Friday September 11th, 2015

It's the high mark that all running backs strive to hit: 2,000 yards. Only seven running backs have ever done it. Will we ever see another back surpass 2K?

Melissa Jacobs and Ben Eagle debate below.


Ben Eagle: Dickerson. Peterson. Lewis. Sanders. Davis. Johnson. Simpson. The 2,000-yard club is exclusive, but I don't believe it will remain elusive.

Sure, NFL backfields are trending toward committees, but if last year taught us anything, it's that teams aren't afraid of riding a work horse. Running behind a mammoth offensive line, DeMarco Murray tallied 392 carries, tied for seventh all time. While Murray failed to crack the 2K mark (he finished with 1,845 yards), he showed that a colossal workload isn't out of the question in the modern game.

It then becomes a question of talent. Is there a back currently in the league or coming down the pipeline who has the talent and durability to run for 2,000? Without a doubt. It's only been three years since Adrian Peterson ran for 2,097 yards on just 348 carries. Rested and motivated, Peterson has as good a chance as anyone to hit the high mark in 2015. A young crop could join him soon; rookies Melvin Gordon and Tevin Coleman rushed for over 2,000 yards in their final collegiate season.

Will we have multiple 2,000-yard rushers in an upcoming season? Unlikely, but players become bigger, stronger and faster every season. Why wouldn't they be able to keep pace with the records of yore?


Melissa Jacobs: Dickerson. Peterson. Lewis. Sanders. Davis. Johnson. Simpson. It's been 95 years since the NFL was formed and that’s it?

There is absolutely no indication another back could join this club. The talent pool of potential generational running backs has shrunk in recent years but expectations for the position have also changed as quarterbacks joining the 4,000-yard passing club have become commonplace.

Le’Veon Bell was arguably the NFL’s top running back last season, at least in terms of sheer talent. Bell started all 16 games and ended up with just 1,361 rushing yards. Of course that’s because Bell was an integral part of the Steelerspassing game, ending the season with 83 catches and 854 yards. Bell is the prototypical running back of the modern era.

Most teams these days look for a multi-dimensional running back who will give defensive coordinators fits. Offensives without a Bell-, DeMarco Murray- or LeSean McCoy-type rely on a running back-by-committee system, using players with different skills sets for different schemes on different downs.  What was once a unique tactic to mask a lack of talent has become quite the workable model.

Moreover, running back is the most fragile position. For the rare coach that doesn’t already utilize a change-of-pace back, the increasing frequency of season-ending injuries will eventually provide the incentive.  

The good news is that the career longevity of running backs is likely to increase. The bad news is that the 2,000-yard rushing club is likely to rust.

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