Every-Down Running Backs a Dying Breed

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Remember when Monday Night Football began giving us the starting lineups via the video head shot and self-intro? Around that time, I distinctly remember Edgerrin James hitting us with “Edgerrin James, every-down back”

Between 1997 and 2006, Edge and his fellow RBs accounted for 28 of the top 50 yards-from-scrimmage seasons in NFL history. In the five years since? Only Ray Rice, Arian Foster, and Chris Johnson. 

Check out this years’ postseason — of the NFL’s 12 best teams, only Rice can really be considered a workhorse. Michael Turner had over 300 carries but rarely played on 3rd and long.

The rest of the playoff teams for the most part split carries between their backs.

Why the trend towards RBs by committee?

1) Durability concerns — RBs get hurt all the time; teams have tried to reduce the risk of injury by decreasing their lead backs’ touches.

2) Money — why pay an accomplished, 1,500 yard back $6 million per year when you can get the same production from two effective RBs at $2 mil each?

3) Running the ball has been de-emphasized — it’s a passing league. While rushing yards per game has remained relatively the same, passing yards per game has gradually increased the last ten years.

There hasn’t been a Super Bowl champ with an every-down back since the Rams with Marshall Faulk in 1999.

The NFL tends to be a copycat league — spread offense, zone blocking, cover-2, etc.

Unfortunately for the few RBs left in the league that get 20 touches a game, it seems that the big money, long-term contracts may have also become just as rare.

Photo courtesy of edthesportsfan.com

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One Response to “Every-Down Running Backs a Dying Breed”

  1. JM Says:

    Good read Trev, though I think the pic is missing a RB (LOL)

    They are not drafting them early anymore either Ingram was the best player in college football but never was considered a top ten pick, 2008 was the last time one was drafted in the top ten

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