1 Sunderland midfielder Charis Mavrias has joined Panathinaikos on loan for the remainder of the season.The 20-year-old, who arrived on Wearside from the Greek club in August 2013, returns after making just six senior appearances on Wearside to date.Greece international Mavrias scored his only goal for the club on January 25 last year, the winner in a 1-0 FA Cup fourth round victory over Kidderminster. Charis Mavrias in action for Sunderland
22Ezekiel ElliottDallas450.003 5Alvin KamaraNew Orleans330.007 4James ConnerPittsburgh170.45 1Royce FreemanDenver120.012 14Phillip LindsayDenver110.43 12Kapri BibbsWashington50.45 Expanding the sample to Elliott’s entire career doesn’t help his case either. Over his three years as a starter, Zeke led the league in rushing attempts in closeout situations with 158. But among running backs with 20 such attempts, he ranks just 26th in win probability added per play. For perspective, former teammate Alfred Morris ranks 13th in win probability added per play for the period — and he was running behind the same offensive line in Dallas for two of those three seasons.Closing out games is important, but it appears that draft pedigree really isn’t necessary to be effective in that role. Those critical runs can be performed by a reasonably priced specialist taken later in the draft or acquired in free agency. And if you need further proof, just feast your eyes on the 2018 win probability added of undrafted free agent Gus Edwards and quietly contemplate the abyss.Short-yardage running in the red zoneEffective running in the red zone, and especially at the goal line, is particularly valuable because this is the part of the field where passing is most difficult. As teams move downfield and get closer to the end zone, the field compresses and completion percentage drops. While the effect begins a little before the 30-yard line, leaguewide completion percentage drops from 57 percent to 48 percent2Based on data from 2009-2016. as teams move from their opponent’s 20 to the 3-yard line. This decrease in passing effectiveness puts a premium on being able to run successfully. Teams that can consistently move the ball on short-yardage runs in the red zone — or runs on which a first down or touchdown is no more than 3 yards away3Again excluding kneel-downs. — give themselves the opportunity to score touchdowns more often, and they tend to win more games.Last season, the Dallas Cowboys ranked 10th in red zone expected points added (EPA) per play on short-yardage runs in the red zone and 22nd in short-yardage success rate.4The rate of plays with a positive EPA. For a team that boasts one of the league’s better rushing attacks, these are far from elite numbers. For his part, Elliott ranked 16th in EPA per play and 28th in success rate among running backs with at least five short red zone rushes. Need to close out a game? Any running back will do.Win probability added (WPA) per rush for running backs with a minimum of five rushes to close out a game* in the 2018 regular season 5Aaron JonesGreen Bay60.70 2Isaiah CrowellNew York Jets70.010 12Devontae BookerDenver80.14 15Elijah McGuireN.Y. Jets110.09 RankplayerTeamrusheswpa 24Marlon MackIndianapolis130.08 3Nick ChubbCleveland250.010 21James ConnerPittsburgh170.25 25Doug MartinOakland120.04 13Derrick HenryTennessee150.44 16Derrick HenryTennessee230.005 25Jordan WilkinsIndianapolis120.002 19Jordan HowardChicago320.03 7C.J. AndersonLos Angeles Rams60.36 18David JohnsonArizona240.05 11Wendell SmallwoodPhiladelphia50.49 10Ty MontgomeryBaltimore70.006 Like we saw with runs to close out the game, Elliott again failed to distinguish himself from his lesser-drafted peers. Despite having nearly 40 pounds on Phillip Lindsay, Elliott was outpaced by the undrafted and diminutive Broncos back in both success rate and EPA per play on short red zone carries in 2018. And while the sample sizes here are small, Zeke’s career numbers aren’t much better. From 2016 to 2018, Zeke ranks 10th among qualifying5Ten or more carries to qualify. backs in success rate and 11th in EPA per play.Short-yardage runs in the open fieldFinally, we’ll look at plays that extend drives and help to break the opposing team’s spirit: short yardage runs in the open field, or outside the red zone. These plays represent situations in which the offense needs no more than 3 yards to convert a new set of downs. Based on historical averages, these are running battles that you would expect the offense to win — after all, 29 of 32 teams averaged more than 4 yards per attempt last year. And in fact that’s what we find: In 2018, NFL teams were successful on short runs in the open field 53 percent of the time. Last season the Cowboys were particularly adept at short yardage plays, ranking fourth in the league with a 62 percent success rate on 53 attempts. Zeke was responsible for 43 of those attempts — most in the NFL — and was successful 67 percent of the time, but that success rate was good for just 11th in the league. 