Group Effort Part II: The Best Running Back Corps in the NFC
I did this for the AFC, and got a number of comments insisting I consider the Carolina Panthers. An easy mistake to make, but it got me thinking.
Thoughts lead to actions, and in this case that action is writing, typing, and then submitting my 10th article to Bleacher Report. (Isn’t this exciting?)
So without further ado, I present my top five NFC Running Back Corps, plus honorable mentions.
b. Philadelphia Eagles
Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, Leonard Weaver, and Lorenzo Booker
Any group must be considered if they’re headed by Westbrook, one of the most versatile backs the NFL has ever seen. However, despite my admiration for his skills, he is past his prime, and hasn’t played 16 games in any season in his career.
LeSean McCoy, while a rookie, has shown promise in camp, and is expected to be the No. 2 man behind Westbrook. Leonard Weaver is a complete fullback who can pass block, run block, run, and catch. Booker has looked great also. They need to prove themselves, however.
a. Chicago Bears
Forte is an incredible back, who has done wonderfully, despite having poor quarterback play behind him. Kevin Jones is good, not great, but solid insurance for Forte. Wolfe and Peterson haven’t yet blown anyone away, but they are versatile.
The Top Five
5. New Orleans Saints
Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, Heath Evans, Mike Bell
Thomas is fully expected to take over the lead back role with the Saints, and be the "thunder" to Reggie Bush’s "lightning." Bush is without question the best "satellite" (operates best in space) in the NFL, but he’ll need Thomas to set him up.
Evans, signed away from the Patriots, gives a lot of options for Brees and the offense. Bell is looking to step up to take the No. 3 role, backing up both Bush and Thomas.
4. New York Giants
Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, Andre Brown, and Danny Ware
Jacobs, the NFL’s leading linebacker running back, is well known. Larger than a number of linebackers and nearly everyone in the opposing secondary, he can power over nearly everyone one-on-one.
Bradshaw worked well backing up Ward as the No. 3 back, and has looked better in camp. Brown is expected to shine, while Ware is fighting to stay on the roster, but the strength is the top of the list, which is solid.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor, and Ian Johnson
Simply the presence of Peterson puts the Vikings in the top five. When you add in Taylor, it’s impossible to keep them out of the top three. Johnson is looking to take that No. 3 spot, and anything he can add will only be a bonus.
2. Atlanta Falcons
Michael Turner, Jerious Norwood, and Ovie Mughelli
Turner’s presence is much the same as Peterson’s—if he’s here, the Falcons have to be top five. Norwood continues to be under-appreciated, despite averaging nearly six yards per carry and 9.4 yards per reception over his career.
Mughelli doesn’t carry the ball much, but that’s not his job. His job is to clear the way for Turner and Norwood, and considering their combined ypc average (4.65), I’d say he does alright.
1. Carolina Panthers
DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Goodson
I tried—I really did—to put these guys as No. 3 or No. 4, just to show I’m not so powerfully influenced. The fact is that they’re just downright solid. Williams and Stewart averaged over five ypc and nearly two rushing touchdowns per game.
Goodson will likely fill the No. 3 spot, and will start off mostly on returns. Don’t expect him to remain there long.
We shouldn’t be too surprised if Goodson steps up, because the Panthers have a habit of bringing along running backs. For the past five years or so, they’ve used a platoon system, to great effectiveness. Stephen Davis is hurt? No problem, we’ll plug in second-year man Foster.
Davis is gone, we’ll bring this young guy Williams along. Williams steps up, so now Foster is out and rookie Stewart is the No. 2 guy. It does make me wonder how long it’ll be before Williams is gone, Stewart is No. 1 and Goodson steps into the backup role.
The NFC was in some ways easier to evaluate than the AFC, but in other ways much harder. What makes it harder is that the top three teams all have two solid guys at the top.
Peterson is No. 1, Turner No. 2, and Williams is No.3 out of the top three. With the No. 2 role, Stewart is No.1, Norwood No. 2, and Taylor is No. 3, a complete inversion of order.
The next two on the list aren’t easier. It’s not as though Bradshaw or Bush are slouches. The NFC presents its own challenges, especially for an admitted AFC man.
Again, I welcome, encourage, even request commentary and criticism.
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