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Monday Morning QB (cont.)

Posted: Monday January 7, 2008 2:18AM; Updated: Monday January 7, 2008 2:51PM
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Stat of the Week

An interesting trend continued in 2007: Coaches won't burn out their starting running backs. Checking out the rushing-attempt leaders in '06 vs. the leaders this year. You can see teams are going more and more with platoon systems in the backfield to make sure their ball-carriers are around for full seasons.

2006 Att. 2007 Att.
1. Larry Johnson, K.C. 416 1. Clinton Portis, Wash. 325
2. LaDainian Tomlinson, S.D. 348 2. Edgerrin James, Ariz. 324
3. Steven Jackson, St.L 346 3. Willie Parker, Pit. 321
4. Rudi Johnson, Cin. 341 4. LaDainian Tomlinson, S.D. 315
5. Edgerrin James, Ariz. 337 5. Thomas Jones, Jets 310
5. Willie Parker, Pit. 337 6. LenDale White, Ten. 303
7. Tiki Barber, NYG 327 7. Jamal Lewis, Clev. 298
8. Jamal Lewis, Balt. 314 8. Willis McGahee, Balt. 294
9. Frank Gore, S.F. 312 9. Marshawn Lynch, Buf. 280
10. Chester Taylor, Minn. 303 10. Brian Westbrook, Phi. 278

Seven rushers in '06 carried the ball more times than any rusher carried it in '07. Of the hardest workers in 2006, one retired (Barber), while five were injured for some or most of '07 (Larry and Rudi Johnson, Jackson, Parker and Taylor). Of the 10 busiest rushers in '07, only one of them -- Parker -- finished the year injured, so it's clear that teams are having better luck keeping their runners healthy through December.

Factoids of the Week That May Interest Only Me

A weird, back-to-the-future set of factoids.

Thought I'd take a minute to rip myself, going back to the Sports Illustrated Pro Football Preview Issue, when I took some darts, threw them at my personnel dartboard and came up with my top 500 players in the NFL.

The 17 I wish I had back:

1. (4) Julius Peppers. Who'd have ever predicted he'd have fallen off the face of the earth with a 2.5-sack, totally non-factor year?

2. (85) Ben Roethlisberger. I've mea-culpaed enough now. The plus-21 touchdown-to-INT differential proves I looked too hard at '06 when judging Big Ben.

3. (unrated) David Garrard. Jack Del Rio picked him to start the week after we went to press, cutting Byron Leftwich. Garrard responded with the league's third-highest-rated season and a playoff win at Pittsburgh.

4. (137) Tony Romo. I just didn't have enough of a track record to put him higher. Wish I'd gone on my gut feeling.

5. (96) Brian Westbrook. Led all rushers in all-purpose yards. I'd argue he's the most valuable back in football.

6. (474) Antonio Cromartie. Who knew?

7. (196) Bob Sanders. I wrote then, "Top 50 player if he played 16 games.'' He played 15, and he was a top 20 player.

8. (36) Shaun Alexander. Headed downhill last year, and I didn't recognize it in time.

9. (246) Randy Moss. I still don't know, long-term, if he should be number 9 or 99, though.

10. (387) E.J. Henderson. Led a superb run defense (74.1 yards allowed per game) with a team-high 118 tackles. I watched the Vikes a lot this year. He made his living being around the ball constantly.

11. (41) Vince Young. Anyone have any idea what kind of player he is? I don't.

12. (318) Braylon Edwards. I should have given him more credit for rededicating himself in the offseason to becoming a great player.

13. (243, 257, 260) Adrian Peterson, Fred Taylor, Marion Barber. Three Pro Bowl running backs I dissed.

14. (49) Nate Clements. Maybe I got punched in the jaw by the $80 million contract and figured, "Hmmm. He's better than I thought.'' Good player, but way over-ranked.

15. (unranked) James Harrison. From snub to Pro Bowl starter.

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