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RBBC Review - 2005
David Dorey
August 16, 2005

Each summer fantasy fanatics pore over depth charts and cheat sheets to determine which running backs they most want and in the back of their mind always looms the fear of that four letter word (acronym actually but stick with me here) - RBBC. The old running-back-by-committee which takes your perfectly good starting runner and has him trot off the field so another back can get the fantasy points (preferably not your opponent's).

The reality with runners sharing carries is twofold really. Running backs split the load because that is the offensive scheme employed or because there simply is no known "best" runner for the team. In many cases, the lack of that dominant runner is not yet known due to injury or the team has a new set of runners. No coach yanks a hot player from a game just to satisfy a game plan. They will use what works and what wins. For some teams, that means more than one runner.

Every team will - given an option - use the running backs to win the game. There is simply far lesser risk handing the ball off than executing a pass play which can result in a sack, interception or incompletion. If a team is ahead on the scoreboard, they want to run the clock out. Passing often kills the clock, running usually doesn't. This is why running backs are the most consistent and productive fantasy scorer. Beyond Coach-speak, reporters stretching a story or the endless speculation or mind games, remember this single truth:

The best players play. Guaranteed. Period. It's about winning.

This time of the season is rife with speculation and innuendo. Let's look at facts, changes and best probability. The greatest factor on a RBBC situation is if that offense is designed to use "specialists". Just because the #1 RB for a team is not yet know does not necessarily mean the team will take 16 games to make a choice if they prefer a primary back instead of RBBC.

The statistics you will see are derived to show who the primary ball carrier was for each team last year. The stats are computed by each game played and which runner had the most carries in that game. Sum it up and you get how many games each player was the primary ball carrier for his team and the averages of all runs and catches of all team rushers in that game. Reviewing this from a per game perspective is much more accurate than merely doing math to total season numbers. For our purposes, I am defining a team to be RBBC if the lead carrier does not receive at least 75% of the rushing plays considering all runners used in a game, including fullbacks.

Let's take a look at what we are likely to see with how running backs are used this season:

Team By Team Review

Arizona # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Smith, Emmitt 14 67% 74% 36% 20 19 65 0.6 2 1 8 0.0
Croom, Larry 2 52% 58% 21% 16 14 37 0.0 2 1 4 0.0

The second season for Denny Green begins and the offense looks much stronger. Gone is Emmitt Smith and back to the fold is Marcel Shipp. But the Cardinals drafted J.J. Arrington with the 2.12 pick and he's been nothing less than exciting in camp. When old man Emmitt played last year he hovered right around the 75% mark and with a young buck like Arrington, that number should rise. There should be no sign of sharing here and nothing has happened to make Shipp appear to be likely to horn in on the action.

Atlanta # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Dunn, Warrick 15 67% 71% 47% 20 17 73 0.6 3 2 20 0.0
Duckett, T.J. 1 55% 69% 0% 11 11 45 0.0 0 0 0 0.0

Atlanta does employ a sharing scenario that uses not only Dunn and Duckett, but also fullback Justin Griffith. Dunn is an older player that is not going to have 300 carries a season and Duckett is relied on for more short yardage and goal line duty though last season did show a surprising use of Duckett. Sometimes he would have significant play in games and in a few he was never called. With Dunn even older, there is no reason to expect that the sharing is not at least the same if not increased. If Dunn is injured, Duckett becomes the clear starter but with Griffith around, even that doesn't mean he will be a heavy use back. Remember too that the team has one of the better runners in the game in Michael Vick.

Baltimore # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Lewis, Jamal 10 75% 82% 20% 24 23 97 0.7 1 1 11 0.0
Taylor, Chester 6 73% 77% 62% 24 20 84 0.3 4 4 21 0.0

There is no question here about sharing. Lewis is the man and gets to play a full season that will not be broken up by the legal system. Even when Taylor subbed for him last year he did so as a heavy use back.

