For this part we’ll be ranking each NFC East team’s running back groups. Running backs have been an undervalued position in what has become a passing league. However, the running game is essential to leading a successful team. Without the ground game working, opposing defenses are be free to take out the offensive aerial attack.The scoring system will remain the same as in the previous article. This one will be tougher than the last due to the amount of talent and variety on each squad. We’ll start with the best back field and work our way down.
Dallas Cowboys – 10 points
Over the past few season the Cowboys have been inside the top 5 when it comes to the rushing attack. Everyone knows that Ezekiel Elliott is a top 3 running back in the league, but now there is more depth underneath him. With the additions of Bo Scarborough and Tavon Austin it looks as if this year will be no different for the Cowboys. Bo brings a “Come get some” attitude which fits perfectly with his size and style of play. On the other end Austin brings an unbelievable speed that can’t be matched. Hiding in a distance is also Rod Smith who racked up 128 rushing yards, 141 passing yards, and 5 touchdowns in 4 games. This Dallas team just lost their number 1 wide receiver and will now rely heavier on the ground game. Don’t be shocked if this unit eclipses 2,800 offensive yards in the upcoming season.
Philadelphia Eagles – 8 points
The Eagles are coming off a season where they finished 3rd in the entire league in the rushing department. Losing Lagarrett Blount is a bigger blow to the team than you may expect. Blount led the team with 5 touchdowns on the ground, 3 of which came in the postseason. The Eagles should still finish in the top 10 rushing category, but they’ll no longer have their bulldozer. Jay Ajayi had 400 yards in the 7 regular season games with the Eagles, then added over 150 rushing yards in the playoffs. Ajayi may have been drafted in the 5th round, but before his injury he was believed to be a top 50 player in his draft class. This season he’ll get a chance to showcase his skill as a starter. The team will also be getting back their veteran runner, Darren Sproles, who is great at catching the ball and an excellent punt returner. Corey Clement is going in as the underdog behind both Ajayi and Sproles but he’ll be effective during his opportunities. This group may not have the ace running back like Dallas does, but as a group they’ll give defensive coordinators problems all game long. It also helps to have a QB like Wentz who makes it difficult for defenses to stack the box. It’s also good to note that Ajayi is going into the final year of his rookie contract, so he’ll be playing to show the league what he’s worth in order to receive a big pay day during the upcoming off-season.
New York Giants – 6 points
Saquon Barkley was regarded as a top 5 player at any position going into the draft. Barkley brings an elusiveness that isn’t seen too often. Rushing for over 3,800 yards in 3 years is tough, but Barkley did just that then added an additional 1,100 yards through the air. The Giants have found themselves a great runner in Saquon as well as someone that can be deadly in the passing game. Adding Barkley wasn’t everything as the Giants also acquired Jonathan Stewart in free agency. Even with Stewart splitting with McCaffrey in Carolina, he still managed 680 rushing yards with 6 tds. Stewart will serve as a solid backup, but an even better mentor to the younger players. Will Gallahan will be coming back after averaging over 4 yards per carry in his rookie campaign. Gallahan showed some of his quickness last year, and looks to carry it over into year 2. This group is much underrated going into the season, but they’ll change everyone’s mind once they hit the field.
Washington Redskins – 4 points
After finishing in the bottom 5 in terms of rushing, the Redskins drafted Derrius Guice. Many believe Guice to being the second best rookie running back behind Saquon Barkley. In his time at LSU, Guice rushed for over 2,500 yards in 2 years. However, having success in college won’t guarantee him the starter position in Washington. Samaje Perine came in as a rookie and showed great potential. Starting in 8 games, Perine managed to rush for over 600 yards. Chris Thompson also proved his worth by finishing top 5 in receiving yards on his team. Let’s also not forget or count out Rob Kelley who was crucial in short distance situations. Overall this running back group doesn’t have an identity yet. We’ll see if Guice can come in and make some noise. The future looks very good for this young squad, but they’ll have to go through some growing pains first.The running core for all 4 teams will be interesting to see how they pan out. There are lots of young runners on these teams that make this division worth keeping an eye on. Below you will find how every team has been doing so far. Next week we’ll be looking at tight-ends, one of the most versatile positions.