24Kerryon JohnsonDetroit100.002 1Jordan WilkinsIndianapolis80.67 rankplayerteamrushesepa per play 3Alfred MorrisSan Francisco100.47 6Kenyan DrakeMiami110.007 RankPlayerTeamRushesepa per play 21Zach ZennerDetroit Lions180.004 23Tarik CohenChicago15-0.05 7James WhiteNew England250.007 1Melvin GordonLos Angeles Chargers51.35 4Adrian PetersonWashington70.71 17Adrian PetersonWashington470.005 In what is becoming an annual event, a high-profile running back is threatening a preseason holdout. On Monday, reports surfaced that Ezekiel Elliott will sit out training camp unless he gets a new contract from the Dallas Cowboys. Two days earlier, Melvin Gordon had announced a holdout from the Los Angeles Chargers and cited Elliott as an example of why running backs should command higher pay. Perhaps Zeke and his agent read Gordon’s comments and decided to strike while the iron is hot. Perhaps a holdout was always planned. Whatever the case, Elliott has made clear that he believes he’s underpaid and wants a new contract sooner rather than later.The holdout threat may have taken Dallas a bit by surprise. It’s not as if Zeke isn’t in line for competitive compensation. Dallas picked up Elliott’s fifth-year option in April, guaranteeing him nearly $9.1 million in 2020 — money that will make Elliott the fourth-highest-paid running back in the league that year. But Zeke’s focus is on 2019, not 2020. According to reports, Elliott believes that the Cowboys plan to use him heavily this season, and he wants a long-term deal in place as an insurance policy against injury.For their part, Dallas appears to want to keep Elliott around. Stephen Jones, Dallas director of player personnel, has indicated that signing Eliott to an extension is a team priority. In an odd bit of negotiating, Jones even set the floor for a deal at Todd Gurley’s recent contract — a contract that is currently the highest in the league at the position. Still, Elliott’s camp is betting they can leverage Zeke’s absence into an early deal, and based on their previous maneuvering, I’m betting that the Cowboys will cave.The question is: Why?In a league that is steadily paying less for running back production, capitulating to an Elliott holdout and making him the highest-paid ball carrier in the league would be a deeply contrarian move. According to data from Overthecap, the share of average team salary allocated to all rostered running backs has fallen from 6.8 percent of spending in 2013 to 4.5 percent in 2019.Even elite backs aren’t immune from feeling the pinch. Le’Veon Bell sat out all of last season expecting to make up his lost wages on the free-agent market. Instead he ended up settling for a contract with less average compensation per year than what he was initially offered by Pittsburgh. It’s been a slow, incremental change, but teams across the league have moved toward an asset allocation model that favors many low-priced specialists over an expensive three-down bell cow.Dallas already bucked the trend of devaluing running backs when they took Elliott with the fourth overall pick of the 2016 draft and then proceeded to give him 868 carries over his first three seasons. That, apparently, is just how the Cowboys are built. Jason Garrett is absolutely determined to “run the fucking ball.” But even if the Cowboys have fallen out of step with a league that believes paying “high first-round draft pick” money to a running back is gauche, it still pales in comparison to what will come next. Assuming the cap rises to $200 million in 2020,1The cap has gone up by roughly $10 million a season for the past six seasons. Zeke’s salary alone in his optioned fifth year will represent 4.5 percent of the Cowboy’s salary cap. If Zeke signs an extension before the 2020 season, his cap hit combined with the rest of Dallas’s spend at the running back position will likely be double the league average.Profligate spending and contrarianism aren’t proof of incompetence, of course. Elliott on paper seems to be quite good at his job — and his appeal to Dallas might seem warranted. In 2018, Zeke led the league with 1,434 rushing yards on a league-best 304 carries, over 16 percent more than second-place finisher Saquon Barkley (261). If Elliott is worth twice as many wins to a team as a replacement-level running back would be, he’s probably worth twice the money. The problem is that having Zeke on the field isn’t worth even half a win to the Cowboys. Eric Eager at Pro Football Focus estimates that Zeke’s production in 2018 was worth just 0.2 of a win above a replacement player.We know — and the Cowboys should, too — that rushing is not nearly as important to winning in the NFL as passing. But rushing is still a part of the game, and situational running is