Buffalo # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
McGahee, Willis 10 80% 85% 54% 27 24 93 1.1 3 2 14 0.0
Henry, Travis 4 78% 81% 61% 22 20 68 0.0 2 2 7 0.0
Williams, Shaud 2 49% 55% 18% 17 16 62 0.5 1 1 5 0.0

The Bills actually have one of the lowest sharing ratios in the entire league. The time last year with Shaud Williams is no measuring stick but the 85% of rushing plays by McGahee is money in the bank. Whatever the Bills will produce on the ground will almost all about Willis McGahee, particularly with the departure of Travis Henry.

Carolina # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Goings, Nick 10 80% 80% 71% 25 21 77 0.6 5 3 30 0.1
Foster, De'shaun 2 80% 92% 21% 27 26 113 1.0 2 2 27 0.0
Davis, Stephen 2 42% 60% 10% 13 12 46 0.0 1 1 16 0.0
Hoover, Brad 1 78% 80% 71% 29 24 99 0.0 5 2 6 0.0
Harris, Joey 1 52% 53% 50% 12 9 45 0.0 3 0 0 0.0

The Panthers do not prefer to go to a sharing scenario but in light of their ever changing backfield of 2004, they varied all over from 92% down to only 53% for the amount the primary back ran the ball of all running backs in the game that day. But Davis was almost always injured and does not count. When Foster - the preferred option - was healthy he had 92% of the runs. Even Nick Goings had 80% when he was the fill in player. No worries here other than Foster and Davis still being around. This year - Eric Shelton was drafted to put a stop to any revolving door at tailback. This offense will remain non-RBBC.

Chicago # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Jones, Thomas 13 77% 85% 60% 24 18 73 0.5 6 4 33 0.0
Thomas, Anthony 3 91% 99% 62% 31 27 93 0.7 4 3 20 0.0

Though the Bears had a soft rushing game last year in most games, they stuck with the runner they started with in each game. When Anthony Thomas played, he had almost every single run in each game. Even Thomas Jones remained at 85% and now the Bears have drafted the stereotypical workhorse back in Cedric Benson. There is concern that Jones will still be used and even some coach speak to that effect but last season in every game - there was no sharing. There is a new offense being installed by Ron Turner but that is also slated to use a primary back heavily. An unseen offense is always open to debate, but the Bears are going to be using a much more traditional offense than last year - more inside running and vertical passing which only points at more primary back use, not less.

Cincinnati # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Johnson, Rudi 16 82% 93% 34% 24 23 91 0.8 2 1 5 0.0

Rudi Johnson was the man last year and cashed a big paycheck in the offseason because of it. The Bengals had drafted Chris Perry to challenge for the position but a hernia prevented Perry from ever being a factor. He is healthy now (at least "healthier") and could be a factor but the Bengals were very successful last year riding Johnson and Perry's use is no given. There is a bit more risk this year than last, but with such heavy use of Johnson it is unimaginable that the Bengals would suddenly revert to RBBC. They need to get their money's worth out of Johnson now.

Cleveland # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Suggs, Lee 9 79% 80% 70% 24 21 81 0.2 3 2 9 0.0
Green, William 7 73% 79% 43% 19 17 60 0.1 2 2 10 0.0

New offense this season casts doubt with Suggs the likely starter but Reuben Droughns picked up in the offseason. Sharing here is possible but the new OC Maurice Carthon does not come from a background of using specialists and was a part of the Dallas coaching staff last year. New HC Romeo Crennel was the defensive coordinator back in New England and won't have as big a hand in offensive strategy as an ex-OC would. But the running back situation there is muddled with the ever-injured Suggs joined by Droughns and, of course, William Green working hard, saying the right things and giving reason to expect him to be some consideration. The runner in each game will likely not share that much, but who that runner will be every week may be the hard part to get right. Early games will be key in seeing if Droughns is used to pick up short yardage and keep Suggs from getting beaten up any earlier than he will anyway.

