James struggles in short-yardage situations

Updated: December 3, 2003, 9:58 AM ET
By By Ryan Early | NFL Insider
It may come as a shock, considering how many chances the Colts give him, but Edgerrin James has always been considered a poor short-yardage back. Until this year that is.

Edgerrin James
Edgerrin James has struggled in short yardage situations and it cost the Colts on Sunday.
The league average on short yardage rushing attempts (defined as 3rd and 4th downs with two or fewer yards to go, or goal line carries from the 2-yard line or closer) is 33 percent. Or one out of every three times a running back will convert that play into a first down or a touchdown. The best backs in the league convert those attempts about half the time.

Last season, Priest Holmes led the league with a 53 percent conversion rate. Short yardage specialists like Moe Williams (50 percent) and Zack Crockett (46 percent) were also among the league leaders. But Edgerrin James only converted 20 percent of his short yardage attempts. In 2001, before he went down with his knee injury, James converted just 16 percent.

James never tries to jump over the pile, and he rarely tries to go wide if there's no hole immediately in front of him. Instead he gets low, looking to power his way through the line. This season he has had a lot more success on his short yardage runs. Before this week's game against the Patriots, James had converted 16 of 26 attempts, for a huge 61.5 percent success rate. His interior offensive linemen have been better this year at moving the line of scrimmage, and he has also been aided by having fullback Detron Smith and tight ends Joe Dean Davenport and Dallas Clark helping out in short yardage situations.

But against the Patriots the wheels came off the Colts jumbo package.