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Talk pro football with SI.com's Andrew Perloff in Huddle Up, a forum to discuss the hottest topics around the NFL.
3/08/2007 03:02:00 PM

Running back roulette

Travis Henry rushed for 1,211 yards and seven touchdowns last season for Tennessee.
John Biever/SI

While the quarterback carousel traditionally gets more ink, the running back changes have been more significant this offseason. Several former 1,000-yard rushers have been traded or signed with new teams. Although they have more knee surgeries between them than Super Bowl rings, this group could make a major impact in 2007.

Here's my projection for each running back next season, assuming they stay healthy ... a huge if in this case:

Travis Henry, Broncos - Henry may be the next running back to explode in Denver. The Broncos still like second-year RB Mike Bell, but he should be more a short-yardage guy.
Predicted 2007 total: 1,400 yards

Thomas Jones, Jets - The Jets ranked seventh in the NFL in rushing attempts per game, even though they were averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. Jones should get 20 carries per contest.
Predicted 2007 total: 1,350 yards

Willis McGahee, Ravens - Ravens VP Ozzie Newsome said McGahee is a back who can make people miss. McGahee certainly didn't avoid many tackles last season, but maybe he'll improve with a better offensive line.
Predicted 2007 total: 1,200 yards

Ahman Green, Texans - Green, 30, joins a team with a notoriously bad offensive line, no passing to game to protect him and he faces a schedule loaded with the top rush defenses in the NFL.
Predicted 2007 total: 1,100.

Jamal Lewis, Browns - Lewis' success hinges on who the Browns draft. Obviously, QB Brady Quinn or OT Joe Thomas could help Lewis' numbers, while RB Adrian Peterson would not. The biggest problems for Lewis are the Browns' lack of a passing game and the fact he won't play Clevleand twice this season.
Predicted 2007 total: 1,000

Tatum Bell, Lions -- It's not clear if Kevin Jones will be able to return from his foot injury, so the former Broncos back has a chance to be the man in Detroit. Unfortunately, that's not saying much.
Predicted 2007 total: 900

Dominic Rhodes, Raiders -- It's hard to evaluate a running back from Indy. Defenses are so scared of the passing game, Colts backs typically run through holes they won't see on other teams. Rhodes will likely split carries with Lamont Jordan in Oakland.
Predicted 2007 total: 750

Still un-signed

Corey Dillon - Dillon was solid in his part-time role with the Pats, but he's fooling himself if he thinks he's still a primary back. The 32-year-old back looked like he was going to collapse of exhaustion every time he broke into the secondary last season.
Predicted 2007 total: 800

Chris Brown - Brown's name is synonymous with "upright running style." The 6-foot-3 running back is just too big a target and likely won't stay healthy as a No. 1 guy. He does, however, have value to a team that needs a dangerous second back.
Predicted 2007 total: 700

Disagree? Let me know in the Comments section.