still critical. A back who excels in high-leverage spots can be quite valuable. It could be the case that Dallas believes it has an advantage in crucial moments with Zeke on the field that helps justify re-signing him.Examples of situational football are legion, but three in particular stand out as being important in the run game. If the Cowboys are valuing Zeke for the skills that most help the team — and not just for his number of carries over a season — we would expect him to be at or near the top in each of these categories, dominating the plebes drafted rounds after him or those plucked from the NFL scrapyard.Running to close out a gameFirst is the ability to run out the clock when you’re ahead and need to close out a game. Keeping the opposing offense off the field has obvious value when you’re protecting a lead late. In nerd parlance, successful running plays late have a relatively large positive effect on a team’s win probability.With this in mind, to measure a team’s ability to close out a game, we’ll use win probability added. WPA is a good metric for teasing out rushing value late in the game because it takes our best estimate for what a team’s chance of winning the game is on a particular play (based on the down, distance, yard line, score and time remaining) and then quantifies how much the actual outcome of a play either added or subtracted from that expectation. Teams that are good at rushing to close out games will have positive WPA.According to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group, the Cowboys were seventh in win probability added in 2018 on rushing attempts in the fourth quarter while they were ahead, excluding quarterback kneel-downs. Elliott carried the ball on the majority of those plays and had positive win probability added per play, which is good. But he was still just second on the team in average WPA behind quarterback Dak Prescott — and it wasn’t particularly close. Dak’s win probability added per play on 10 attempts was almost five times that of Zeke’s average WPA on 45 carries.When we zoom out and compared Zeke with all running backs across the league, the situation gets bleak. Elliott was 22nd among qualifying backs when running to close out a game, behind the likes of Royce Freeman, Isaiah Crowell and the 35-year-old remnants of Frank Gore. 15Joe MixonCincinnati130.42 17Justin JacksonLos Angeles Chargers80.06 18Kareem HuntKansas City110.27 19Wayne GallmanNew York Giants120.004 10Todd GurleyLos Angeles Rams270.49 4Frank GoreMiami130.007 14Alex CollinsBaltimore100.11 Even outside the red zone, Zeke isn’t elite in short situationsExpected points added (EPA) per play for running backs with a minimum of five open-field short-yardage attempts* during the 2018 season 9Lamar MillerHouston60.49 17Carlos HydeCleveland100.27 8Melvin GordonLos Angeles Chargers250.007 19Royce FreemanDenver110.27 12Spencer WareKansas City140.006 6Damien WilliamsKansas City70.38 9Todd GurleyLos Angeles Rams480.006 Red zone efficiency doesn’t require a big nameExpected points added (EPA) per play for running backs with a minimum of five short-yardage attempts* in the red zone during the 2018 season 11Jaylen SamuelsPittsburgh190.006 2Giovani BernardCincinnati51.28 * Rushes of 3 yards or less to go. Kneel-downs not included.Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group 10Ezekiel ElliottDallas430.16 * Rushes on plays outside the red zone with no more 3 yards to go for a first down. Kneel-downs not included.Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group 21Leonard FournetteJacksonville110.02 25Phillip LindsayDenver19-0.14 23Tarik CohenChicago90.003 3Marshawn LynchOakland51.06 7Chris CarsonSeattle180.59 5Corey ClementPhiladelphia70.44 6Alvin KamaraNew Orleans240.69 16Gus EdwardsBaltimore210.08 8Bilal PowellNew York Jets50.35 20Javorius AllenBaltimore50.26 15Mike DavisSeattle130.005 23Austin EkelerLos Angeles Chargers60.16 16Ezekiel ElliottDallas150.30 13Chris IvoryBuffalo150.13 11Melvin GordonLos Angeles Chargers190.15 24Jaylen SamuelsPittsburgh8-0.06 2Mike DavisSeattle140.48 14Justin JacksonLos Angeles Chargers150.005 20Jamaal WilliamsGreen Bay160.004 If you’re a person who believes running backs matter, this is a leaderboard that makes about as much sense as snake mittens. It’s true that of the three high-leverage rushing situations examined, this is clearly where Zeke shines brightest. But even here he’s outclassed by backs no one would mistake as Elliott’s equals. Former teammate Morris haunted Elliott yet again by leading the league last season with a 90 percent success rate on short-yardage open-field runs. Alf was trailed closely by Niner castoff and backup Seattle running back Mike Davis. Todd Gurley injury fill-in C.J. Anderson, displaced Jets starter Bilal Powell and Le’Veon Bell usurper James Conner round out the top five.What about the