Ok, following up on my previous post of the most disappointing running backs so far this season I thought I'd throw out a few surprises at tailback.
First, anybody that has followed football for the past few years can't be surprised at what Shawn Alexander, Edgerrin James, Ladainian Tomlinson, and Tiki Barber are doing. Even Clinton Portis, Reuben Droughns, Willis McGahee, and Rudi Johnson's solid but not spectacular seasons are not too surprising because you knew they were going to get the carries.
On the other hand:
- Warrick Dunn may have surprised some with his yardage (896) and yards-per carry average (5.1) this season, but I've liked this guy for a long time and felt he was underrated by many.
- Although you knew the Bears were going to run the ball, Thomas Jones has shown me some moves that I didn't know he had. Before he got hurt he had almost 800 yards and a 4.5 yard-per carry average. I'm wondering what they do next year with Benson ready for more playing time. Do they trade Jones, or try the platoon system like some teams employ? This guy is too good to sit.
-There was some buzz about Larry Johnson before the season began but I am surprised at how he has taken hold of the position for K.C. Even if Holmes doesn't get hurt, I think Johnson gets more carries to end the year. He's not the receiver that Holmes is but he's averaging over 5 yards a carry. Plus, I'm pretty sure if LJ had not gotten sufficient touches this season, he would have put Vermeil's family jewels in a vicegrip and really given him something to cry about.
-I know the Broncos run the ball well with just about anyone in the backfield but I really didn't know which one of their backs would step up this year. I also didn't figure on two guys doing as well as they have. Usually it's one guy on the team that grabs the mantle for the season. Mike Anderson's done it before so I'm not shocked with his solid season (669 yards, 4.5 yard average) but Tatem Bell has shown some serious speed to the outside and a big play ability. With some of the long ones he has busted out, his average rush per carry is 6.3! With his 606 yards rushing he has definitely impressed me. The only question I have is, when he's on the sideline and Shannahan is talking to him does he sit there and think, "damn!, those bug eyes are really freaking me out!" ? Just a thought.
Is it possible to be surprised and disappointed in the same season with a back? That's the case for me with Carnell (Cadillac) Williams of Tampa Bay. I think if he can get healthy we'll see some flashes of that early season brillance. I'm not surprised Cadillac's ex-Auburn teamate Ronnie Brown is doing well. After all he did go # 2 overall in the draft. There must have been a reason for that. Could it have been that he's fast, big, and very coachable. yeah that.
Steven Jackson's success for the Rams has not been surprising to me but the number of times he's been given the ball (729 yards, 155 carries) has. What I mean by this is that I expected Marshall Faulk to get at least of third of the carries in a game. That hasn't happened despite signs that Faulk is looking very fast this year. Faulk's window for padding those rushing stats is closing (32 years old) and I think the team needs his abilities. I'm bitter about this and don't want to talk about it. Let's move on.
-Hands down the biggest surprise for me this year so far at running back has been "Fast" Willie Parker of Pittsburgh. I'm not a big Steeler fan but I'm not even sure they knew who this guy was before the year began. I had never heard of him. He's cooled a bit from his fast start and his playing time has been cut into by Bettis (rightly so) but somebody please tell me they knew he would have 615 yards at this point (4.7 avg.) in the season. I want stocks in whatever your buying.