NFL Running Back Thread

This is a general thread about NFL running backs (RBs).

I’m going to start things off with some comments about RBs who run with a physical, punishing style–something I really like in a RB. I went back to watch clips of previous RBs, and I came away with this impression: There really aren’t a lot of these type of backs. If you were to list all the best RBs of all time, my sense is that most of them wouldn’t really fall into this category. Most of them would rely on moves, speed, and vision. This isn’t to say that they’re not physical–a lot of them can break tackles–but they’re not the type that would punish defenders. So who are some of the really good RBs that do have a physical, punishing style? Off the top of my head, here are a few (in no order):

1. Earl Campbell
2. Walter Payton
3. Marshall Lynch
4. Christian Okoye
5. Jerome Bettis
6. Adrian Peterson

Two older ones who I only saw via highlights: Larry Csonka and Jim Brown. (I’d love to have a RB like Csonka.)

By the way, watching some highlights of AP reinforces my impression that he’s in the same class as the great RBs of the past. You want to mention guys like Walter Payton, Jim Brown, Gayle Sayers, OJ Simpson–I see in that same mold. He had it all–speed, moves, and power. Here are some highlights:

In the last ten or fifteen years, I think he might be the best running back I’ve seen. I would put him above Ladanian Tomlinson and Marshawn Lynch. I guess Marshall Faulk would be in there. Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis, Edgerrin James. You want to put in Priest Holmes, Jamal Lewis, Corey Dillon, and Shaun Alexander–AP above them all (although I guess that might not be so controversial.)

I might choose AP over RBs like Emmitt Smith and Thurman Thomas. I might choose him over Barry Sanders, but that’s more of a preference thing on my part. What about Eric Dickerson or Marcus Allen? Maybe.


7. John Riggins

7 thoughts on “NFL Running Back Thread

  1. I tried to find good video of Chuck Muncie but to no avail. I just remember him as being the hardest hitting RB I ever saw. I remember Campbell as being impossible to bring down, but Muncie was the guy who would slam into a defender and knock the other guy down seemingly all the time.

    I understand why you like runners like this and I don’t blame you, but look at the way the NFL just uses up running backs and leaves them behind. It makes me sad and slighly hesitant to celebrate it very much, you know?

    1. Oh man, Chuck Muncie. Put him on the list. I forgot about him. I hated him, like I hated Campbell back in the day–primarily because I’d get frustrated when the Raiders would have to face those two.

      Mike Allstott should go on there. Maybe guys like George Rogers and William Andrews, but I can barely remember them now.

      …but look at the way the NFL just uses up running backs and leaves them behind. It makes me sad and slighly hesitant to celebrate it very much, you know?

      You mean, after they retire, or the way teams treat them when they’re no longer any good? Either way, I’m not sure it’s that different from the way the NFL treats players in general.

  2. I don’t mean the treatment. I mean how quickly the game itself just destroys RBs. It’s not the same for other positions. I know the line is a physical place to play, but linemen aren’t getting tackled by two linemen running in the opposite direction 30 times a game.

  3. Marcus Allen

    The cutup below is pretty cool because it’s not just the typical highlights you see. People say that Walter Payton was the most complete player, but Marcus be better. I don’t recall motioning out and making the type of catches Marcus made (and he did it quite a lot, if I recall). Also, look at the passes he makes in the cutup–a couple of them are kinda difficult, almost to the point where it looks like he could play QB. (I wish there were footage of his blocking.)

    But one thing kinda stands out–namely, the fact that few of his runs really stand out. Allen doesn’t look super fast, powerful, or elusive. It’s kinda boring, actually. I think Dan Fouts compared LeVeon Bell to Marcus and that makes some sense. Bell doesn’t look super fast or strong–but he’s probably faster and stronger than you think. Having said that, Bell’s style is totally unique in a way that Allen’s isn’t, I think. Anyway, I think the fact that Allen’s runs look sort of “ordinary” hurts him when it comes to judging him as an all-time great. (Eric Dickerson is sort of like this as well.)

  4. Eddie Lacy and Brandon Jacobs are in this–two backs that are the type of RB I like. (I’d like Lacy to be more elusive, but he can be difficult to tackle and also punish defenders–at least at his best.)

    By the way, what was the deal with Peyton Hillis? Remember he had that one really good year, and then just disappeared.

    Notable for the William Andrews-Ronnie Lott and Marshawn Lynch-Jurell Casey collisions. Also, Joey Iosefa gets some love in this.

  5. One of the most beautiful things in football

    Namely, a block(s) from a fullback creating an opening for a RB. Here are some examples:

    By the way, I had a hard time finding blocking highlights from fullbacks. If you guys find any, let me know.

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