View Full Version : LJ - the NFL's leading rusher in 2006

Rain Man
07-02-2006, 09:36 AM
I apologize if this is a repost, because it's so much trouble to go back and look for other threads that are similar. Click and look, click and look, I just don't have time for that kind of thing.


Michael Harmon / FOXSports.com
Posted: 5 days ago

If you went only by the highlight reels and wrap-up shows, you'd assume the running game had become extinct (save the occasional 80-yard gallop to the end zone).
However, the videotape belies the true X's and O's and game plans. Pro football games are still being won in the trenches, as evidenced by the success of the top running backs over the past decade. In fact, the Top 10 rushers over the past five seasons outgained the Top 10 rushers in the prior five seasons by six percent.

Last week, I gazed into the crystal ball to project the top 15 quarterbacks in the passing yardage and passing touchdown categories. Earlier this week, I turned my attention to running backs with the rushing touchdown category. It felt strange not to be able to include Jerome Bettis.

Anyway, this turn at prognostication concerns the rushing yardage category. The usual suspects of Shaun Alexander, Clinton Portis and LaDainian Tomlinson are represented here, as well as several new faces. It all starts in Kansas City, where a player maintains a chip on his shoulder Robert Conrad himself couldn't knock off.

Top 15

Larry Johnson was the story of the second half of last season. He'll look to turn that into a year's worth of success in 2006. (Brian Bahr / Getty Images)

1. Larry Johnson, Kansas City
Priest Holmes has lost much of the last two seasons to injury and will return in a limited role in 2006, if he returns at all. New coach Herman Edwards declared Johnson his starter, and he still holds a grudge from his sporadic use during Dick Vermeil's tenure. He's itching to run toward the 2,000-yard mark after his monstrous 2005 campaign, despite only being the starter for half of the season. He expects to carry a heavy workload, but a healthy offensive line could swing more action to the passing game. Can he stay healthy enough over the course of the season to average 125 yards per game to reach the magical 2,000-yard mark? I predict he'll fall short, but it'll be a fun ride and will be enough to lead the NFL.
2005 Stats: Third in NFL with 1,750 rushing yards
2006 Projection: 1,883 yards

2. Tiki Barber, New York Giants
The Giants offense promises to be one of the top producing units this year as Eli Manning fully settles into the starting quarterback role in his second season as a starter. Of course, it all starts with the production of Barber in the backfield. He's ranked among the league's Top 10 rushers in three of the last five seasons and has dramatically cut down on his fumbles the last two years. As such, his productivity has soared, as has the confidence of the coaching staff to continually put the ball in his hands. The evolution of Manning will keep the chains moving and make for a huge year for Barber.
2005 Stats: Second in NFL with 1,860 rushing yards
2006 Projection: 1,731 yards

3. Shaun Alexander, Seattle
The Seahawks offense under Mike Holmgren chews up yardage and piles up points on an annual basis. Alexander has been the beneficiary of great play-calling and one of the best offensive lines in the game. Of course, he's no slouch, either! Alexander has ranked in the Top 10 in four of the last five seasons and figures to reach the upper echelon once again. The loss of Steve Hutchinson on the offensive line may pose an issue, but the combination of the Seahawks' schedule and other skill position personnel will thrust him toward the top of the heap once again.
2005 Stats: Led NFL with 1,880 rushing yards
2006 Projection: 1,627 yards

4. Clinton Portis, Washington
Fantasy owners were down on Portis after he failed to pile up touchdowns behind an injured offensive line in 2004. Nobody could complain about his productivity in the rushing yardage category, though. He chewed up huge yardage in the Denver scheme, as expected, before joining the power game for Joe Gibbs in Washington. He's ranked in the top five in yardage in three of his four NFL seasons and ranked eighth the other season. Jon Jansen and the rest of the offensive line are back to work Gibbs' scheme once again, and the Redskins added help in the wide receiving corps that will help to stretch the field and give Portis ample running room. Whichever of his multiple personalities shows up on game day, they all produce.
2005 Stats: Fourth in NFL with 1,516 rushing yards
2006 Projection: 1,584 yards

5. LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego
Opposing defenses figure to tighten the screws, or at least make the attempt, with the insertion of Philip Rivers into the starting lineup. Defenses employed the same strategy when Drew Brees assumed the role and they failed to shut him down. Tomlinson has ranked in the top six in the rushing yardage category in five consecutive seasons. The Chargers should still be able to move the ball with a solid offensive line in the high-flying AFC West. The bigger issue for me concerns Tomlinson's durability late in the season. He was forced to the sidelines late last year and watched Michael Turner run wild. I fully expect him to rank among the league leaders once again, although he may have to work a bit harder with Rivers under center.
2005 Stats: Sixth in NFL with 1,462 rushing yards
2006 Projection: 1,487 yards

6. Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati
Rudi took the reins in Cincinnati following the departure of Corey Dillon and never looked back. He's finished in the top 10 in rushing yardage in two consecutive seasons and appears primed for a third straight in the talented Cincinnati offense. He gains the tough yards and keeps the chains moving, just as Edgerrin James did for years in Indianapolis. The passing game with Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson may garner the headlines and highlight reels, but Johnson makes this offense click.
2005 Stats: Seventh in NFL with 1,458 rushing yards
2006 Projection: 1,471 yards

Willis McGahee struggled in a poor Bills offense last year, but should rebound with a coaching turnover in Buffalo. (Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)

7. Willis McGahee, Buffalo
The 2005 year was difficult for McGahee and the Buffalo offense. He shouldered a heavy workload for the second straight season, ranking in the Top 10 in rushing attempts. Last season, he made his first appearance in the Top 10 in rushing yardage. New coach Dick Jauron predicates his offense on a strong running game. He worked the run hard in his last heading coaching stop in Chicago and figures to do the same here with Kelly Holcomb, J.P. Losman and Craig Nall vying for the starting quarterback role. McGahee came into minicamp leaner and anxious to put last season's struggles behind him. Former Jauron favorite Anthony Thomas will factor into the game in some capacity, but make no mistake about it, this is McGahee's team.
2005 Stats: 10th in NFL with 1,247 rushing yards
2006 Projection: 1,399 yards

8. Reuben Droughns, Cleveland
Despite his best efforts, Droughns fell victim to a sputtering Cleveland offense in 2005 with a meager two touchdown runs. He ranked 11th in the league with 1,232 rushing yards with little assistance from the passing attack. His strong year in Cleveland followed his huge 2004 campaign in the Denver system, proving backs can excel outside Mike Shanahan's schemes. This year, the Browns will run with second-year player Charlie Frye under center and former 49er Ken Dorsey as his backup, assuming he's healthy. The receiving corps will be more formidable with the acquisition of Joe Jurevicius, the return of Kellen Winslow, Jr. and, eventually, second-year receiver Braylon Edwards. Droughns ran well without help from the passing game in 2005. Any up-tick in their performance will boost his value as well.
2005 Stats: 11th in NFL with 1,232 rushing yards
2006 Projection: 1,354 yards

9. Edgerrin James, Arizona
The Cardinals quickly moved to upgrade their running game after last season's failures by J.J. Arrington and Marcel Shipp. They went straight for the top available player in James, who owns four appearances in the Top 10 in the rushing yardage category. James leaves the comfort of the Indianapolis offense for another explosive passing attack in Arizona. However, the blocking schemes and personnel do not match that of his former team and could make replication of his 2005 brilliance difficult. I expect him to rank among the top rushers in the game, but suspect we'll see a dip from his past achievements.
2005 Stats: Fifth in NFL with 1,506 rushing yards
2006 Projection: 1,318 yards

10. Ronnie Brown, Miami
Nick Saban loves his power running game. With Ricky Williams on suspension, Saban will have no choice but to lean heavily on his second-year back. Brown was impressive in the running game and as a receiver out of the backfield. The Dolphins upgraded the passing game this off-season with the acquisition of Daunte Culpepper from the Vikings. The passing game should help to stretch the field and create running lanes for Brown.
2005 Stats: 20th in NFL with 907 rushing yards
2006 Projection: 1,266 yards

