NFC East: Top 10 Running Backs
Last week, I previewed the NFC East's collective air game by ranking the top 10 receivers. This week, I take it to the ground to examine the division's best running backs.
While the division may have a lack of receiving talent, the NFC East features four of the game's best rushing attacks.
Three of the teams have legitimate top tier running backs, while the other has a dynamic duo that should be quite productive. But none of them are without issues, such as injury risks, lack of experience and questionable depth.
10. Ladell Betts
He hasn't done much the past two seasons, but Betts is only two years removed from an 1154 yard season.
Despite his mediocre play recently, he has shown that he has the ability to carry the load if anything should happen to the studly Clinton Portis.
9. Tashard Choice
The Cowboys chose Choice exactly 100 picks after taking Felix Jones (both picks came via Cleveland) in the 2008 draft.
And while more is expected of Jones this year, Choice opened some eyes with his play down the stretch last season. Over the last five games, Choice rushed for 382 yards on 73 carries; good for 5.2 yards per carry. He added 18 receptions for 169 yards.
8. Andre Brown
The eighth running back taken in the 2009 NFL draft, Brown is a good fit for the Giants' offense. Brown has been compared to Derrick Ward, the man he will try to replace.
He doesn't have great speed, but he is fast enough, has good hands and runs with power. He will battle Ahmad Bradshaw and Danny Ware for playing time behind Brandon Jacobs.
7. LeSean McCoy
The fourth running back taken in the 2009 NFL draft, McCoy, like Brown is a good fit for his respective team's offense. He shares many similarities to Brian Westbrook, such as his good hands and quickness.
Ideally, he would take over as the starter for Westbrook in a couple of years, seeing the field this season as a change of pace back. But Westbrook's injuries may force McCoy into a heavier workload.
6. Ahmad Bradshaw
With his obscene ability to slip past defenders, it's easy to overlook the damage he does inside the tackles. Aside from being a shifty home run threat, he is a tough inside runner that packs some punch into his 5-9, 200 lb frame.
He has yet to take on a significant workload in the regular season, but he played a big part in the Giants' run to the 2007 Super Bowl.
5. Felix Jones
A lot of people expected big things from Jones when he was selected 22nd overall. And through 6 games, he did not disappoint, rushing for 266 yards and 3 touchdowns over 30 carries; an average of 8.9 yards.
Unfortunately, he missed the rest of the season with a torn hamstring and a torn ligament. This year, Jones is expected to be part of a dynamic duo for the Cowboys, alongside...
4. Marion Barber III
The toughest runner in football proved that he is best served as part of a two-headed monster. As Julius Jones' running mate in 2006 and 2007, Barber averaged 4.8 yards per carry and totaled 24 rushing touchdowns.
But the wear and tear of being the #1 guy took a toll on him in 2008, as he averaged only 3.7 yards per carry and scored only seven touchdowns.
Luckily for the Cowboys, the presence Felix Jones and Tashard Choice will let Barber take more plays off, allowing him to remain fresh. This is bad news for the rest of the NFC East.
3. Brandon Jacobs
Possibly the most feared running back in the NFL, Jacobs is a true Giant among men.
He's eclipsed 1,000 yards in both of his seasons as a starter, despite missing eight total games. But therein lies the problem. Jacobs' tough style of play leaves him susceptible to injury.
When he is on the field, he is one of the most productive offensive players in the league, with a stellar 5.0 yards per carry and 21 total touchdowns over the last two seasons.
2. Clinton Portis
It is easy to take for granted how great he is.
He has averaged 90 yards per game in his seven year career, and has four 1,450 yard seasons. Portis has yet to play a full season without rushing for at least 1,200 yards. He's scored 72 touchdowns in 100 career games, so he's always a good bet to find the end zone.
Teams know to expect a lot of Portis when they face the 'skins, but they usually can't stop him.
1. Brian Westbrook
When healthy, which is less often than Eagles fans would like (he's Probable or Questionable basically every game), he is arguably the biggest double threat in the league. He is a good rusher and an outstanding receiver; a true weapon on screens and dump offs.
He turns 30 in September, and there is some uncertainty as to his status heading into the season. But there is no question that he is the heart and soul of the Eagles' offense.