David M. Hale ESPN Staff Writer
Is Deshaun Watson running less this year?
Through 4 games in 2015, Watson had 35 rushes, not counting sacks. Through 4 games this season, he has 33. Doesn't seem like much of a change, but here's why that's actually a huge difference…
In 2015, Clemson's offense had run 289 plays through four games. This year, that number is 323. In addition, just six of Watson's rushes last season were a scramble (as opposed to a designed run), while nine have been this year.
When accounting for those differences, Watson ran by design once every 10 offensive plays last year. This year, he's doing so every 14 plays, or approximately 40 percent less.
And while Watson is running less often, he's also running less effectively. Last year, he averaged 5.94 yards per run through four games. This year, just 4.03 — a 32 percent drop. That can almost entirely be explained by the offensive line. Watson's yards-per-rush (not counting sacks) average before contact has been cut nearly in half, from 4.09 per carry to 2.24.
Taken together, Watson's overall rushing production — fewer attempts, less yards-per-rush — is down about 43 percent from the first four games of last season.