The days of a running back carrying 300 times a season are becoming a thing of the past. It could be a sign that NFL teams are cautious with the pounding their running backs take. Plus, is Brian Banks a better story than player, was Nathan Enderle simply a Mike Martz reach and how much did Al Davis influence the schemes in Oakland?
There will be camp competition for the No. 1 running back spot in as many as five places, and that's assuming franchise players Ray Rice
and Matt Forte
reach contract agreements, Trent Richardson
isn't a holdout, Adrian Peterson
is healthy, and Maurice Jones-Drew
reports for camp.
"There's going to be a lot of pressure," allowed Pittsburgh's Isaac Redman
, expected to replace a rehabbing Rashard Mendenhall
in the Steelers' lineup, at least for the start of the season. "It's a position where guys can come out of nowhere and surprise you. So you want to take nothing for granted."
Even with the battle for starting jobs, teams figure to continue the practice of utilizing more backs to reduce the workloads of their high profile runners.
There were just two players last season with 300 carries, the fewest since 1993.
And Jones-Drew was the only starting back to average 20 carries per outing, again the fewest since '93. On the flip side, 19 teams had at least two backs register 100 or more attempts each, the most ever.
"I don't know that it's a 'by committee' thing as much as it is a realization of the demands of the position," said BenJarvus Green-Ellis
of Cincinnati, expected to spit time with Bernard Scott
in replacing workhorse Cedric Benson
"It's likely you're just not going to see as many 300-carry backs anymore."
Between 2000-2010, the league averaged 8.5 backs per year with 300 or more attempts.
BANKS A BETTER STORY THAN PLAYER?
The saga of free agent linebacker Brian Banks
, the former Southern Cal recruit who was exonerated of rape charges after spending five years in prison and is auditioning for a number of clubs, is obviously one of the feel-good stories of the offseason.
But several of the assistant coaches for teams with whom Banks has worked out concede they will be shocked if he advances to an NFL training camp. Banks' story, though, is drawing plenty of interest from movie producers, a few of them prominent names.
There is little doubt the release of second-year quarterback Nathan Enderle by Chicago on Thursday was tied to the departure of offensive coordinator Mike Martz earlier this spring. The former Idaho star, a fifth-round choice in 2011 who never played a snap as a rookie, was labeled as Martz's "boy." Unfair or not, it's true that Martz personally scouted Enderle before the '11 draft, and made it clear to Bears' officials he wanted the guy.
Maurice Jones-Drew had 343 carries in 2011, and that was more than twice as many as the other five tailbacks currently on the Jaguars' roster have for their combined NFL careers. Rashad Jennings, Montell Owens, DuJuan Harris, Jalen Parmale and Richard Murray have 153 rushes among them. Even adding the attempts by Jacksonville fullbacks only pushes the total to 420.
Outside of the logjams in the first and third rounds, the biggest stretch of unsigned players in any round is just four slots.
Ironic, isn't it, that a considerable number of coaches privately groused about the reduction of offseason practices this year, yet so many cut short their minicamps by a day.
Some of the activities the coaches substituted for on-field work may be great team-building exercises, but coaches might want to bite their lips in the future when griping about the lack of practice days mandated by the CBA.
The play of second-year defensive back Ras-I Dowling at the New England minicamp this week, and the expectations of the Patriots' staff for the former University of Virginia star, could provide the team plenty of flexibility in the secondary. Dowling, drafted at the top of the second round in 2011, appeared in just two games as a rookie, before landing on injured reserve with leg and hip injuries. But he can play cornerback, and possibly safety, and where the Pats decide to put him will help determine where Devin McCourty lines up.
The Falcons will give former first-rounder Sam Baker (2008) every chance to regain the starting job he lost to journeyman Will Svitek for much of the 2011 season. Atlanta coaches feel that a variety of elements -- a return to health, the presence of new like coach Pat Hill, and a emphasis on movement in what is purported to be an emphasis on the screen game -- will benefit the four-year veteran. That said, there won't be as much patience with Baker as there's been in the past.
Teams expect that veteran players will be able to mentally assimilate new schemes, but that apparently hasn't been the case for wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. Clearly a creature of habit, Ochocinco struggled with the nuances of the New England offense in 2011, and it remains to be seen how well he picks up the Miami offense for 2012. Interesting is that, in the first 10 years of his career, in Cincinnati, Ochocinco, played in one system and for one coordinator, Bob Bratkowski.
The Bears' staff still hasn't settled on a left tackle, with Chris Williams and J'Marcus Webb all but getting equal snaps with the first team in minicamp sessions.
All these years, the popular perception was that late Oakland owner Al Davis tinkered extensively with the Raiders' offense. That's why it was interesting this week when safety Michael Huff pulled back the curtain a bit and allowed that the mettlesome Davis also "had his hands" on the team's defense as well, and that "everybody knew" what the unit was going to do.
There were only six Division II players selected from the 253 prospects taken in the draft, and St. Louis took half of them: cornerback Janoris Jenkins (North Alabama, second round, via Florida, of course), kicker Greg Zuerlein (Missouri Western, sixth) and running back Daryl Richardson (Abilene Christian, seventh).
*The last word: "They're forced to care now, because it's politically correct to care. Lawsuits make you care. I think the P.R. makes you care. But personally, when I got out (of the game) in 1983, do I think they cared about me? No. And you know what? I don't expect them to. I don't need them to worry about me. I take care of myself. But do they care? They're forced to care right now, because P.R.-wise, it's not very favorable to them." -- Hall of Fame quarterback and Fox Sports studio analyst Terry Bradshaw, to Jay Leno this week, on concussion