rest?Situationally, Zeke is profoundly average, but some perspective here is probably needed. Situational running, while important, is relatively rare. Around 5 percent of Elliott’s carries came in the red zone in 2018. Fifteen percent came in situations when the Cowboys were trying to close out the game, and 14 percent came on short-yardage runs in the open field. The majority of Zeke’s carries — about 65 percent — occurred in other situations. The problem is that those other situations turn out to be awful times to run the football.Zeke ran 182 times in the first three quarters of games in 2018 on first and second down with at least 4 yards to go — situations when teams shouldn’t be running very often to begin with. Probably the clearest illustration of this folly is shown using an analysis I stole from Timo Riske of Pro Football Focus. On early downs when the outcome of the game is still in doubt, winning teams pass more often than the eventual losers. 20Derrick HenryTennessee140.03 * In the fourth quarter while ahead. Kneel-downs not included.Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group 22Chris CarsonSeattle27-0.01 8Corey ClementPhiladelphia50.53 9Kerryon JohnsonDetroit110.22 13Gus EdwardsBaltimore320.005 22Matt BreidaSan Francisco 49ers80.19 18Jacquizz RodgersTampa Bay50.005 It sounds strange, but commanding bad rushing volume is really the only aspect of Elliott’s game that is truly elite. The Cowboys could believe that they have a generational talent at the running back position, and because of this faith, they overuse him.It’s that overuse that’s the problem. Extending Elliott is the manifestation of an objectively poor offensive strategy. It isn’t just a terrible idea because the valuable portion of Elliott’s production — the situational part — is easily replaced by nearly any back talented enough to make a Week 1 NFL roster. And an early extension isn’t just poor risk management because between 20 to 33 percent of high-volume running backs will incur a serious injury in a given year, though that is also certainly true.6Elliott was also suspended in 2017 for six games for domestic violence, and he would receive a mandatory ban if he violated the league policy again.The primary reason an investment in an overpriced, risky asset is truly awful is because it can impact play calling in the worst possible way. In an attempt to justify the overspend at the position, a team may be encouraged to run more and pass less. It’s the worst kind of curse, and the Cowboys seem eager to cast the hex on themselves.
WILMINGTON, MA — Jesse Fennelly, Jay Samaha, and incumbent Jo Newhouse are running for the three seats up for grabs in this year’s School Committee race.Despite running unopposed, Wilmington Apple felt it was important for readers to get to know the candidates a bit more. Wilmington Apple is asking the candidates weekly questions leading up to the April 27 Town Election.This week’s question: Describe your past & present involvement with Wilmington Public Schools and in the Wilmington community.Below are the candidates’ responses, in their own words:Jesse FennellyCurrently, I am a member of the Wilmington Historical Commission; a member of the Wilmington Democratic Town Committee; a member of the Board of Directors at WCTV; and served as campaign treasurer and adviser for David Robertson during his campaign to be our State Representative. All of these positions are things I am very proud of and very proud to be associated with. It allows me to be in touch with the community and give back the best way I can.As for my involvement with the schools, I have been closely following the School Committee for the past few years. I attended many of the community events and interviews during the superintendent search and was impressed with the diligence of all those involved. I was recently appointed to the Strategic Planning Committee that Dr. Brand formed, so I am working with others from the community, including teachers, administrators and other parents to chart the course the school department will take over the next few years. Serving on the Strategic Planning Committee has been an amazing experience. I’ve been able to witness firsthand the dedication and passion of many of our administrators and educators. I hope to have the opportunity to build on this as a member of the School Committee.Jesse FennellyJo Newhouse (Incumbent)It has been my privilege to serve on a myriad of volunteer and civic organizations since moving to Wilmington in 2005.I found it particularly gratifying to volunteer as a member of the Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SEPAC) for six years, and I served as co-chair of the Committee for three of the six years, until August 2018 when I was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the School Committee. On the SEPAC, I set the monthly agendas and researched