Green still among NFL's elite RB's

Last season, Packers running back Ahman Green fell short of 1,200 yards. This coming one year after running for 1,883. Green was slowed by injuries, which is nothing new at the running back position. Name one running back who made it through a career without getting banged up. Nonetheless, Green still is one of the National Football League's best running backs.

What makes Green so good is he runs hard all time, is fast, can run inside and outside and can catch passes. He's complete — except for one area — fumbling. Green has become a noted fumbler, especially early in the season when it's hot and his jersey gets wet.

Despite that flaw, Green, in my mind is one of the NFL's top five running backs.

Here's a list of the top 10 backs in the league, and other categories which list up-and-comers and ones on the way down. One thing is for sure, the running back position is the most loaded position in the NFL. The talent is deeper than the pockets in Jerry Jones' pants.

1. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers: Pluses — What can't he do? He is as complete as they come and he's durable. Minus — He doesn't run a 4.2 40, but who does?

2. Priest Holmes, Chiefs: Pluses — Equally effective as a runner and receiver; has good vision. Minuses: Last season's injury, and age, make some wonder if he can be as productive as he once was. This season will tell.

3. Shaun Alexander, Seahawks: Pluses — Has sneaky good speed and can smell the end zone like nobody. Minuses — Attitude sometimes gets in the way, like last year when he was taken out of a game when he had a chance to win the NFL rushing title, and he complained to anybody who would listen.

4. Edgerrin James, Colts: Pluses — Displayed last season the knee injury from a few seasons ago is gone; has good speed and is a good receiver. Minuses — Has been injured from time to time.

5. Ahman Green, Packers: Pluses — Great speed and has no problem running over defenders. Minuses—Fumbles too much and has been banged up from time to time.

6. Clinton Portis, Redskins: Pluses — Is a pure runner, who has all the moves to be great in time. Minuses—Last year started slow, making some wonder if Denver's system, not Portis, was responsible for his yards.

7. Deuce McAllister, Saints: Pluses — Big back, who can run away from defenders. Minuses — Doesn't consistently put up big game after big game, making you wonder if his head's in the game all the time.

8. Corey Dillon, Patriots: Pluses — Big back, who bruises defenders between the tackles. Minuses—Not a great perimeter runner or receiver.

9. Jamal Lewis, Ravens: Pluses — Has size and speed to make any kind of run, which he did a couple seasons back when he cleared 2,000 yards. Minuses — Was in jail this off-season, so you wonder where is mind is at sometimes.

10. Curtis Martin, Jets: Pluses — "Cu-Mar" won the rushing title last season when most thought he was done; has heart. Minuses — OIdest member of top 10, signalling his decline will start soon, like maybe Week 1 this season.

JUST ON THE OUTSIDE
Willis McGahee, Bills: His devastating knee injury is gone, so now McGahee can show many he's one of the elite. He has everything to become a great player.

UNDERAPPRECIATED
Tiki Barber, Giants: Always overlooked, because the Giants don't win. Still, he runs well and catches well.

ON THE RISE
Rudi Johnson, Bengals: Showed last season he was ready to supplant Dillon.

Kevin Jones, Lions: After a slow start, Jones was one of the NFL's best the last half of 2004.

Julius Jones, Cowboys: After he recovered from a shoulder injury, he became the Dallas offense.

Chris Brown, Texans: Certainly showed on a Monday night last season at Lambeau Field he was the right replacement for Eddie George.

Steven Jackson, Rams: One year after being drafted, Jackson has become St. Louis' go-to back, ahead of Marshall Faulk.

FALLING
Marshall Faulk, Rams: Injuries and age have left Faulk to be nothing more than a third-down back.

OVERRATED
Fred Taylor, Jaguars: Has talent, but gets injured. Also, has no toughness when it comes to scoring from in close.


Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at dritchay@sbcglobal.net.


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