Dallas # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Jones, Julius 7 86% 93% 51% 31 27 115 1.0 3 2 14 0.0
George, Eddie 6 54% 63% 22% 18 16 56 0.7 2 1 13 0.0
Anderson, Richie 3 47% 35% 85% 13 7 31 0.3 5 4 23 0.0

Once Jones was healthy in 2004, he was very much the heavy use back and while that should continue, the Cowboys have acquired Anthony Thomas in the offseason. That's more likely just a prudent back-up move than a sign that Thomas will have appreciable playing time while Jones remains healthy. The bigger fly in the ointment is the rookie Marion Barber who may end up in a "Richie Anderson" role that takes a few carries and several passes per game. Barber has impressed and may play third downs. It would save Jones from excessive wear and there is no way that he can continue with the 27 attempts per game average from last year. The offense has the look of what benefits fantasy teams the most - a primary use back that should net good fantasy points and a third down player that could end up relevant if only with reception points. And Thomas is a great back-up for Jones.

Denver # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Droughns, Reuben 9 84% 87% 67% 29 25 116 0.7 3 3 22 0.2
Griffin, Quentin 4 72% 79% 50% 24 20 74 0.5 4 3 17 0.3
Bell, Tatum 3 47% 48% 60% 16 14 88 0.7 2 1 23 0.0

Welcome to fantasy hell. The only returning runner from last season was the one that never topped 50% of the carries when he played. The Broncos do not typically like to mix and match backs inside games, they normally just do it over the weeks. That means each game will likely have a primary runner with good fantasy results but that tailback could easily be either Tatum Bell, Mike Anderson, Ron Dayne or Maurice Clarett. You could make a case for any of them. Griffin is still around but so far he is the only runner there that has proven that he is not up to the task of running full-time. If you actually do start the primary runner in any given week for Denver, the returns are very good. Just don't expect to be right every week. Maybe not most weeks. Maybe not two weeks in a row. This is the worst sort of RBBC - you cannot rely on a back playing at all. Even if you nailed down all four runners in your draft does not necessarily mean you will manage to have a fantasy starter every week.

Detroit # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Jones, Kevin 13 67% 78% 35% 21 18 86 0.4 3 2 14 0.1
Pinner, Artose 3 56% 59% 39% 14 12 30 0.3 2 2 18 0.0

The Lions used Kevin Jones above the RBBC line of 75% but not by much last year. They used both Shawn Bryson and Corey Schlessinger in games, particularly in the passing scheme. Consider Jones as the primary runner but not as a total workhorse back. New offensive coordinator Ted Tollner probably won't change much other than trying to figure out how to throw the football to three wideouts at the same time. Jones was very good as the season ended last year and has a better schedule in 2005 as well. He'll likely continue to see other backs get passes and the occasional run, but his ratio of sharing carries will more likely decrease a bit than increase.

Green Bay # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Green, Ahman 13 65% 76% 39% 23 19 87 0.5 4 3 19 0.1
Fisher, Tony 2 56% 55% 61% 17 13 28 0.0 4 4 21 0.0
Davenport, Najeh 1 69% 76% 25% 20 19 178 1.0 1 1 8 0.0

This is the same offense and same players, so the same results can be expected this year. Green had 77% of the runs in 2003 and 76% in 2004. With the injury problems he has often had, there is no reason to expect that he will actually ge more use and Najeh Davenport has the confidence of the coaching staff so Green's numbers have a better chance at decreasing than increasing this season. The Packers also have a tougher schedule with a lesser offensive line. Green's receiving numbers may get a tick up but Tony Fisher fills in as the third down player and would more likely see the increase. This is marginally RBBC.