special education issues to be addressed with the School Administration. I worked collaboratively with school administrators and volunteers to coordinate numerous workshops each year. These workshops educate, inform and support parents, school personnel and the community with regard to special education issues and services. The workshops included “Basic Rights In Special Education,” “An IEP for My Child,” “Anxiety in Elementary Children,” “Google Tools for Special Education” and “Understanding Dyslexia,” to name a few. As a SEPAC representative, I also attended numerous school open houses to discuss issues of concern with parents, teachers and administrators, and participated in the District Coordinated Program Review. With the support of the SEPAC Committee, I am proud to have been actively involved in making monthly support meetings available for guardians of students with special needs.In addition to being involved with the schools in an official capacity, I have enjoyed volunteering a good deal of time as a parent. I have volunteered regularly at the Wildwood, Woburn Street and North Intermediate Schools, to assist where needed, whether it be in the library or classrooms, covering lunches in the classroom, leveling books for classrooms, at field days or on field trips. Currently, I am proud to be the parent representative on the Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) team at the North Intermediate School.I served as the co-chair of the Wildwood PAC for three years, and I have been serving as the Enrichment Coordinator of the Northside PAC for the last three years. In this capacity I have organized numerous enrichment programs for the children and various teacher luncheons. I also have coordinated book fairs to raise money to purchase books for both the library and the classrooms to support the Readers Workshop curriculum.In the past, I volunteered as a member of the Homework Policy Committee, District Advisory Committee, Anti-Bullying Committee, and the Wildwood/Boutwell SAC. I have also served on multiple interview committees to evaluate and vet candidates for both teaching and administrative positions within the Wilmington School District.My volunteer activities have extended beyond the School system, to the Wilmington Community at large. For example, I have served as the treasurer of Local Heroes, a wonderful organization that supports our active military personnel, veterans and their families in a variety of ways. I also served as a board member and treasurer of the Women of Wilmington (“WOW”) organization, before it transformed into the We’re One Wilmington, and for a time, I served as the Wilmington Mom’s Club president. Last, but certainly not least, my husband and I are proud supporters of Autism Speaks and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.Thank you for the opportunity to share my past and present involvement in the Wilmington community.Jo NewhouseJay SamahaMy wife, Amanda and I moved to Wilmington in 2011 with our twins, Nick and Avis. Since that time we have grown to love Wilmington and all that it offers. We have enjoyed a variety of activities such as Fun on the Fourth, the Memorial Day Parade, the Wilmington 5K and Half-Marathon, and School Concerts. Wilmington has been very open and welcoming and that is one of the reasons I have so much pride in my town.One of the reasons we moved to Wilmington was because of full day kindergarten and the CARES before and after-school program. Nick and Avis participated and enjoyed Cares from kindergarten at the Wildwood School to fifth grade at the North Intermediate School.My children have been active in town sports and other programs. When my son, Nick, was in first grade I volunteered to coach his T-Ball team. I continued to coach, along with my wife, my daughter, Avis, in both in-town soccer, travel soccer, town recreational basketball, and Wilmington Travel Basketball. My son was involved in Cub Scout pack 361 for 5 years and crossed over to BSA Troop 136. During scouting I volunteered on numerous field trips and events.Most recently I was a member of the Wilmington Middle School Principal Search Committee. This experience gave me great insight into the schools and is one of the driving forces behind my run for school committee.Jay SamahaLike Wilmington Apple on Facebook. Follow Wilmington Apple on Twitter. Follow Wilmington Apple on Instagram. Subscribe to Wilmington Apple’s daily email newsletter HERE. Got a comment, question, photo, press release, or news tip? Email email@example.com.Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading… RelatedA VOTER’S GUIDE To The Wilmington School Committee RaceIn “Government”SCHOOL COMMITTEE NOTEBOOK: 5 Things That Happened At Recent School Committee MeetingIn “Education”VIDEO: School Committee Member Jo Newhouse Discusses Her Campaign With WCTVIn “Videos”