William Green of the Cleveland Browns: Despite a slow start to the 2002 season, Green came on strong over the second half of the season to become a legitimate threat in the Browns backfield. Solidly the Browns feature back, Green is expected to carry the ball 20-25 times per game.
Green has a great combination of size, strength, and speed. Not only does he have the characteristics of a workhorse type running back, he has shown to have big-play ability. While Green has displayed flashes of excellence, he needs to improve in short yardage situations and in his pass blocking protection assignments. Not a threat coming out of the backfield in his rookie season, Green has worked endlessly this off-season to improve pass catching ability and instincts in the Browns improving offense.
Though the Browns have been inconsistent along the offensive line, once committing to the rushing game in the second half of the 2002 season, Green averaged 103-yards per game on the ground. The 2003 version of Green should be even better as the Browns are in the process of establishing a larger, more aggressive offensive line. Seeking to play a balanced, ball-control offensive scheme, Green should have the opportunity to establish himself as a top-ten NFL running back as offensive coordinator Bruce Arians wants to effectively run the ball to increase the explosiveness of a passing game led by one of the most talented groups of receivers in the league.
Troy Hambrick of the Dallas Cowboys: In Dallas, Hambrick has the opportunity to back up his statement of a year ago, that he should be the Cowboys feature running back. Head coach Bill Parcells believes that Hambrick has the ability to be a good running back at the pro level, but it is time for Hambrick to run with the ball.
The Dallas starting running back job is for Hambrick to lose. Harnessing and utilizing the talent of the powerful Hambrick should not be a problem for the Cowboys, or even Hambrick. He displays much better than average speed, combine that speed with powerful running skills, Hambrick will get plenty of opportunities to run the football in what will be a conservative Dallas offensive attack in 2003.
Though reporting to mini-camp overweight, an issue that slightly irked Parcells, Hambrick has dedicated himself to this opportunity and has heeded words of advice from Parcells to be in Dallas everyday, working hard, and be prepared. Surprising for a big-back, Hambrick has displayed good hands out of the backfield, while averaging over 4.7 yards per carry through his three-year NFL career.
Under Parcells, running the football is a key and Hambrick is being counted on to be that guy to lug the pigskin 25-times per game. The power rushing attack is Parcells' love, Hambrick should flourish with some tough love from Parcells.
Onterrio Smith of the Minnesota Vikings: An injury to starting running back Michael Bennett has left the Vikings in a precarious situation as the team heads into training camp. The powerful rushing attack led by Bennett in the 2002 season was the balance the Vikings needed to improve a floundering offense. As the season went on, the Vikings became a consistent, explosive offensive team. Without Bennett, the Vikings are desperately looking towards the running backs on the roster (Doug Chapman, Onterrio Smith) to step up and fill the void left by the Bennett injury.
When the Vikings selected running back Onterrio Smith on draft day, he was considered by many NFL personnel evaluators as a steal, if the team selecting him could get through to him. With somewhat of a checkered past, Smith has the physical ability to become a solid running back in the NFL. The player personnel department and coaching staff in Minnesota believe that Smith has the tools to be an exceptional running back.
Smith's running style is somewhat similar to Marshall Faulk. Quick on his feet, Smith runs to daylight, breaking/cutting on a dime to avoid contact to break into open-field, in a manner that reminds you of Barry Sanders. Smith displayed while at Oregon the natural ability and instincts of a running back, he is adept at taking the ball into the line of scrimmage, only to bolt through the line or bounce the play off-tackle.