posted by SI.com | View comments |  


Posted: 4:37 PM   by Anonymous
Corey Dillon is very overrated. He also is not a team player as evidenced by the fact that he has managed to get himself out of playing for his second team now.
Posted: 4:40 PM   by Anonymous
I think Jones will fall off. I see him having a 900 yard season.
Posted: 4:48 PM   by Anonymous
Well by losing mcgahee when the Bills just picked up three offensive linemen i think is dumb, but you cant rewind now. Now they have to choose between Rhodes and Brown. Those are really the only two descent runing backs available. The Bills now have to draft a running back with one of the third round picks they aquired. I think if the bills pick up Rhode's he'll have a thousand yard season without a doubt.
Posted: 4:57 PM   by Anonymous
Perloff, you may need to take another math class. I don't see how (NoPassingGame+BadOffensiveLine+KneeProblems-RonDayne)*30YearsOld = 1,100 yards for Ahman Green. I think it's far more likely that he'll blow out a knee in week 7 and pull 600 yards at best.
Posted: 5:00 PM   by Anonymous
no way green runs for over 1000 with the texans
Posted: 5:10 PM   by Anonymous
Thomas Jones will be the missing piece to the puzzle for the Jets. Everyone would focus on the passing game, but now that they have more of a balanced attack, they will kill defenses with many differen styles. Jones will excel under coordinator Brain Schottenheimer and will have a career season. When you land a pro bowler in his prime, you know you have a chance to contend for the super bowl.
Posted: 5:11 PM   by Corey
corey dillon isnt overrated, he is just past his prime. how can you have accumulated the stats he has, not to mention being one of the only backs in history to rush for 1000 yds in the first six seasons of your career on a TERRIBLE bengals team and not live up to the hype. corey dillon is not what he was, but neither is edgerrin james or jamal lewis.
Posted: 5:12 PM   by Anonymous
i dont know. i see a pretty big year for lewis is cleveland. the o-line is getting better by the minute and, i know im in the minority here, but i think charlie frye is going to be better than most think. he's no bernie kosar, but he doesnt have to be. with a stronger offense in cleveland, lewis should see a bit of a renaissance.
Posted: 5:13 PM   by Anonymous
Baltimore will find out the hard way that McGahee only runs hard when he feels like it. He's a locker room cancer waiting to happen and just one more example of Miami trash with an ego bigger than his talent. He never got over the fact that after his knee injury he was never the same athlete, still pretty good, yes, but not nearly as good as he thinks he is. He dosn't break big runs and he's worthless for short yardage. He folds up like a cheap tent as soon as he gets hit. He's all your's Baltimore, thanks for the draft picks!
Posted: 5:19 PM   by Anonymous
"Green, 30, joins a team with a notoriously bad offensive line, no passing to game to protect him and he faces a schedule loaded with the top rush defenses in the NFL." How does that justify him in your mind gaining more yards than he did last year?
Posted: 5:42 PM   by Anonymous
Hey Baltimore get ready for an overrated back who gets hurt EVERY game. Also, on third and one, you should PASS.
Posted: 5:46 PM   by Anonymous
Willis McGahee will gain over 1400 yards, Jones will get maybe over 1100, Lewis under 1000, Green 800, and Dillion maybe 600 yards
Posted: 5:50 PM   by Anonymous
Thomas Jones should do close to 1400. Leon Washington and Cedric Houston will keep him fresh and Cotch and Coles will keep the D honest. If only they had another receiving weapon (Greg Olsen?) this team could be dangerous on offense.
Posted: 9:07 PM   by Anonymous
jones will do wonderful in new york, while pennington may not have the strongest arm, he's incredibly accurate which keeps the D honest, someone mentioned an extra recieving threat but instead of Olsen i see Brian Leonard of rutgers as a better fit, he adds a good blocking option, change of pace runner, and recieving threat. Basically a New York Jets H-Back that is becoming recently popular
Posted: 9:21 PM   by Anonymous
with jones, the jets are gonna win the superbowl. This team will be hard to stop on offense, and their defense will do just enough.
Posted: 6:56 AM   by Anonymous
I feel that the only running back who will succeed is Travis Henry because he is part of the two back system which works really well. Just look at the Cowboys and how their running backs just pound other teams. I see the Cowboys winning it all easily this year.
Posted: 7:04 AM   by Anonymous
Can't wait to see what Henry will do with the Broncs. With Cutler coming into his own and Bell to provide the knockout punch in short yardage, Henry should romp through opposing defenses.
Posted: 7:16 AM   by Anonymous
Thomas Jones (J-E-T-S...) 1,500 yds
Can you say Super Bowl?

