The first waves of the NFL free agency period are over. Of the remaining players left available, T.J. Yeldon is one of the best out there.
The NFL free agency period has seen a number of key free agents come off the board. A number of them have been running backs, but one, in particular, remains available. Former Jacksonville Jaguars RB T.J. Yeldon provides the necessary skill set to complement nearly any NFL offense. He would be best utilized as a one-two punch with another featured back with the ability to take on lead duties when necessary. His period in free agency should not last much longer.
Yeldon has been a great dual-threat running back in a hybrid Air Coryell offense. The basic Air Coryell offense is a vertical scheme the Jaguars have run the last few years. It includes a simple two to three read max for quarterbacks and power running. Leonard Fournette was more the power back as Yeldon came in mostly for outside run schemes. Many passing plays set for him can be a check down during a vertical pass play.
Yeldon did have times where he did power through the tackles. Standing at six foot one and 223 pounds, he does not power through defensive players. Instead, he will slip through small gaps and run wisely by being patient and capitalizing on any gap he is given.
In the first clip, Yeldon has a gap the size of a mouse hole in the wall. He manages to slide his body laterally and makes himself small in the hole. Yeldon is then able to break through the initial hole and break outside. The smaller body physique allows him to also explode and not worry about any defender trapped in the hole to catch him too.
In the second clip, Yeldon notices the initial gap that was supposed to open up in time. Instead of forcing himself into the gap, he jumps to the left and finds a hole to break through for 6 yards. A problem though, as spotted in the red circle, is his inability to keep his feet in a good position. His feet will go outside of his shoulder width distance and can cause him to lose balance easily. This slows him down in the process and can cause his jukes to not be as fluid or successful.
Yeldon is a better runner outside the tackles because he is capable to utilize his speed.
In this first run outside the tackles, Yeldon slowly and patiently watches the gap open then explodes around the corner. Once again, Yeldon’s footwork causes him to lose his footing and lose his balance. Otherwise, this was a great run where Yeldon reads the blocks and used them to his advantage.
In the second clip, Yeldon keeps his footwork smooth on this attempt and jumpcuts to show his agility and bounce as he rolls off his receivers’ block. The blocks allowed Yeldon to bounce outside and was one defender away from breaking away.
Not only is he a decent young speed back, but he is also a great route runner. Yeldon flourished in the vertical offense in Jacksonville. Although the Jaguars had simple reads for Blake Bortles and he had help with Donte Moncrief and Dede Westbrook, Yeldon’s check downs were crucial to this offense.
With many vertical routes and crossing patterns, most defensive backs would drop into deep quarters or halves while the linebackers would either follow their receiver or drop into hook curls. This opened up many routes for Yeldon within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Yeldon was capable to run great in-and-out routes, swing routes, screens, and check downs.
In this clip, the Jaguars come in a trips right formation. The Jaguars decided to run 3 seams including one down the hash marks in order to cause the defensive backs and safeties to fall back. The last receiver runs a drag route in order to open up the flats represented by the blue square. This causes Yeldon’s out route to be wide open and his above average hands and speed do the rest for a touchdown.
The Jaguars decide to run the same play except in a spread left closed formation. The same strategy appears as the flats are wide open and Yeldon was Bortles number one read. Bortles looks off the defenders then has Yeldon all alone for an easy catch and run that results in a big gain.
Yeldon is a great dual-threat running back that can be more useful more in a pass-heavy offense. His 4 seasons in Jacksonville led him to 1,872 yards off of 465 rushes (4.0 yards/attempt) and 171 receptions for 1,302 yards (7.6 yards/reception). A decent blocker but does not block too much and may need support with his footwork. However, a 25-year-old running back with many good qualities can be helpful in a pass-heavy league.