I was one of the people in full support of retaining Ryan Grant on the roster. Remember that pre-season debate? I was on his side because I was still recovering from the first 13 games of last season, when it was a backfield of Brandon Jackson, FB John Kuhn, and Dmitri Nance (whom we signed off Atlanta's PS). Injuries happen quick to running backs, and injuries hampered Starks all season. Finally, he was ready to play, and wow, he did play or what. He really saved our season.
I was a bit concerned that Grant was going to be sluggish coming off the surgery and a long layoff, and I surely he was. But I then thought it was just rust. Turns out it wasn't.
Ryan Grant simply looks slow on the field. He's not making hard cutbacks, not accelerating through the hole, and hasn't gotten the edge one time all season. That shows in his 3.6 YPC average (for comparison Starks is at 4.5, Leaue leader is Murray at 5.7). That's good for 7th worst average for backs who qualify on ESPN.com. Also, his longest rush of the season is 14 yards. That says something about what's happened to his burst and speed.
And just for kicks, a more advanced stat from Football Outsiders shows Grant's DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) that shows running backs' production in similar situations against similar defenses. Under backs with 18-95 rushes, Grant is -2% while mediocre backs like Earnest Graham and Joseph Addai are +18.8 and +6.5% (a negative % means below average, positive obviously is above average).
Grant was "the man" in the backfield for us 2 years ago, but now I'm saying we can't really use him that much. I'm ready to start giving the rookie Brandon Saine the workload that Grant currently carries. Don't give it to him all at once, but we've seen Saine get a few touches last week and he can get a few more on Sunday. He looks a heck of a lot faster than Grant out there, he certainly has far more playmaking ability.
I think this is the right time to do it, because it's not yet the playoffs where he would be nervous being put in for the first time, but it's late in the season, around the time we brought Starks on. Saine will have fully fresh legs now, and will still be fresh if we're once again in the Super Bowl.
What do you guys say? More Saine, Less Grant?