Just over a year ago, I asked for the good readers here at Bolts From the Blue to give an approval rating on the Chargers runningback. To my surprise, Mike Tolbert ended up with the highest approval rating of any player that I did an approval rating post for. That includes Philip Rivers. A year later some things have changed.
The first thing that's changed is his contract status. Last year he was a restricted free agent, this year he'll be an unrestricted free agent. Because of the lockout teams didn't even get a chance to bid on restricted free agents last offseason, but this year Tolbert's services will be offered up to the highest bidder (barring a lucrative contract extension offered by the Chargers before March 13). So, one could interpret the poll that follows as a way to say, "Yes, I approve of the way Mike Tolbert is handing his job as a Chargers Runningback and I'd like to have him back next year."
The other thing that changed is his production. In 2010, Tolbert and fellow RB Ryan Mathews both had 5 fumbles on the season. This year he cut that down to only 2 fumbles over 175 touches vs. those 5 over 207 touches in 2010. Those touches numbers also show that he was used less. However, it resulted in 923 yards in 2011 vs. 951 the previous season, which isn't that big of a difference. DVOA-wise that came out to -0.8% for 2011 vs. -1.9% in 2011. Those negative numbers look bad, but considering that he's a backup RB, a special teams standout and the best pass backfield pass protector, it's not bad to be a little below average with the ball in his hands. Plus, sometimes that's not all his fault, it's 3rd and 10 and the only successful outcome is to get those 10 yards, he's being set up to fail more times than not.
Offensively, Tolbert is not a standout. He's solid. He does make some special teams tackles on kick coverage and he's able to do pass protection. But, when RBs that have back-to-back years with double digit touchdown numbers and almost 1,000 combined yards per season as a primary backup, they tend to expect a big raise. Can the approval rating stay as high when we consider the idea of paying Mike Tolbert a heftier wage?
#35 / Fullback / San Diego Chargers
Nov 23, 1985
|2011 - Mike Tolbert||15||121||490||32.7||4||40||8||54||433||28.9||8||27||2|