The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: RBs (Pre-Season Week 1)

Michael WhooleySenior Writer IAugust 22, 2009

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 21: Running back Michael Turner #33 of the Atlanta Falcons runs the ball against the St. Louis Rams during the preseason game at the Edward Jones Dome on August 21, 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Earlier this week we showed you how well quarterbacks did across the league in the Week 1 of the NFL pre-season schedule. Now, let’s take a look at how the running backs fared.

We’ll keep you updated each week of the preseason to see how running backs are progressing (or regressing) and let you know what kind of impact it will have in fantasy football. Let’s take a look at “the good, the bad and the ugly.”



Michael Turner (Atlanta Falcons) – The only problem with Michael Turner’s first pre-season performance was the fact that he should save that energy for the regular season when it benefits his fantasy football owners.

Busting out for 63 yards on six carries, with a 40-yard rush and a touchdown definitely gets his season off on the right foot.

With all the talk of the looming curse of 370 carries from last season, it may not mean much, but it could be a promising sign that this curse is just a joke.


LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia Eagles)

When I saw LeSean McCoy out there last week, I thought I was watching Brian Westbrook. The rookie totaled 55 yards on 10 attempts, and looked strong in his first outing.

The Philadelphia Eagles have done a great job in drafting a seemingly mirror image of their All-Pro back. While McCoy shouldn’t be a threat to take Westbrook’s job, as long as Westbrook’s healthy, it does prove promising for the future of McCoy in this offense.

He could slip right in if Westbrook goes down, and Donovan McNabb and the rest of the offense may not have to change much.


Darren McFadden (Oakland Raiders)

Justin Fargas better watch out because if Darren McFadden’s first pre-season game was any indication of how he’s going to be this season, he will surpass Fargas as the team’s top back.

McFadden looked strong against the Dallas Cowboys, busting out a 45-yard scamper, part of his 63 yards on four carries. Fargas, on the other hand, had one touch for two yards. Who won round 1 in this position battle? Clearly, it goes to McFadden.


Donald Brown (Indianapolis Colts)

In the Indianapolis Colts’ first preseason game, the rookie definitely out shined the veteran. Donald Brown was impressive in his first outing, and may force the Colts to get him involved in the action more if he keeps turning in totals like 58 yards on five carries and one of those carries going for a 38-yard dash.

Brown was already expected to be a key factor in this backfield with Joseph Addai, but he may get more on his plate if he keeps running like this.

Fantasy owners interested in drafting Brown should be wary as it may take a year for him to start getting the bulk of the carries, but Week 1 of the preseason may be the first sign of the end of Addai’s run in Indy.


Glen Coffee (San Francisco 49ers)

With Frank Gore not participating in the pre-season this year, the San Francisco 49ers will get a great chance to check out what they have in their rookie RB, Glenn Coffee.

Against the Denver Broncos last week, Coffee was strong, posting 67 yards on 14 carries. Regardless of how well he does in the pre-season, I doubt San Francisco will make him a true handcuff to Gore.

However, the significance in how well Coffee plays is, since Gore has a reputation of being a bit injury prone, if Coffee impresses, he could become a waiver-wire pickup should Gore go down.



Tim Hightower (Arizona Cardinals)

With Beanie Wells out of action for the time being, right now is a valuable opportunity for Tim Hightower to prove his worth to the Arizona Cardinals and keep his top spot on the depth chart.

Hightower didn’t take advantage of this opportunity in Week 1, posting low numbers of 24 yards on 6 carries.

Granted, Arizona undoubtedly wasn’t going to play Hightower much, but in the position battle he’s in, it was a chance for him to prove himself.

I also listed Hightower here just in the bad and not the ugly because, to be fair, Arizona did open up its pre-season schedule at Pittsburgh and he did average 4.0 yards per carry.

It has to be in the cards, no pun intended, to give him another crack at it.


Cedric Benson (Cincinnati Bengals)

My personal thought is to stay away from anybody in the Cincinnati Bengals backfield when you draft. Even having Cedric Benson as your RB on the bench is a bit of a risk.

In Week 1, he produced 28 yards on 8 carries against the New Orleans Saints. As I’ve said before in this article, and probably will state later as well, this is the preseason and the Bengals want to keep Benson healthy as he’s likely to be their top back.

Nevertheless, pay close attention to how he does in future preseason games if you really want this guy on your team.

If Cincinnati’s passing game can get back on track this year, it may not hurt to have him on your roster, but remember the Bengals’ are high on rookie running back Bernard Scott.


Fred Jackson (Buffalo Bills)

This should be Fred Jackson’s time to shine right now. Marshawn Lynch is out of the picture for the first three games of the season, Jackson has the opportunity to make his mark so the Buffalo Bills don’t just put him back on the bench when Lynch returns.

Well, Jackson didn’t help his cause in Week 1 against the Chicago Bears, as he produced 17 yards rushing on eight carries. He still has some time, but he didn’t get off on the right foot.


Steve Slaton (Houston Texans)

There’s no question that Steve Slaton is a borderline first-round draft pick in most draft formats, but one of the reasons why his stock is so high is because he stands alone on the depth least, that’s what everybody thought.

Recent reports out of the Houston Texans’ training camp have said watch out for Chris Brown. In Week 1 vs. the Kansas City Chiefs, Brown turned in 25 yards on six carries with a touchdown, while Slaton had 7 yards rushing on four carries in limited action.

This won’t become a position battle, it’s Slaton’s job all the way, but Houston may not be quite as shy about spelling Slaton more than they originally thought if Brown keeps playing well.



LenDale White (Tennessee Titans) – What makes things ugly for LenDale White is not just his six yards rushing last week, but the fact that his possible heir apparent, Javon Ringer, turned in a great opening performance.

Ringer totaled 51 yards on seven carries and hit paydirt. Being a rookie, it may not matter much this season, but if he turns in a couple more strong games in the preseason, it’s possible he could dip into White’s limited carries to spell Chris Johnson, or take some of his vultured touchdowns.


LaDainian Tomlinson (San Diego Chargers)

LT is returning to preseason action for the first time since 2005. That’s not a good sign for fantasy football owners.

LT didn’t need the preseason warmups in his phenomenal 2006 and 2007 campaigns. I think LT is trying to prove that he’s back, maybe not just to his coaches, but to himself, as well.

I believe this is another sign of his decline, and if you saw him play against the Seattle Seahawks last week, despite the fact that he’s healthy once again, we still saw the same sluggish RB that we saw in 2008.


Joseph Addai (Indianapolis Colts) Here’s a guy who is in a similar situation as Tim Hightower, but I’m a little more critical on Addai’s lackluster opening performance.

Rushing for 13 yards on two attempts isn’t anything to complain about but let’s face it, Addai has been a fantasy football disappointment in recent years and now he has the rookie Donald Brown breathing down his neck.

Brown, who had a much better game against the Minnesota Vikings, might end up making the backfield for the Indianapolis Colts closer to a 50-50 split.

Addai will still enter the regular season as the top RB on the depth chart, but his stock has already taken a hit.


Knowshon Moreno (Denver Broncos) – Things aren’t going so well for the rookie right now. The rookie went down with an MCL injury against the San Francisco 49ers last week, and while he should be fine, could it be a sign that this back will be another injury-prone player?

Moreno could return to the lineup in time for the final preseason game against Denver, but he’s going to lose some valuable time in getting in sync with his linemen and the offense.

Combine that with the fact that there’s a plethora of backs on Denver’s depth chart, it may take Moreno longer than a lot of people thought to become the featured back the Broncos’ drafted him as.