11. Willie Parker, Pittsburgh
Parker captivated the nation with his scintillating 75-yard touchdown run in Super Bowl XL. Casual football fans who turned in got to see the combination of speed and power he displayed for fantasy owners all season. He took advantage of his ascent to the starting role after injuries befell Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley by rushing for 1,202 yards. The Steelers will utilize him as the top tailback option this fall with Staley and Verron Haynes backing him up. Bill Cowher always focuses on establishing the running game, so he'll undoubtedly pile up touches.
2005 Stats: 12th in NFL with 1,202 rushing yards
2006 Projection: 1,241 yards

Steven Jackson was misused in St. Louis last season, but the new staff promises to give him more looks. (Elsa / Getty Images)

12. Steven Jackson, St. Louis
The "greatest show on turf" has been grounded, or at least relocated to Detroit with the departure of Mike Martz. The introduction of Scott Linehan as head coach portends to a shift in offensive philosophy to feature his power running back. Jackson is poised to be one of this year's breakout stars, as all of the skilled players in the passing game return to the fold. He rushed for 1,046 yards last year despite being virtually forgotten about by Martz on a number of occasions.
2005 Stats: 14th in NFL with 1,046 rushing yards
2006 Projection: 1,227 yards

13. Carnell Williams, Tampa Bay
Jon Gruden famously declared he was going to run his rookie back last season until he couldn't run anymore. After racking up 88 carries in his first three games, however, Williams was slowed by injury and missed two games. That injury couldn't park the Cadillac for long. He still racked up 290 rushing attempts despite missing those games. Gruden will undoubtedly turn to his second-year back heavily again this year with Chris Simms under center.
2005 Stats: 13th in NFL with 1,178 rushing yards
2006 Projection: 1,215 yards

14. Julius Jones, Dallas
Jones taunts you with his explosiveness. Unfortunately, the third-year back out of Notre Dame has battled injuries for two straight seasons and missed 11 games. He has the goods to be one of the game's top backs, if only he can stay on the field. Bill Parcells wants to run the offense through him, and the addition of Terrell Owens will most certainly spread the field to create running room. This will be his best, and perhaps last, shot to become an upper tier back for Parcells in Dallas. Another injury or string of sub-par performances will open the door for backup Marion Barber.
2005 Stats: 17th in NFL with 993 rushing yards
2006 Projection: 1,179 yards

15. Domanick Davis, Houston
Davis narrowly missed his third consecutive 1,000-yard season for the Texans last season despite continued issues in the Houston offense. He anxiously awaited April's draft to find out the intentions of team management and received his answer when the team selected Mario Williams instead of Reggie Bush with the No. 1 pick. New coach Gary Kubiak will seek to build a system akin to that of his Denver success and Davis' versatility as a runner and receiver out of the backfield will be key. Of course, durability remains a concern with his past knee issues. I expect him to miss one or two games, but for the offense to be more productive under Kubiak with the additions of Eric Moulds and Jeb Putzier to aid David Carr and the passing game.
2005 Stats: 18th in NFL with 976 rushing yards
2006 Projection: 1,157 yards

07-02-2006, 09:52 AM

This guys definately a KC fan.

07-02-2006, 10:07 AM
If Priest comes back, LJ won't lead the league in rushing because he will come out on 3rd down because Priest a much better pass-blocker.

Hopefully, LJ has been working on his pass-blocking.

07-02-2006, 12:02 PM
He's also projected to lead in TD's, too:


07-02-2006, 12:11 PM
He's also projected to lead in TD's, too:


From his article.

Johnson stated that his personal goal for 2006 is to crack the 2,000-yard mark.

I've never read where LJ has stated this was his own peronal goal.

Has he said this?

All I've read is his desire to help the Chiefs, especially the Willies and Trent get to the SB.

07-02-2006, 12:16 PM
I believe you are right:


07-02-2006, 12:37 PM
king pink just needs to work on the blocking

07-02-2006, 01:15 PM
From his article.

I've never read where LJ has stated this was his own peronal goal.

Has he said this?

All I've read is his desire to help the Chiefs, especially the Willies and Trent get to the SB.

Yep, I have only heard him talk about the team first