Double Trouble: the NFL's Top Running Back Tandems in 2010
Larry Johnson. Willie Parker. Brian Westbrook.
What do these guys have in common? All are former stars trying to win a job in 2010, players whose skills have greatly diminished as the result of being a workhorse running back for multiple seasons.
Johnson and Parker have already been released this season, while Westbrook is a bit player for San Francisco who has tallied only one carry on the year.
In trying to diminish the daily pounding taken on NFL RBs, more and more teams have begun to split carries among two ball carriers in recent years. This season is no exception, as some of the league's most productive rushing attacks are the product of utilizing two runners.
Following is a list of the NFL's five best RB tandems of 2010.
No. 5 New England Patriots: BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Fred Taylor
Since Tom Brady's reign in Foxboro, the Patriots have had one of the NFL's best passing offenses. In light of that, NE has developed a tendency to abandon the run game in recent years.
That isn't the case thus far in 2010, however, as the Pats currently stand 10th in both passing and rushing yardage. Chief among NE's new-found ability to run the football is the one-two punch of youngster BenJarvus Green-Ellis and seasoned veteran Fred Taylor.
The more explosive of the two, Green-Ellis, leads the Patriots in attempts with 31. Taylor, an experienced, patient, and tough runner, ranks just behind his younger counterpart with 25 carries on the year.
If NE can effectively establish the run on a game-to-game basis with the combination of Green-Ellis and Taylor, Brady will be his best since the record breaking season of 2007.
No. 4 Carolina Panthers: DeAngelo Williams and Johnathan Stewert
In DeAngelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart the Carolina Panthers boast the most talented young RB duo in the league.
Williams, 27, rushed for 1515 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2008, serving as the team's primary ball carrier. With Stewart's improved play in 2009, Williams' numbers diminished, though he was still incredibly effective in running for 1117 yards on 5.2 yards per carry.
Last season, his second in the NFL, Stewart had a breakout year, lead the Panthers with 1133 yards on the ground to go along with 10 touchdowns. A bruising runner who complements the shifty Williams well, Stewart has a rare combination of size and straight line speed.
In 2010 Williams has the lion's share of attempts for Carolina, carrying 43 times to Stewart's 21. With the Panthers' shoddy play at QB this season, teams are loading the box to stop the dynamic young RBs. As rookie QB Jimmy Clausen gets more comfortable under center, don't be surprised if this talented combination vaults to the top of this list.
No. 3 Cleveland Browns: Peyton Hillis and Jerome Harrison
In trading Brady Quinn to the Denver Broncos prior to the season, the Cleveland Browns were happy to get two draft picks. Little used Denver FB/RB Peyton Hillis was considered a throw-in for the Browns.
Fast forward six months and Hillis is the leader of one of the best RB duos in the NFL.
At 6'2'', 250 pounds, Hillis is one of the biggest backs in the league. To go along with surprising speed, he constantly churns his feet and maintains forward lean to gain tough yards after contact. On the year Hillis has 39 carries for 220 yards and averages a stout 5.6 yards a tote.
Jerome Harrison, Cleveland's leading rusher last season, is a shifty back that has the ability to score from anywhere on the field. After a solid first two weeks, he was inactive with a minor injury in Week 3. On the season he has rushed 25 times for 85 yards, numbers that are sure to improve once he returns to game action.
Behind Hillis and Harrison, the Browns boast the NFL's 11th best rushing attack. As the two become more comfortable rotating into games with one another, Cleveland has a chance to improve on that stellar ranking.
No. 2 New York Jets: LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene
A surefire Hall of Famer, LaDainian Tomlinson's career as a difference maker was thought to be over after a disastrous 2009 season.
In 2010 he is the focal point of one of the league's best rushing attacks. Tomlinson has rushed for 208 yards on 37 carries this season, averaging an eye-opening 5.6 yards per carry.
In a dazzling performance against AFC rival Miami in Week 3, Tomlinson flashed the type of big play ability that made him one of the NFL's best players for nearly a decade. As it seems Tomlinson has regained his old form, it is safe to assume the San Diego Chargers regret letting him go.
Second-year man Shonn Greene is coming off a promising rookie season in which he averaged 5.0 yards per carry and led New York in rushing during the playoffs.
A physical runner with good feet, Greene has struggled somewhat this season as he plays second fiddle to Tomlinson. A player with his physical gifts, though, is sure to bounce back and be an important player for the Jets going forward.
Behind Tomlinson and Greene, New York currently ranks ninth in the league in rushing. As the season wears on, this duo will be a major reason for the Jets' success.
No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs: Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones
One of three remaining undefeated teams in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs possess the league's number one rushing attack.
Acquired in the off-season via free agency, veteran Thomas Jones leads the Chiefs with 52 carries and has gained 217 yards in 2010. A patient runner with great strength, he is a measured and consistent presence in KC's backfield. Additionally, Jones is one of the team's most respected players and is constantly lauded by Head Coach Todd Haley for his leadership ability.
Third-year pro Jamaal Charles is arguably the NFL's most explosive RB. Last season he ran for 1120 yards on a league-best 5.9 yards per carry. A threat to score from anywhere on the field, Charles has elite speed, agility, and acceleration to go along with a relentless running style.
Though he's carried the ball only 34 times this season, Charles is seventh in the league in rushing and first among RBs (Michael Vick leads all players) in yards per carry.
The league's quintessential duo of "Thunder and Lightning," Thomas and Jones have Chiefs fans thinking playoffs in 2010. If KC is to get there, it will be due to the exceptional play of the NFL's best RB tandem.