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AFC Focus: Running Backs

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; SN Correspondents 1. Chargers LaDainian Tomlinson is the reigning MVP, and Michael Turner offers a physical change of pace that stuns defenses. Fullback Lorenzo Neal, 36, is still near the top of his game as an astute blocker. 2. Jaguars ...

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Old 08-08-2007, 12:51 AM   #1
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Cool AFC Focus: Running Backs

SN Correspondents

1. Chargers LaDainian Tomlinson is the reigning MVP, and Michael Turner offers a physical change of pace that stuns defenses. Fullback Lorenzo Neal, 36, is still near the top of his game as an astute blocker.

2. Jaguars Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew make up one of the top duos in the league. Both possess tremendous cutback ability, strength and home run speed.

3. Chiefs The team will be in great shape if Larry Johnson plays. If he holds out, Michael Bennett and Kolby Smith will be on the spot. Kris Wilson, a pass catcher, and Boomer Grigsby, a blocker, will split time at fullback.

4. Steelers Willie Parker is one of the league's top home run threats and runs hard inside despite his size. Najeh Davenport and Kevan Barlow are strong backups.

5. Jets After a season of Curtis Martin withdrawal, the Jets have Thomas Jones to carry the load. Leon Washington is an ideal change-of-pace back, and Darian Barnes is a thumper at fullback.

6. Broncos Travis Henry has the skill set to crack 1,500 yards in Denver's system. Mike Bell and converted fullback Cecil Sapp will compete for the backup spot.

7. Bengals Rudi Johnson is a strong inside runner, but his 3.8-yard average in '06 slowed down the offense. Rookie Kenny Irons has breakaway speed. Fullback Jeremi Johnson is a bruising blocker.

8. Colts Joseph Addai is the complete package -- runner, receiver, blocker. But no other running back on the roster has carried the ball in a regular-season game.

9. Patriots Explosive second-year pro Laurence Maroney, coming off shoulder surgery, will get 15 to 20 carries a game. Heath Evans will open holes at fullback, and Kevin Faulk is a weapon on third downs.

10. Dolphins Miami hopes Ronnie Brown can carry the load again, especially because the team has found a full-time blocker in fullback Cory Schlesinger.

11. Ravens Willis McGahee will give the team more speed on the outside. Justin Green or rookie Le'Ron McClain must step up at fullback.Neither is proven.

12. Texans Ahman Green is a solid starter, and Ron Dayne is a quality situational back. Both fit great in the Texans' zone-blocking scheme.

13. Bills Marshawn Lynch is an explosive runner and has excellent vision and balance, but he's unproven. Anthony Thomas, a downhill runner, is a nice complement.

14. Browns The team hopes Jamal Lewis, returning from ankle surgery, will regain elite form. Jerome Harrison could be a strong change-of-pace back but did little as a rookie in '06.

15. Raiders LaMont Jordan and Dominic Rhodes will split the carries after Rhodes returns from suspension. Fullback Justin Griffith is a solid receiver but primarily will be used as a blocker.

16. Titans The team wants LenDale White to win the starting job in camp. Chris Brown will provide security if White falters, but rookie Chris Henry is raw.

Top 5 AFC backs
1. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers. He does everything exceptionally well, which is why he has already punched a ticket to Canton.

2. Larry Johnson, Chiefs. He doesn't have Tomlinson's endearing personality and lacks his blocking skill and versatility, but he's his equal as a runner.

3. Fred Taylor, Jaguars. Year in, year out, he puts up the numbers -- and he isn't slowing down. His 5.0 yards per carry in 2006 was the best of his career.

4. Willie Parker, Steelers. With 337 carries in '06, he proved he can run with the big dogs. But at 209 pounds, he might not run for long if he continues to get that much work.

5. Rudi Johnson, Bengals. He won't make many big plays, but he can pound it with the best of 'em.

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