In the National Football League, the running back is one of the most valuable positions to be filled. The running game can control games when ran effectively, and watching players like LaDainian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson be explosive the way they break tackles and make plays out of nothing is one of the game’s best features. So who are the better running teams and players this year? And where are some of the explosive players that had very high expectations this year?
I will come right out the gates with LaDainian Tomlinson. LT has not put up the stats people have hoped for this year, and many people are jumping out and saying he has become washed up. There are many reasons why his production is down this year, first off, he has been battling nagging injuries all year that really affect his style of play. He also lost all pro full back Lorenzo Neal this season, he helped create holes for LT for many years, putting in a different full back can affect any running back. Also, Philip Rivers has really stepped up the Charger’s passing game and is having a great year moving the ball down the field through the air. LT also has a big problem, he tries way too hard to get into every commercial possible, even if you are not watching the Charger’s game, you are sure to get a good dose of LT. So before anyone can jump to conclusions about LT’s abilities, I do not believe he has lost a step, between injuries and the team not relying on his presence as much as it has in the past, LT is still LT.
I will now shift to a team that has been in the top tier of the running game the last few years, the Atlanta Falcons. They brought in Michael “The Burner” Turner, who played his first few seasons behind LT. He is currently second in rushing yards for the year, and has had a great year for the rushing game of the Falcons. Toss in back up Jerious Norwood, who is an absolute stud averaging 6.3 yards per carry throughout his career, and you have a dominant back field. It never hurts to have a great duo of running backs as one can pick up the slack if the other one goes down with an injury.
Now how about Earnest Graham, he came in last year as a third string running back, everyone in front of him gets injured and he ends up having a huge year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then, he gets a nice new contract, the Bucs bring back Warrick Dunn and basically give them each equal carries. That sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me, and unlike many running backs that get big contracts, Graham has continued to produce for his team so far this season. Even though Dunn is around 65 years of age in running back years, he puts up similar numbers to many other overpriced running backs in the league such as Larry Johnson.
Moving on to my favorite running back duo in the NFL, Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, these two men absolutely dominated rushing last year, only second to our AP and Chester Taylor. Although they have not performed as well this year, I really like their chances of bouncing back as their schedule lightens up a whole lot. They have faced some of the best defenses in the league throughout their first six games. The great part about these two players is that they are both capable of having huge games, and even when one struggles, the other one picks up the slack for the team. My only worry is that Taylor is getting up there in age and has lost a step, but barring injury, he puts up solid numbers regardless.
Where are the MVP numbers many people expected out of our Adrian Peterson? Well, for starters, Tavaris Jackson could not keep the defenses honest in the first few weeks. Even after the switch at quarterback, good numbers are hard to put up against tough Tennessee and Carolina defenses. That does not explain why he was absolutely dominated by the poor defense of New Orleans, but I will say it was because they were away for now. AP has a nice looking schedule against some poorly rated defenses the rest of the year and I will hope he can explode to have good games in those favorable matchups. Chester Taylor is only getting a few carries here and there so the job is almost completely on AP’s shoulders. AP also needs to find his explosive step again, as he has failed to bust off many long runs this season.
As the NFL has basically gotten rid of the three down back, it has led to many good combinations of running backs. The running back position comes with many injuries every year as the position usually gets the majority of the work. So you can expect to see new running backs shine each year, as new faces enter, and others leave. As for now, I will continue to love on LT, hate on LJ, and watch the electrifying position, that is the running back.