C.J. Spiller, Reggie Bush and Dexter McCluster share two characteristics of the utmost importance:
- They are small and shifty running backs with the ability to change the course of a game on one play.
- They suffered injuries in Week 3
None of these backs stand over 6'0" tall and each has battled injuries throughout their young careers. The running back position naturally draws a fair share of injuries.
It doesn't matter if you are the size of Bigfoot. When you are getting hit on every single play for four quarters you are bound to take some damage.
Bigger running backs like Darren McFadden, Adrian Peterson and Mikel LeShoure have all fallen victim to injuries recently, but there is a key difference between these backs and their shiftier brethren:
Smaller backs are far more prone to minor injuries that sideline them for one or two games at a time. Peterson's knee injury was one that would have kept most players out for an entire season.
Bush, meanwhile, seems to miss at least three games every season due to boo-boos on his knee.
That is simply the reality because of his size. Smaller backs are by and large incapable of playing full 16-game slates if they are expected to be No. 1 running backs.
That fact is a large reason there has been a recent surge in the "backfield by committee" theory.
Teams need to get explosive runners on the field, but cannot afford to give them more than 15 carries per game.
Having a "thunder and lightning" type attack gives offenses the best of both worlds: A strong, downhill runner that can shoulder a fair share of carries and get tough yards on third down and the goal line; and a speed back that can change up the pace on defenses.
Does that mean teams should shy away from the heavy workloads given to players like Spiller and Bush so far this season?
Perhaps, because the injury risk has proven itself time and time again to be great.
Wouldn't it make more sense to limit their carries to under 20 every game and help to ensure their continued contributions to the offense?
Not an easy request when they are among the most productive backs in all of football. But the fact remains that being smaller is bad for a running back's health.