Houston # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Davis, Domanick 13 88% 90% 80% 28 22 88 1.0 6 5 45 0.1
Wells, Jonathan 3 66% 67% 50% 21 19 72 0.7 2 1 14 0.0

Davis had one of the highest rates of use of any NFL back in both running and catching among running backs for Houston in each game last year. His ridiculously high 80% of all running back receptions shows what an every down player he is considered. The Texans did draft Vernand Morency last April who is similar to Davis in style and size, but the success of Davis should be enough to maintain this high use rate. His biggest concern is maintaining his health but the style of offense is more aligned with "use him up and replace him when needed" than to resort to a sharing scenario.

Indianapolis # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
James, Edgerrin 15 89% 90% 89% 26 22 103 0.6 4 3 32 0.0
Rhodes, Dominic 1 76% 92% 25% 13 12 34 0.0 1 0 0 0.0

The Colts are a divine gift for fantasy football. Not only highly productive across the board, Edgerrin James is always one of the most heavily used backs in the league every season. In a contract year for 2005, he'll be running a lot and running with purpose.

Jacksonville # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Taylor, Fred 13 72% 77% 57% 24 20 93 0.2 5 3 26 0.1
Jones, Greg 2 54% 61% 13% 13 13 34 0.5 1 0 0 0.0
Toefield, Labrandon 1 53% 50% 56% 10 5 22 0.0 5 4 28 0.0

The Jaguars are scrapping the old offense and installing a new one under new offensive coordinator Carl Smith. While a new unseen offense can only be speculated upon, the chances are best that a primary runner for the Jaguars will see more carries this year. Taylor is still a question mark to return but LaBrandon Toefield and rookie Alvin Pearman wait in the wings. The new offense will likely be similar to what the Bears hope to do - run inside more and throw farther downfield. Those "non-west coast" plans are always better for relying on heavy use backs.

Kansas City # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Holmes, Priest 8 75% 81% 45% 28 25 112 1.8 3 2 23 0.1
Johnson, Larry 5 73% 80% 43% 25 20 87 1.4 4 3 44 0.4
Blaylock, Derrick 3 86% 87% 83% 27 22 98 0.7 5 3 31 0.0

Obviously the Chiefs have been a mecca for fantasy runners the last few years and there has not been any significant sharing even though Holmes has been injury prone and reasonable to want to protect. This season Larry Johnson is the clear back-up and was very good in play last season. Even though there are signs that he will be given much more play this year to spell Holmes, it is hard to believe given their history and the reality that Holmes would rather go out in a blaze of glory than to merely slow to a stop. Most reasonable to expect - Holmes is the primary runner with ridiculous numbers and only once the game is out of hand will Johnson come in. It remains to be seen, but Holmes has never shown the ability to ration himself and the Chiefs coaches typically listen to what Holmes wants.

Miami # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Morris, Sammy 7 69% 69% 64% 20 16 66 0.7 4 3 17 0.0
Minor, Travis 4 71% 75% 59% 21 16 48 0.3 4 2 11 0.0
Henry, Leonard 2 87% 89% 80% 23 20 63 0.0 3 2 6 0.0
Gordon, Lamar 2 84% 83% 85% 25 16 27 0.0 9 7 37 0.0
Forsey, Brock 1 59% 62% 0% 13 13 44 0.0 0 0 0 0.0

What a mess. You do not so much view the Miami statistics from 2004 as you do "witness" them. Scott Linehan came over from the Vikings to become the new offensive coordinator and bring in a Vikings-like offensive scheme that will also have the hand of new head coach Nick Saban. As if that would not be hard enough to predict, you have the first rusher taken in the 2005 NFL draft on board in Ronnie Brown who is now joined by Ricky "what was I thinking" Williams after he serves a four game suspension. Throw in Brown's standard holdout and this situation is almost impossible to predict reliability. The only truism to hold on to here is that no team takes the first back in the draft with the 1.02 pick and then use him as a part-time player. It is reasonable to expect that the Dolphins would benefit from getting Williams some playing time to show his value and then shipping him off in a trade to get something back from the horror of the 2004 season. The first year offense also will have a below-average quarterback and in a rebuilding year, almost anything could happen.

