 6 weeks to establish himself as a starting running back, which should be plenty of time for Redman to prove his worth. The Steelers do not have a daunting early season schedule, and their two easiest games against the run come in weeks five and six, just before Mendenhall could first return.

I was not overly impressed with Mendenhall in 2011 and wonder if the Steelers felt the same considering how much they passed the ball. His return would definitely cut into the playing time for Redman, but there is no guarantee that their roles would return to what they were in 2011. In terms of questions about Isaac Redman in 2012, I rate this one pretty low.

Will Todd Haley's offense allow Redman the opportunity to succeed? Redman is a power runner that likes to move north and south. That style serves him well in short yardage and goal line situations, but it's easy to wonder how it will play in what is expected to be a pass heavy Steelers attack. Even the plan for the Steelers is in question. With Haley coming as offensive coordinator one would expect the Steelers to throw the ball a lot, as they did last season. On the other hand, both Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin have talked about the teams need to establish a physical running attack again this offseason and their draft focus on offensive linemen lends credence to that point.

What is probably more important to Redman's success is whether the Steelers offense can get the ball into the red zone. His running style will play very well inside the 20, and if the Steelers are consistently moving into the red zone, he should score plenty of points regardless of how many carries he gets between the 20s. Ben Roethlisberger is the best quarterback Haley has had since Kurt Warner, and that offense scored a lot of points. I think his arrival in Pittsburgh will be good for everyone on the Steelers offense.

Even with opportunity, does Isaac Redman have what it takes to be a starting running back in the NFL? Redman was an undrafted free agent that didn't even get a carry in 2009. He's a short yardage back that didn't have a touchdown until last season. Even with the opportunity, is he any good? The answer to this could very easily come in his last two games of 2011. Redman ran for 213 yards and a touchdown in his last two games, including the Wild Card match up against the Denver Broncos. While he probably won't average the 7.1 yards per carry he did against the Broncos, his career average is 4.5, which is better than the back he is replacing.

What works even more in Redman's favor is the lack of competition he'll be facing for touches. Jonathan Dwyer and Chris Rainey are his main competition at this point, and they've combined for 25 career touches. Maybe more than any other back over the first half of the season, Redman will for the most part have the backfield to himself.

Positives

  • All signs point to Rashard Mendenhall missing at least 50% of the season, and Redman faces very little competition for carries until he returns
  • His power running style works very well in short yardage meaning he should be able to cash in on what could be a lot of scoring opportunities
  • The Steelers offensive line has been revamped and should be improved over 2011

Negatives

  • You could be drafting a running back that is back to getting 5-8 touches a game by week 7
  • The Steelers threw the ball a lot last year and then added an offensive coordinator that likes to throw it even more
  • Redman is only 3 years and 163 carries removed from being a back that no one thought was worth drafting

Final thoughts

The biggest factor in all of this for me is that Redman is going to be a feature back in an offense that I expect will move the ball consistently. He's going to get the 1st and 2nd down carries and he's going to get the goal line action. When you look at the running backs being drafted in his range (Roy Helu, Shonn Greene, Jahvid Best, Chris Wells) none of them are without questions and none of them figure to get as many touches on an offense as prolific as the Steelers.

Even if Mendenhall returns mid-year, if Redman has been successful, they will be splitting carries and it will be Redman getting the ball inside the 20s. I like him as a low end RB2 that could turn into more.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

BigSteelThrill said:

Redman is going to be large. Willie Parkers breakout season-type of large. The same team that saw Mendehall rushing sub 3.99 yards a carry the past two seasons combined... saw Redman average 4.82 for almost 900 yards including a boatload of short yardage carries. Now lets add in David DeCastro and Kansas Citys Todd Haley.

He runs with a ton of heart and determination. He is the anti Rashard Spinthenfall, as he almost always makes quick forward running decisions that see him fight hard for the extra yard, deliver blows to the defenders and fall forward. At the same time he doesnt contain breakaway speed.