J. Lewis 1,250+ yds.

T. Henry 1,100

W. Mcgahee not more then 1,050

Did I say J-E-T-S...
Posted: 7:29 AM   by Anonymous
As a Pats fan, Coles and Cotchery were giving them a big enough headache without the addition of a good running back. Jones will probably get over 1,000 and the Jets will make the playoffs. But the other side to that is Coles and Cotchery are better than the WRs in Chicago so Jones may have fewer opportunities due to getting the ball to those guys.
Posted: 7:53 AM   by gnjaxon
I am a Bears fan and disappointed that the Beloved traded away Jones. I understand it completely, but am still disappointed. The Jets got a great deal. Jones amassed his yards in 2004 and 2005 when the Bears were a one trick pony. You knew they were going to run and he still got 4 yards a carry. If he gets any sort of blocking at all he should excede the 1350. He won't rip the big one too often, but he will get a 20 yarder here and there.
Posted: 8:50 AM   by Nick
i think it's funny that no one that posted a comment has even mentioned Travis Henry. He is at the top of this list for a reason. He will have a pro bowl year unquestionably, as long as he stays healthy. RB's thrive in denver. 2 seasons ago, bell and anderson EACH ran for 1000 and last year the two bells ran for over 1700! and mike was UFA. impressive. henry will also impress....
Posted: 8:56 AM   by Anonymous
You forgot Sammy Morris!
He will only have 300 yds. and
6 TD's. But he
will have a Super Bowl Ring with
Posted: 8:57 AM   by Anonymous
It's a shame that Corey wanted out of New England. I do happen to think he's a team player, as he was never a distraction for the Pats. You can't fault him for wanting to try and pin down a starting job. I have a lot of respect for the work Corey did, and the character he displayed in New England - especially with the Pats signing Maroney. Still, he could have easily had 800 yards a season for the next three years and maybe grabbed another ring.
Posted: 9:07 AM   by Anonymous
I think the last guy was right, if the Jets can get a good pass catching TE they will have a very effective offense. Drafting D'Brickshaw last year was great. If they can keep their D intact and draft say Greg Olsen and a good lineman to help out, the Jets just might be a legitimate contender.. Prediction T. Jones 1450 yds, Leon Washington 600 yds, Cedric Houston 400 yds. Chad Pennington 3000 yds +
Posted: 9:39 AM   by Anonymous
I totally agree with all of the people trashing McGahee. The Bills did themselves a huge favor by getting rid of this slimeball. Locker room cancer indeed.
Posted: 10:07 AM   by Anonymous
You know, I don't understand Buffalo. They got rid of a rising star at running back in Henry thinking that MacGahee was the answer. Henry is a hell of a back; MacGahee is a terrible team player and takes plays off. He's also arrogant as hell. They should have kept Henry. Now they don't have either. I thought Buffalo was looking to turn things around this season. Losman is starting to look pretty good (his numbers were far better than Roethlisberger's and Eli's last season), but without a strong running game, that team has no hope.
Posted: 10:37 AM   by Anonymous
Lewis, Dillon, Green, stick a fork in them, they're done. McGahee, Bell and Henry are cancers. There is a reason noone wants them. Jones could be decent if the Jets & Pennington stay healthy.
Posted: 10:46 AM   by Anonymous
Green will break 1500 yards, mark my words, the Texans rushing game is not that bad, Ron Dayne rushed for over 500 yards in their last 5 games after two ACL injuries and a broken leg took out 3 starters.
Posted: 10:47 AM   by Anonymous
Sorry Jets fans, Thomas Jones is no Pro Bowler. I watched every Bears game last year and I didn't see him break one tackle. He goes down on first contact, I doubt he'll get 1000 yards this year.
Posted: 10:47 AM   by Anonymous
Mcgahee will gain over 1300. All you Buffalo haters, your just mad cause nobody wants to play for a team who can't win the superbowl
Posted: 10:48 AM   by Brendan Bleeks
I agree with Travis Henry on top of the list but i would add 200 yards, 1600 yards rushing. The Broncos are going to go back to the run more with Daniel Graham in blocking, Henry has his big contract and won't cause any problems with the team as a result. He fits perfectly in the scheme and with Cutler's big arm stretching the field, he's sure to have holes to exploit
Posted: 10:48 AM   by Venncity
Dillion have 800 yards? Anyone watch a patriots game last year? I'll be suprised if he can walk out of bed.
Posted: 11:12 AM   by Anonymous
why is that every bills fan constantly trys to bad mouth the players that have left there team. Bills management is who should get all the grief. They have alot of holes to fill. If you think willis want put up big numbers this upcoming season then your dreaming dont get me wrong hes a tad bit overated but your crazy to think he want do well in balitmores system which has leaders that will get all in his face if he gets out of line. McNair Lewis Reed are a few names especially Lewis he will put him in place. The problem in Bufflao is that there is no leadership most of the players on that have made it public in criticizing the bills. Takeo Spikes is a good example he was very upset that the bills just let London Fletcher and Nate Clements didnt even want to resign with the bills. And now the team is trying to trade away Spikes. Its funny how every football knowledge person is saying hes going to make an major impact but all these bills are hopeing he fails.
Posted: 11:26 AM   by Anonymous
I'm not sure how well Jamal is going to do, instead of facing cleveland two tines a year, he now has to face the Ravens twice. That has to hurt his numbers automatically. If Jamal can gain 1100 yards in baltimore i'm quite sure McGahee can gain 1200 or more. And as for Ahman green, all he has to average is 63 yards a game to reach 1000, (providing he stays healthy) if ron dayne and wali lundy can have big games, I'd assume Ahman can as well.
Posted: 11:35 AM   by Anonymous
Ahman Green has much more value than just rushing yards. He is arguably the best receiver out of the backfield in the NFL. I wouldnt underestimate him even for his rushing yards though. I think he will gain at least 1000 yards rushing, but his value to the team will be even more in blocking the blitz and cathing passes out of the back field. the Texans will get the value for their money. And you heard it here first.
Posted: 11:39 AM   by Hank Kingsley
I want to see Jamal play the Ravens. Let him do his little tip toe before he makes his move on them. I predict at least two very low yardage games for him against his old team.
Posted: 11:53 AM   by Anonymous
Nobody has said anything about Henry, he's gonna go nuts in Denver. 1200 yards with the titans, are you kidding me, I see him at 1500 maybe a little more with Denver.
Posted: 11:56 AM   by Anonymous
While the Jets scored big time by getting Jones for so little, i think Henry got the Golden Ticket when he signed on with the Broncos. His 1 cut and hit the hole style is a perfect match with Denver's blocking schemes. Add in the recent signing of Daniel Graham and his blocking ability and that scheme just got better.

Less talented backs have racked up 1,000+ yards there and with Mike Bell as his high-motor backup, Henry should get plenty of chances to rip it up without being asked to do it all. Fresher legs late in games at a mile high is deadly to the other guy.

