Last month at Spin Zone, we took a look at the Top 5 Coaches With Something To Prove (which you can view here if you missed). This is a similar list, but this time we will be looking at the running back’s in the AFC. As with last time, this isn’t necessarily a list of running back’s that are in danger of losing their jobs (although you could argue that every single game a running back is fighting for his job), but rather which running back’s have to make a statement for one reason or another in the upcoming 2012 season.
5. Chris Johnson, TEN
CJ2K set the bar extremely high for himself when he ran for 2,000 yards during the 2009 season. It was just last year during the uncertain off-season when, upon the owners and players coming to terms with one another, Johnson held out for more money. The Titans, not known historically for spending big on players, gave him his cash to the tune of $35 million guaranteed, and all he did was disappoint.
Johnson barely cracked 1,000 yards last season, and finished with a 4.0 yard rushing average, the worst of his career. What’s worse, is that during the last four games of the season, he rushed for 23, 55, 56, and 61 yards respectively. He’ll have to do a lot better than that this season to prove to people and the franchise that he was worth the investment. His career production keeps him from ranking higher on this list.
4. Darren McFadden, OAK
D-Mac has shown all of the potential in the world to become a star in the league. The only thing keeping him from doing so is his penchant for injury.
While he struggled mightily in his first two seasons, he had the ever-touted third-year breakout campaign, racking up 1,157 yards on the ground with a 5.2 average per carry, to go along with 507 yards receiving and 10 TD’s total.
Those are the type of numbers that win you crazy public support by way of fantasy football. However, he has missed at least 4 games in each of his four seasons in the league, and last year saw him miss 9 games. Unfortunately, staying healthy is a large part of a players success in the NFL. If you can’t stay healthy, you can’t help your team. A full 16-game season would really help him out with a lucrative contract extension.
3. Reggie Bush, MIA
Last season, Reggie Bush did two things few people ever anticipated happening: 1) He suited up for the Miami Dolphins and 2) He rushed for over a thousand yards in a season. After his rookie contract expires with the New Orleans Saints, most people both within the football world and outside had accepted that Bush would never be more than a change-of-pace back.
Even the Dolphins organization themselves had Daniel Thomas primed to take over as the workhorse, with Bush playing the spell & third-down role. But unexpectedly, perhaps realizing that this may have been his last shot to prove to the league that he was a capable starter, he delivered an outstanding season, rushing for 1086 yards and 5.0 YPC average. He also added 296 yards receiving, a conservative number for Bush, but one that shows he is ready to transition to becoming a full-time, between the tackles running back. Daniel Thomas will be pressing him for playing time all season, however, and Bush will have to be at the top of his game to retain his starting position.
2. C.J. Spiller, BUF
Spiller came into the league with high praise and higher hopes. Coach Chan Gailey called the player “a steal” at number nine, and at that moment the weight of expectations was born. Spiller failed to produce any distinguishable results, however, as he amassed only 283 rushing yards and only one touchdown (receiving).
Last year, he did start to show promise, rushing for 561 yards behind what is at best an average line. He also rushed for 5.2 yards per carry. The opportunities won’t come easy for Spiller, though. A man by the name of Fred Jackson has been quietly turning into one of the league’s better running backs over the years, and was absolutely leading this team through the first half of the season until he went out with injury in week 10. Spiller needs to take the reigns and prove he’s more than just a compliment to Jackson.
1. Donald Brown, IND
Donald Brown is entering his 4’th season in the NFL and has been given every opportunity for success that one can receive. The franchise has not brought in any serious competition to push Brown for the starting job throughout his tenure there, and still the most carries Brown has earned in a given season is 134 last year, up only 5 from the previous season at 129.
In his three years as a first round pick for the Colts, Donald Brown has rushed the ball 341 times.
By comparison, Maurice Jones-Drew ran the ball 343 times last season alone. That amount of carries is simply unacceptable for a runner who missed just three games over the past two years. Donald Brown will surely only have one more year to show the Colts Front Office that he deserves to be in the NFL, and in a starting role to boot.
Make sure to check back with NFL Spin Zone for the NFC edition in the coming days…
If you missed the Top 5 Coaches With Something To Prove article from before, click here!
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