Expect Ronnie Brown to turn into a great primary back in the 2006 season, but this year there is so much risk in relying on him being the primary runner without sharing significantly that he can just barely be considered a fulltime back at this point. There are simply to many tangents to the offense that water down what he could be - and likely will be in the future.

Minnesota # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Smith, Onterrio 8 74% 80% 58% 18 13 63 0.3 5 4 40 0.3
Bennett, Michael 5 58% 58% 54% 15 11 42 0.2 4 4 37 0.2
Moore, Mewelde 3 85% 85% 86% 28 18 113 0.0 9 8 66 0.0

The Vikings have a new offensive coordinator this season but Steven Loney was just promoted up and the offensive style is not likely to get any overhaul. The Vikings had good primary use of backs when Michael Bennett was out and Onterrio Smith and Mewelde Moore had some nice games. Now Bennett is back (make that Bennett is back for now) and in 2003, no back for Minnesota every had more than 68% of the carries in any single game. In 2004, they had Bennett injured and Smith suspended and began to run short on backs. Smith has already pissed away this season but Bennett, Moore and the rookie Ciatrick Fason are ready for the season. Throw in Moe Williams and the picture is not clear, though not "Denver unclear".

Expect Bennett to take a good portion of the carries but more likely not to the level that can be considered non-RBBC. The Vikings do want to run more this year, as they say pretty much every summer, and there is talent on the roster to get it down. Consider this team likely to be marginally RBBC and once Bennett is hurt again, either Moore or Fason will likely take over a more heavily used role than what Bennett had been doing.

New England # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Dillon, Corey 15 70% 77% 27% 24 23 109 0.8 1 1 7 0.1
Faulk, Kevin 1 93% 83% 100% 14 5 4 0.0 9 8 72 0.0

Interestingly, the Patriots had always been an RBBC team with about 65% the best any runner would turn in an individual game. Then along came Dillon and that rose last season to over 77%. Dillon has provided a work horse back unlike any they have had in many years. There is a chance that Cedric Cobb could see more playing time at the end of games and the offense like Kevin Faulk on a handful of third downs, but in every game DIllon can be relied on for the primary role which while not quite as good as many runners in the NFL, still is heavy enough to consider him a primary back with no RBBC until the game is already decided - if even then. Losing offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will more likely result in more running, not less.

New Orleans # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
McAllister, Deuce 13 88% 94% 59% 24 20 83 0.7 4 3 18 0.0
Stecker, Aaron 3 82% 76% 93% 21 14 57 0.3 8 5 37 0.0

McAllister has always been heavily used with over 90% of all carries in games when he is healthy. The Saints just made him rich in the offseason and need to get their money's worth. Add in an improved offensive line for 2005 and McAllister may become even more heavily used.

NY Giants # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Barber, Tiki 16 81% 82% 76% 25 20 95 0.8 5 3 36 0.1

To say last season was a surprise is an understatement. The diminutive Barber comes off a career year that saw him remain healthy and receive use like he was a 230 pound youngster. In a new offense, it is not unusual for runners to be the more successful players and particularly when a rookie quarterback is also learning the ropes. The Giants drafted the huge rookie Brandon Jacobs (6'4", 267) with the 4.09 pick and given that he is the polar opposite from Barber, it was done for a reason.

Barber was not as effective in the red zone and short yardage as was desired last year and Jacobs comes in as a way to resolve that problem. It is expected that Barber's numbers will dip this year as he loses some carries and scores to Jacobs but Barber has spent his entire career with such scenarios hanging over him that rarely materialize. The Giants only used Ron Dayne on 53 carries the entire season last year when he was expected to do much more. The situation appears to see Barber most likely get lower numbers across the board this season - just like most any season Barber has played and yet surprised.

The selection of Jacobs could change the non-RBBC nature of the Giants last year and the rookie is almost exactly the same in size and ability as another running back - Jerome Bettis.