1,400 yards is a good estimate, but i wouldn't be surprised to see him top that.

Was sad to see Tatum leave but if he does win the top job in Detroit (and holds on to the damn ball) his explosiveness on turf will have him over 1,000 easy. Even if he is not #1 all season, his yards per carry should be good. Should be a nice pickup for the Lions.

Wow, Matt Millen did something right...weird.

Green's on the downside and will be behind a cruddy line, Lewis is a has-been, and the Bills faithful can tell you all you need to know about Willis
Posted: 12:13 PM   by Anonymous
Travis Henry is an animal- def. one of the toughest runners in this league to tackle, but his injury history and fumbling could land him in Shanahans doghouse.

Thomas Jones is a gifted runner with good vision and toughness should elevate the Jets to the next level.

McGahee could/should hyave a monster season in baltimore. Watch out!

Jamal Lewis must prove he can stay at or close to 100% health this season if he wants to put up any kind of #'s.

Dillon is still a beast, but he's old and tires out like no other.

Brown and Rhodes are backup material.
Posted: 12:15 PM   by Anonymous
Thomas Jones' production will fall off dramatically. He was a product of a good offensive line in CHI.
Posted: 12:18 PM   by db
The very first post, the one about Corey Dillion, may have been the dumbest thing I have ever read. They let him go for financial reasons, not because he was not a team player. He was unhappy in Cinn because he felt the team was not making the proper moves to gain a championship. He complained, but he also signed away his career to the origanally. He has had not one problem in NE, and was declaired a team leader in the locker room. So were does your statement come from?
Posted: 12:30 PM   by Jumbo
The guys listed here aren't top tier backs and you are giving them very charitable numbers. The only two I can imagine rushing for over 1000 is Macgahee and henry. Henry is gonna share carries too. Dillon is the interesting one. If he stays healthy, he is still a very good back.
Posted: 2:08 PM   by Anonymous
LOL Haven't you Jets fans realised by now that your not supposed to draft Tight Ends in the first round. lol

My money would be on Jones to wrack up alot of yards this year, exspecially considering the draft the Jets had last year.
Posted: 2:11 PM   by mewtwo723
Travis Henry will have a career year in Denver! Dude was great in Buffalo and great in Tenessee. In Denver he will get atleast 1600 yards.
Posted: 2:26 PM   by Ravi
Henry and jones are definetely in the best situations. Henry I think will have a monster year barring any injuries (1500, 12 TD). Jones will be a big boost to the running game but will only hover around the 1000 yard mark. I think Washington is going to be a bigger part of the offense next year and they could become a great duo a-la bush and mccallister on the saints. jamal lewis i can not see resurrecting his career in cleveland. at one time i thought he was the perfect back because he had size and quickness but those days are long gone. ahman green may be the worst free agent signing in history. why not sign a guy like chris brown for a quarter of the price, and make a decent duo with him and dominic davis? lastly, mcgahee is the hardest to predict. he has shown that he can be a good runner at times but injuries and inconsistency have been a problem. lets remember that travis henry basically was a yard per carry better than mcgahee with almost the same o-line. i could see a situation where mcgahee gets 1700 yards and also a situation where he gets 700.
Posted: 4:07 PM   by Anonymous
mark my words..
write it down...
ill sign it.

denver's runningback travis henry goes over 2000 next year...
Posted: 4:20 PM   by Anonymous
(Bills Fan) McGahee only runs well when motivated by something beyond simply winning the game. He plays the Jets tough because of a buddy that he wants to one up. He played well the first season (falling forward on every run) because he wanted to prove he could do it after the knee injury. He will have a nice year in Baltimore next year (1300 yards), but after that he won't. Running Back was once a glamor position in the NFL, but now they are used like pawns in a chess game.
Posted: 4:29 PM   by Anonymous
Corey Dillon a cancer. Worst team player out there cept for that guy on the Oakland "Randy's".
Posted: 5:46 PM   by Jordan
Thomas Jones won't get over 1,300 yds next year... not when he'll be playing the Pats and the Dolphins defenses twice, as well as some other very good AFC D's...
Posted: 5:49 PM   by Anonymous
Some of you people make me laugh.a player leaves your team and you cry about it.The bills are soft and are known for losing a bunch of superbowls so im happy for Mcgahee and even if he aint successful atleast he's away from the city that cries when palyers want out.

As for Green he's lucky if he gets 500 yards.This may be news to some but the Texans o-line stinks and has a long way to go.

Now I think jones and Henry are gonna tear defenses up this year and Lewis and Dillon are not even coming close to 1000.
Posted: 5:21 PM   by Anonymous
Travis Henry will break 1,500 yds. Write it down.
Posted: 10:13 PM   by Anonymous
willis mcgahee will have 17 to 1800 yards this season the ravens will run him about 400 times
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