As LaDainian Tomlinson prepares to defend his rushing title, he enters the 2008 season without his famed and little-used backup Michael Turner. Don't worry: enter Darren Sproles who in week 15 filled in for Tomlinson and ran for 122 yards and got two touchdowns.
So does this give the San Diego Chargers the best 1-2 punch in the backfield? No.
While the Chargers will still dominate games on the ground, the Minnesota Vikings without question will enter the season with the best set of backs. Adrian Peterson will look to build on his successful rookie season and former 1,000-yard running back, Chester Taylor, will also continue to eat up yards.
The Jacksonville Jaguars finished second last season in total rushing yards and they again occupy that spot. Veteran Fred Taylor made his first Pro Bowl and Maurice Jones-Drew will continue to find the end zone.
The New York Giants should see more yards on the ground and provide Eli Manning with a more stable offense. If the three headed monster of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw stay health, the Giants could see themselves deep in the playoffs again.
The one knock on the Pittsburgh Steelers running game was the fact that they only scored nine touchdowns, but look for an injury-free Willie Parker to find the end zone more. He will be relieved by rookie Rashard Mendenhall, the Steelers top pick from Illinois.
The fifth spot belongs to the new-look Oakland Raiders and their running game that's four players deep. Darren McFadden wants to prove that his $60 million-dollar contract was no mistake. Next Justin Fargas, LaMont Jordan and Michael Bush will give the team fresh legs throughout the game.
Tomlinson, Sproles and the Chargers get the sixth spot and should put up similar 2007 numbers of 2,039 yards, 19 touchdowns and a 4.2 yard per rushing attempt.
A mentally and physically healthy LenDale White and Chris Henry should power the Tennessee Titans to the seventh spot in the top combo's.
Now we know which teams will eat up the ground game, but which team will have the QB's screaming for more help?
Tops on the list of worst 1-2 punches are the Chicago Bears and their anemic ground game. Their three-headed monster of Matt Forte—rookie out of Tulane; Adrian Peterson—offseason appendectomy; and Garrett Wolfe—second year from N. Illinois.
The Bears only scored eight touchdowns on the ground last season and I wouldn't expect any improvement on that total.
Next on the worst list are the Detroit Lions and their 1-2 combo of Kevin Smith, rookie from UCF, and Tatum Bell. Their 10 win guarantee from last season didn't happen and I don't see them improving the ground attack.
The Houston Texans take the third spot with an aging Ahman Green, Chris Brown and rookie Steve Slaton out of West Virginia. The offensive line didn't improve and neither will their 3.8 yards per rushing attempt.
The Carolina Panthers are on this list for two reasons, they don't have a single runner on the depth chart that has ever rushed for 1,000 yards. Secondly, they only found the end zone seven times in 2007. However, Starter DeAngelo Williams created a new offseason workout that includes paintball.
All in all it should be an exciting 2008 season...unless you're a Chicago Bears fan.
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