Today we look at the running backs.
Arizona Cardinals: Beanie Wells
In the post-Kurt Warner era the Cardinals will most likely not be the passing team they have been in recent years which means more carries for Beanie Wells. He showed great potential in his rookie season (176 carries for 793 rushing yards with seven touchdowns) especially in the final eight games when he scored six of his seven touchdowns. Wells played better as he received more carries and he will only improve on last season.
Arizona Cardinals: Tim Hightower
Hightower has played well in each of the two years in the NFL however he has taken a back seat to Wells as the featured running back. This had to do with him fumbling five times last season however he is still a great value to the Cardinals on the goal line scoring eight times inside the 5-yard line. He is also of value on third downs to get the short yardage for a first down and as a receiver out of the backfield. Hightower had 63 receptions for 428 yards with no touchdowns last season.
San Francisco 49ers: Frank Gore
Last season Gore scored ten touchdowns for the first time in his career and finished 11th in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,120 his second best mark in his career. Head coach Mike Singletary had envisioned a smash mouth style of running game last season which works so long as you have the offensive line to plow ahead. That was not the case for the 49ers last season which led to Gore’s injury early in the season in which he missed two games. The offensive line has improved and with Alex Smith as the quarterback with receiving threats like Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis the defense will have to account for the passing game this season. This should give Gore more open running lanes and lessen the hits he takes. Gore is a great option out of the backfield catching 52 passes for 406 yards with three touchdowns last season.
Seattle Seahawks: Justin Forsett
On only 114 carries last season Forsett managed to rush for 619 yards and four touchdowns. In the four games he received ten or more carries he averaged 5 yards per rush. Forsett does not have much competition outside of Julius Jones to be the featured running back for the Seahawks so he should land the starting job. Jones has not done too well since joining the Seahawks two years ago. Forsett will most likely lose goal line and third down carries to Leon Washington but will still be the featured back.
St. Louis Rams: Steven Jackson
Jackson only managed four rushing touchdowns last season but piled up his second best rushing season with 1,416 yards. Jackson was one of the few offense weapons the Rams had last season as they endured a 1-15 record, worst in the NFL. The Rams have not had a winning record since Jackson joined the team in 2004 however this has not slowed down his production. With new quarterback Sam Bradford and an upgraded offensive line Jackson will only build on his numbers from last season.
My Take: Steven Jackson
Not only is Jackson the best running back in the NFC West but I consider him to be in the top five of most talented RB’s in the NFL. Regardless of the Rams record, what the score is or who is under center and on the offensive line Jackson continues to be productive. Could you imagine him on a winning team and the offensive stats he would put out?