5 NFL Running Backs Set to Dominate Week 2

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 14, 2012

5 NFL Running Backs Set to Dominate Week 2

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    Three rookie running backs lead a group ready to dominate on the ground in Week 2 of the 2012 NFL season. Two of these first-year runners enjoyed solid starts to their debut campaigns in Week 1, while the other found the going tough, save for one highlight-worthy play.

    These three youngsters are joined by two veterans, one who is returning from a serious injury, anxious to prove he can still overwhelm any NFL defense.

    The other is a workhorse who was often forgotten in a pass-first offense on his previous team.

    Here are the five running backs primed to have big games in Week 2.

Doug Martin: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Giants

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    Diminutive workhorse Doug Martin enjoyed a fine first outing as a pro last week. He rushed for 95 yards on 24 carries, helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers produce a mild upset against the Carolina Panthers.

    Martin's consistent production between the tackles was the key to the Buccaneers winning the time of possession battle and keeping Cam Newton off the field. He could enjoy a similar level of success against the New York Giants this week.

    Big Blue's defensive front was soft against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1. It allowed DeMarco Murray to rush for 131 yards on 20 carries, despite running behind a weakened Cowboys offensive line.

    The G-Men have injury issues at defensive tackle and still look shaky at inside linebacker. That's a bad combination against a back with Martin's power.

    The Buccaneers have a stellar offensive line, particularly along the inside. Guard Carl Nicks and center Jeremy Zuttah can dominate the Giants interior and create plenty of lanes for Martin to exploit.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals

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    The performance of BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the only positive from the Cincinnati Bengals' woeful showing against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1. The former New England Patriot took just one game to prove he is good enough to carry the load as a featured back.

    Green-Ellis rushed for 91 yards on 18 carries, gaining 5.1 yards per carry against a rugged Ravens defensive front. Green-Ellis has always been a tough runner who excels at gaining extra yards after first contact.

    Against Baltimore, he also displayed a quick first step and the ability to spot and take advantage of any extra creases on a play. The Cleveland Browns defense is solid against the pass, but its weakness is defending the run.

    The defense ranked 30th against the rush in 2011, surrendering a whopping 147.4 yards per game. Things don't appear much better this season, after Philadelphia Eagles star LeSean McCoy gained 110 yards on 20 carries last week.

    If the Bengals are smart, they'll turn Green-Ellis loose against their AFC North rivals on Sunday.

Alfred Morris: Washington Redskins at St. Louis Rams

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    Exactly how does Mike Shanahan find so many talented running backs in the draft's late rounds? Whatever the secret, the Washington Redskins head coach appears to have pulled off the trick again with 2012 sixth-rounder Alfred Morris.

    The ex-Florida Atlantic starter followed up a spectacular preseason by rushing for 96 yards on 28 carries against the New Orleans Saints. The 5'10", 218-pounder also powered in for two touchdowns.

    His tough-running prevented the Saints defense from focusing everything on rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and helped the Redskins control the clock in New Orleans. Morris could experience similar joy against the St. Louis Rams.

    The rebuilding NFC West outfit owned the second-worst rush defense in football last season. The Rams still operate the kind of 4-3 front that the Redskins' zone-rushing scheme is designed to exploit.

    If Washington's offensive line can seal the edges against rush ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long, Morris could enjoy a huge game.

Adrian Peterson: Minnesota Vikings at Indianapolis Colts

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    It was impossible not to be impressed by Adrian Peterson's comeback performance in Week 1. Just months after major surgery to fix a severely injured knee, Peterson carried the ball 17 times for 84 yards.

    He scored two touchdowns and averaged an impressive 4.9 yards per rush against a stout Jacksonville Jaguars defense. Things could get even better for Peterson against an Indianapolis Colts unit still trying to establish a new identity.

    The Colts made the switch to a hybrid 3-4 this offseason, and while the 3-4 can sometimes be a better run-defending front, the Colts are still struggling to adapt. They have a lot of veteran personnel who have spent their careers playing in a 4-3.

Trent Richardson: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals

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    The best way for the Cleveland Browns to limit the threat of Green-Ellis is to establish their own running game and that means featuring Trent Richardson.

    Aside from sending Eagles safety Kurt Coleman's helmet into the clouds, Richardson was bottled up in Week 1. Philly's defense held the former Crimson Tide star to a mere 39 yards on 19 carries for a pitiful 2.1 yards-per-carry average.

    However, the Eagles defense is an underrated bunch, while the Cincinnati Bengals group falls into the opposite category. Despite a deep defensive tackle rotation and plenty of size at linebacker, the Bengals have struggled when teams commit to running the ball.

    Ray Rice and Arian Foster destroyed them last season and Richardson has the size, quickness and moves to do the same.