He is limited in his athleticism, as marked by his long run of 32 yards. He won't be a big time receiving back, even though he matched Rashards 18 catches in limited use, but may get some extra pass offense time if he handles the blocking duties. What Parker did initially in fantasy with speed, Redman will deliver with power. Including the goal line looks.

The biggest issue, will Rashard come back in 2012? If so a ton of question surround him. Already not known as physical runner by any stretch (despite his size) the ACL surgery could make him gunshy, at least early on and he is expected to spend 6 weeks on the PUP. Rashard is in the last year of his contract and with Pittsburgh's foreseeable cap situation this could be his last year in black and gold. While the team may have some dedication to Mendenhall, Redman should make that subject moot.

PhantomJB said:

I'm pretty bullish on Redman individually but hesitant to draft him too early due to RBBC risk. This is driven by two primary concerns:

1) Last year, in week 5 when Redman started in place of Mendenhall (against TEN), he split carries with Dwyer almost equally and Dwyer got the big 80yard run. The split in carries was 15/49 (Redman) and 11/107/1 (Dwyer). Obviously it was only one game and there's been a change in OC but still it was the only game Redman started IIRC...

2) Speaking of change in OC, I also recall Haley's recent RB shenanigans in KC with T.Jones and J.Charles. It seems that once he locks onto an RBBC strategy he stubbornly sticks to it regardless of talent level.

All comments are welcome on the RBBC risk since if Redman becomes a bell cow like Mendenhall then there's a pretty high ceiling for this guy.

5-ish Finkle said:

Redman has never impressed me as anything other than a short yardage runner(he's very good at that). He's being given the starting job here by default. He may well be in a committee even before Mendenhall returns, since Dwyer/Batch/Rainey will likely receive work as well, we don't really know yet. He'll get almost zero work as a receiver either. He's been apt to put the ball on the ground at times. When healthy Mendenhall is absolutely a more dangerous runner and receiver and is probably a better blocker too. So, in the long term everything isn't coming up roses for Redman from where I sit.

He'll certainly get the goal line work in Mendenhall's absence and will certainly have value, but anyone taking him as someone to rely on for the entire season is potentially whistling past the graveyard. He is a guy that I would be hoping starts quick so I could trade him around week 4 or 5 before that Steeler running back situation potentially turns into a giant cluster eff when Mendenhall is eligible to come off he PUP.

I can't see Ike topping 1,000 yards or getting double digit touchdowns unless Mendenhall misses the entire season. Redman's ultimate value for '12 is completely tied to the health of another player so it makes it almost impossible to give a meaningful projection. If he gets 250 touches can he get 1,000-1,100 total yards with 7-8 TDs? I could see it I guess, but I'd be inclined to let some other guy take the risk that he sees that volume of touches.

treat88 said:

One thing to keep in mind in this situation is that Mendenhall's contract is up post 2012. Personally, I think it is a near lock the Steelers let Mendenhall walk versus hook him up with [a second contract].

If Ike performs capably in his 6-8 game audition to open the season I can absolutely see the Steelers committing to him as their lead back regardless of Mendenhall's health. If Redman is healthy and performing even reasonably well, the extent to which Mendenhall gets worked back into the mix may very well be determined by the Steelers W-L record as much as Mendenhall's actual recovery. If they are winning, I doubt there will be any impetus to make a switch.

Redman is not nearly the athlete that Mendenhall is, but his vision at the LOS and his ability to generate yards after contact is unequivocally superior to Mendenhall. His "propensity" to fumble as mentioned above is limited to 1 fumble in 2010 and 2 in the final game of the season in 2011 where he went 19 for 92 and a touch. I don't see a sample size large enough to label him one way or the other in respect to fumbling to date. Additionally, I think he has proven a reasonably capable receiver out of the backfield. He caught an equal number of balls to Mendenhall despite being on the field far less in 2011.

If he is given a full complement of carries, I absolutely believe he will perform enough to grab the lead back role for 2012 and likely keep the job going into 2013. I don't see any likelihood that Dwyer/Rainey/Batch/Clay represent any type of deterrent to Redman's touches short or long term.


Isaac Redman projections

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