The NFL's Stud/Dud Running Backs of 2008
It's time to analyze one of the most important positions of an NFL team; the running back.
The 2008 season was filled with plenty of fantasy standouts, but also had it's fair share of major letdowns. There were plenty of rookies who had outstanding debuts, but not exactly the ones you expected. Along with that came the all-pros who continued to do what they do best.
I'm here to break down the ten running backs who stood out from all the rest. Some brought attention by racking up yards and touchdowns week after week. Others caught our eye by severely dropping off from their usual output. Either way, they gave us plenty to talk about.
While there will no doubt be snubs on either side, here, now, are my picks for the ten studs and duds of 2008.
Many running backs go through the ol' sophomore slump after an outstanding rookie year. Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson must have missed that memo.
Peterson led the league with 1,760 rushing yards and still displays easily the best breakaway speed in the NFL. He also happened to average 110 yards per game and ten touchdowns.
There was a slight setback with his ability to hold on to the ball. He had the most fumbles of any running back, with nine total drops. However, leading the league in rushing yards usually helps people forget these things.
Regardless, Peterson is one of, if not the biggest reason why the Vikings won the NFC North, and he has quite a future in front of him.
Last offseason, the Bengals felt strongly enough about fourth year back Chris Perry that they traded Rudi Johnson and deemed Perry their starter.
Unfortunately, the move did not pan out as the Bengals planned.
In just six starts, Perry could only rack up 269 yards and two touchdowns. His Achilles heel, however, was his inability to hang on to the ball. Perry had five fumbles in those six starts, and lost three of them.
Unsure of their rushing situation, the Bengals signed Chicago Bears outcast Cedric Benson, who performed well under the circumstances. His performance leaves quite the cloud of doubt over Perry's future with the team.
Stud—DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart
Meet the newest deadly rushing tandem of the NFL. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, or Smash and Dash, added a whole new level to the Carolina offense.
Already dangerous with receiver Steve Smith on the field, these two made the Panthers' offense one of the best in the league.
Williams finished the regular season with 1,515 yards and 18 touchdowns. That alone is great, but then Stewart complimented it with his own line of 836 yards and ten trips to the end zone. Not bad for a rookie backup.
With a revitalized Jake Delhomme throwing to Smith or handing it to Williams and Stewart, the Panthers are going to be tough for anyone to stop.
Dud—Fred Taylor/Maurice Jones-Drew
Speaking of rushing tandems, one of last year's most prominent had a slight dropoff this time around.
To be fair, Maurice Jones-Drew had a pretty good season, with 824 yards and 12 touchdowns.
But, in order to be a good tandem, both backs need to be at their best, and Fred Taylor had a rough go of it. He saw a significant decrease in both carries and yards, and after several years of defying his age, he might now be reaching the end of his road.
Again, this was not to say Jones-Drew was a notable dud, more the tandem itself. It should be noted the two ran for a combined 53 yards against the Cleveland Browns, arguably one of the worst rush defenses in the game. That's never a good sign.
Let's face it, nobody really thought LenDale White could be Tennessee's franchise man all by himself. In order to compliment his bruising, fullback style, they drafted Chris Johnson from East Carolina.
From there, Johnson showed the world just how fast he really is. He sped up and down the field, finishing the regular season with 1,228 yards and nine touchdowns.
With Johnson and White, the Titans were finally able to show off some offense to go along with their top ranked defense. Now imagine if they had an all-pro receiver to throw to...
Easily the biggest standout of the 2008 draft class, Darren McFadden had a rookie season that was average at best. His week two performance against Kansas City left many believing he had arrived, yet he had a few injury setbacks that kept him from really breaking out.
He finished the season with 499 yards and four touchdowns, which isn't bad, but there was much more expected from him. Of course, being on the Oakland Raiders might not have helped matters either. Anything that was involved with Al Davis in 2008 most likely ended in a train wreck.
I do feel that this season won't define McFadden's career, though. If the Raiders ever do get the ship turned in the right direction, look for McFadden to become prominent.
Part of the reason the Miami Dolphins shocked the world with their worst-to-first routine was the use of their college style offense, known by the league as the Wildcat package.
This had running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams taking nearly half the snaps at quarterback and running various option plays.
The result was an all-out drubbing of division rival New England, followed by the unthinkable—winning the AFC East. It also turned Ronnie Brown into the ultimate all-purpose back. Brown not only rushed for 916 yards and ten touchdowns, but also threw for a touchdown as well.
As if that wasn't enough, the Wildcat formation also helped troubled running back Ricky Williams get back on track. After bouncing in and out of the NFL due to various drug violations, Williams rushed for 659 yards and four touchdowns. Not bad for a player many thought was finished a couple years ago.
Last year, Jamal Lewis proved all of his critics wrong by rushing for over 1,000 yards and looking like he was back on top of his game.
This year, he fell back again. Although he rushed for 1,002 yards, it was much more quiet than usual. There were no standout games, nor were there any long touchdown runs.
In fact, he didn't have one game of over 100 yards. This led many to believe that 2007 was more fluke than it was a preview of coming attractions.
He'll no doubt be back with Cleveland next year. However, with a rough year like this, will he still be the franchise back, or will the Browns try to go younger in the draft?
Many critics wondered if the Atlanta Falcons were making the right move signing San Diego backup Michael "The Burner" Turner as their franchise rusher. Anyone thinking that now?
Last year, as LaDainian Tomlinson's backup, Turner had 316 yards and one touchdown. This year, Turner gained 1,699 on the ground with 17 touchdowns, a slightly noticeable turnaround.
Turner spent the majority of 2008 proving why he's indeed "The Burner," and, combined with solid play from rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, the Falcons surprised many with a wild card playoff berth.
Even though the team was eliminated by the Arizona Cardinals, Turner helped to successfully revitalize a franchise that was in the dumps just a year ago.
After two straight impressive seasons, many fantasy owners jumped to make Joseph Addai their star player. Those same owners probably didn't win their league.
Addai finished the season with only 544 yards and five touchdowns. In his defense, he played hurt for the majority of the season. However, he was facing incredibly lofty expectations this year, and failed to even remotely approach them.
Addai's struggles were part of the reason the Indianapolis Colts suffered early season trouble, and had Peyton Manning not been the quarterback, the team might not have recovered.
However, Addai could still turn it around next season, and with such a severe drop off in numbers this year, it shouldn't be too hard.