Maurice Jones-Drew and 3 NFL RBs Who Will Take a Step Back in 2012
The 2011 season saw its share of backs falling off in production, and 2012 will be no different.
Players like Chris Johnson saw their number drop, while others like Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles missed significant amounts of time due to injury.
Big-money deals or freak injuries aren't always the reason for a downward trend—sometimes it's out of the player's hands.
With that in mind, some of last season's top performers will inevitably slide a bit.
Here's a look at who could take a step back.
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Don't get me wrong—this doesn't mean Jones-Drew will have a terrible season. However, the chances are he won't repeat as the league's leading rusher.
Mike Mularkey's arrival in Jacksonville and a full offseason for Blaine Gabbert's development should help a unit that ranked at, or near the bottom in most offensive categories.
Jones-Drew was Jacksonville's only real offensive weapon last season, but Justin Blackmon's arrival brings another option into the mix and could help open up their passing game.
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The 49ers did a lot of remodeling with their receiving corps this offseason. Drafting A.J. Jenkins and signing Mario Manningham and Randy Moss is evidence they want to get vertical with their passing game.
These moves could help their poor red-zone numbers from last season, which means Gore could see a drop in carries in that area.
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Tate nearly ran for 1000 yards last season, and he didn't even lead his own team in rushing.
Arian Foster is top dog in Houston, and while Tate is a solid second option in the backfield, he might not see the amount of opportunities he had last season.
The Texans defense was stellar last year, and it afforded them the luxury of leaning on their backs to pound the other team into submission. The loss of Matt Schaub also helped boost rushing numbers.
This season's schedule won't give them many opportunities to pound the ball.
Opponents with high-powered offenses like Green Bay, Detroit and New England will force the Texans into relying on their passing game to keep up.
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The Bears leaned on Forte a lot, and even more when they lost Cutler late in the season.
Forte was exceptional last season, considering how much he was being relied on to carry the offense.
That being said, having a top receiver like Brandon Marshall, who's familiar with Jay Cutler, could cause the Bears to look more towards the passing game to drive the offense.