As an NFL ball-carrier, Philadelphia Eagles running back Bryce Brown’s main objective is not to gain yards. It’s to protect the football. It doesn’t particularly matter how many yards he gets if he can’t finish a run with the ball in his possession. He’s proved himself to be adept at advancing the football, but fumbling problems will eventually prevent future opportunities to do so from occurring.
He’s not alone, though—and all hope is not lost.
In four starts, Brown has carried the ball 71 times for an impressive 387 yards and four touchdowns. Over a full season, that projects to 1,548 yards and 16 scores—yet Brown has as many fumbles as he does touchdowns thus far.
That’s far too many turnovers for a non-quarterback, but Brown is just a rookie.
In four of Barber’s six 1,000-yard rushing seasons (2000, 2002-06), he put the ball on the carpet at least five times—and as many as nine in 2002. Fortunately, he fumbled a total of four times on 684 carries over his final two seasons (2005-06). Oh, and he averaged 5.14 yards per carry and scored 14 touchdowns with that heavy workload.
Peterson set the single-game rushing record with 296 yards against the San Diego Chargers as a rookie but fumbled four times on 238 rushing attempts in 14 games during the 2007 season. In the following two years, he totaled 16 fumbles despite totaling 3,704 scrimmage yards.
In the three seasons since, Peterson has fumbled the ball only six times while touching it 848 times and churning out 4,559 scrimmage yards in 40 games. He’s also managed to score double-digit rushing touchdowns in every year that he’s been in the NFL.
That’s what Brown has to aspire to do.
A quick glance at the all-time list of fumbling culprits would yield a bevy of quarterbacks at the top. They tend to fumble more than RB's because of the sheer volume of touches that they get; Quarterbacks touch the ball on nearly every play, and many of their careers outlast that of their running back counterparts.
The most infamous fumbler of today’s game—"today's" being a loosely-used term given the recent quarterback change in Philadelphia—is Eagles QB Michael Vick. He’s got 85 career fumbles in just 120 games over nine years. The only season in which Vick did not fumble was his first one with Philly, 2009, because he barely played.
In 12 games, Vick had 13 passing attempts and 24 rushes.
Of course, the clubhouse leader in fumbles with 166—five more than second-place Hall of Famer Warren Moon—is iconic quarterback Brett Favre, who owns nearly every quarterback record of note. Favre’s most fumble-rific season was 2001, when he dropped 16 footballs total.
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