While the Steelers and the Packers are preparing for their big game Sunday in Dallas, 30 other teams are sitting home wondering about how to get to the Super Bowl next year. Every team is looking for improvements that can be made to their team.
With free agency looming, many teams are looking to fill glaring holes on their rosters. One of the biggest concerns is at the running back position, where players like Danny Woodhead can come out of nowhere and have great seasons. Woodhead, who was cut by the New York Jets and was signed by the New England Patriots, rushed for 5.6 yards per carry and finished with six total touchdowns.
Here are 10 running backs (in no order), like Woodhead himself, who are ready for their shot at a starting gig in the NFL
After two consecutive 1000+ yard seasons, Jacobs failed to reach the 1000 yard plateau in 2009. Therefore, he lost his starting role to Ahmad Bradshaw early in the season, Jacobs struggled out of a backup position.
However, after starting slow, Jacobs came on strong and finished with 693 yards and eight touchdowns. He is ready for another shot as a starting running back, whether it be in New York, or another location, such as Miami, for example.
Despite the hype about rookie Ryan Mathews, it was Tolbert who had the breakout season for the Chargers. He finished with 735 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season.
Mathews, who had an injury plagued rookie season, will get his starting job back after the Chargers spent a first-round draft pick on him last season.
Tolbert, who is a free agent, is likely to find a starting role somewhere else, whether it be at tailback or fullback.
Due to injuries to both Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson, Starks, a rookie from the University of Buffalo, has stepped up in the postseason. He set a record for being the first rookie to rush for 100 yards in a postseason game.
Although highly unlikely due to the depth at the position in Green Bay, Starks deserves a shot at being a starting running back in the league. If not a starter, Starks will receive more carries and will become more integrated into the Packers offense.
Similarly to the situation in Green Bay, the running back depth chart in Dallas is pretty long. Stuck behind Felix Jones and Marion Barber, Choice is a quick runner who also has strength. He had limited carries this year, yet he has run for a career average of 4.8 yards per carry.
However unlikely, Choice deserves a shot at a starting role, whether it be in Dallas or somewhere else.
Despite his remarkable 2008 season (273 carries, 1,515 yards, 20 total touchdowns), Williams' injury this season lost him his starting role to Jonathan Stewart, a former first round draft pick.
Williams, a free agent, definitely deserves another shot as a starting running back in the NFL due to his combination of size, speed, and strength. Look for a team such as Seattle or Buffalo to pick up Williams to be their starting back in 2011.
After an injury to Maurice Jones-Drew, Jennings, a former seventh round pick, came out of nowhere and impressed the Jaguars with 661 yards and five touchdowns. Obviously, Jones-Drew will keep his role as starter in Jacksonville, but Jennings could receive some looks as a starting running back next season.
Thomas Jones, a former starter for the Bears and Jets, had a great season as Jamaal Charles' backup in Kansas City. While Charles outperformed him and is in no jeopardy of losing his starting job, Jones still ran for 896 yards and six touchdowns.
While the Jets thought he might be washed up and did not hesitate to let him leave New York, Jones showed this season he still has the skill and strength to be a prime-time back in the NFL.
Despite the breakout season by fellow Raider Darren McFadden, Michael Bush still had eight rushing touchdowns in a backup role. Highly recruited out of Louisville, Bush broke his leg in his senior season, and had to overcome many obstacles to get to where he is in the NFL today.
Bush deserves a shot as a full-time, starting running back somewhere in the league due to his size and strength, as well as his ability to persevere through tough situations. Although it will be unlikely that he starts in Oakland, it is foreseeable that Bush gets a starting job somewhere in the league next season.
Although he only started seven games for the Bucs this season, Blount had one of the most impressive rookie campaigns of the year. He finished with 1,007 yards and six touchdowns on the season.
Blount will definitely be the starter next season for the Bucs, as they try and build on a strong 2010 season and reach the postseason with the up-and-coming Josh Freeman at the helm. Blount is a great running back for the Bucs, giving them a young and talented quarterback/running back pair.
After multiple injury-plagued seasons, it might be time for the Colts to let Joseph Addai go and look in a different direction. Brown could be the man to step in for Indianapolis, as he knows the system very well as a smart, young, powerful back.
Brown, if given the shot, could have the success that Addai had as a young running back in the Colts system, which, with Peyton Manning at the helm, always provides for many opportunities to succeed.