The New-Age Running Back
February 23, 2010, 9:28 PM
Filed under: NFL

By Jerry Coon

With the release of LaDanian Tomlinson yesterday and Brian Westbrook today, it got me thinking for a while.

Remember the NFL in the eighties and nineties? Every team had one great running back (the good teams at least), and that is what they went to war with.

Detroit had Barry Sanders and Dallas had Emmitt Smith. Of course the list goes on, but the point is there was only one running back. That was all you needed.

But think about how long some of these “ace” running backs played in the NFL. Bo Jackson was going to be a phenom until a hip injury outed him after three seasons. Earl Campbell’s career was legendary, but he only played for seven seasons.

People shouldn't think of LT as a number-one back, but rather someone who can provide depth at that position.

Running backs come and go, but the beating and toll it takes on them physically and mentally diminishes their potential.

We are used to seeing other positions play forever. Favre has played quarterback since 1992, starting an NFL-record 285 consecutive games. Peyton sits right behind him with 192 games.

Wide receivers like Jerry Rice (who was in the NFL from 1985-2004) play until they are into their 40’s.

And now you look at today’s style of running game in the NFL. Even though teams say they have an “ace” to hand-off to, it’s mainly a committee keeping the running game fresh.

That’s what we have resorted to. Critics haven’t bought into the thought of running backs-by committee in previous years, ruling teams out that do so. Now? They should be praised.

Sure, the Vikings’ have a great running back in Adrian Petersen, but he has Chester Taylor to fall back on. The Cowboys roll three deep with Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. Miami developed an entire offense revolving around the Wildcat Formation with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.

Now, teams are following the lead. The Colts drafted Donald Brown to help Joseph Addai with carries, same with Westbrook and LeSean McCoy. The Saints couldn’t rely solely on Reggie Bush, so Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell got their share of carries (worked pretty well for the Super Bowl champions didn’t it?).

Basically, every team needs to follow this blueprint. Even though Tomlinson’s age is multiplied because of  the 2,880 carries he has over the last nine seasons, he can still be an asset.

If you were a team like the Falcons, who need safety net for Michael Turner, adding someone like LT to Turner and Norwood would boost that running game dramatically.

The Texans, who are still trying to find ONE running back, could use Tomlinson and Slaton to improve the offense. Brian Westbrook, barring another concussion that might kill him, could do wonders with the screen plays Kubiak runs for his tailbacks.

If Jacksonville had another back to relieve pressure off of Maurice Jones-Drew, the production could increase even more (although their passing game would still be shaky).

The committee is the way to go. So instead of frowing upon the situation of not having a star to hand the ball off to, fans should be hoping they can get the opportunity to have this ideal setting.

And yes, in summary, I just told the National Football League to follow to lead of Jerry Jones. I’m going to go throw up now.


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