NY Jets # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Martin, Curtis 15 73% 83% 35% 27 24 107 0.8 3 3 16 0.1
Jordan, Lamont 1 49% 51% 25% 19 18 73 0.0 1 1 11 0.0

Curtis Martin led the NFL in rushing yardage last year but he actually had less percentage of carries than the previous year (88% vs, 83%). Still that is well above the RBBC line and let's be serious - he was the NFL rushing champion last year. Martin is no younger to be sure and a slow down is reasonable but the same could be said last year. New offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger will be bringing a Tennessee influence but that has actually made higher use of the primary back.

Oakland # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Zereoue, Amos 7 60% 70% 42% 16 12 48 0.3 4 3 24 0.0
Wheatley, Tyrone 5 53% 67% 19% 15 14 51 0.6 2 2 11 0.0
Crockett, Zack 3 44% 56% 16% 15 13 64 0.3 2 1 8 0.0
Fargas, Justin 1 30% 29% 31% 6 2 14 0.0 4 3 17 0.0

Only Miami looked uglier last year. While Norv Turner has historically used primary backs with very heavy ratios, he was unable to find one on his roster in 2004. The acquisition of Lamont Jordan should see the sharing reduced drastically this year though as in every year, the question is how much Zack Crockett will be used. There have been statements to suggest that Crockett will get more use this year though such a specialist would be new to a team that Norv Turner runs. Crockett was around last year and yet had only four carries through the first thirteen weeks. He turned in some nicer numbers at the end of the season when there were virtually no other runners to use and opposing defense.

Lamont Jordan is a big back and capable of moving the pile himself, even more so with Crockett leading the way. Other than a mention by Turner that Crockett will be considered for short yardage, there has been nothing else that suggests that Jordan will be anything less than a primary runner in for every down. Expect Jordan to be the primary back and the only mitigating factor to his fantasy value is if Crockett actually was used near the goal line. Until that is proven the case, you cannot consider this as an RBBC team because it goes against the history of the coaching and offensive scheme.

Philadelphia # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Westbrook, Brian 13 70% 69% 75% 21 14 62 0.2 7 6 54 0.5
Levens, Dorsey 2 58% 63% 38% 13 11 42 0.0 2 2 17 0.0
Mahe, Reno 1 52% 44% 60% 16 7 26 0.0 9 8 62 0.0

The Eagles scheme has always been the prototypical RBBC situation and last year did not have Correll Buckhalter to add into the mix. There is no reason to expect that anything other than RBBC will happen - that is the design of the offense.

Pittsburgh # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Staley, Duce 9 65% 69% 29% 22 20 90 0.1 1 1 6 0.0
Bettis, Jerome 6 78% 85% 29% 32 31 123 0.7 1 1 8 0.0
Parker, Willie 1 49% 50% 40% 21 19 102 0.0 2 2 4 0.0

This rushing attack for the Steelers is usually RBBC in nature with the basher Bettis countered by a fleet runner - last year was supposed to be Staley though he was injured in many games or absent. With Staley back and old man Bettis one year older, the sharing ratio should return to where it was when Staley was healthy last year. He'll take about 70% of the carries and get all the yards while Bettis comes in for all short yardage and goal line runs. If Staley's balky knee continues to be a problem, then WIllie Parker is expected to step in and supply the yardage runs.

As long as Bettis remains such a top touchdown hog, the Steelers will remain in an RBBC scheme.

Seattle # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Alexander, Shaun 16 75% 83% 41% 25 22 106 1.0 2 1 11 0.3

Alexander is one of the top backs in the league and is no concern for RBBC. He is spelled just enough to keep him healthy and he remains one of the most durable backs in the league.

San Diego # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Tomlinson, Ladainian 15 80% 82% 79% 27 23 89 1.1 5 4 29 0.1
Turner, Michael 1 63% 63% 63% 20 15 87 0.0 5 4 8 0.0

Like Alexander, Tomlinson turns in almost the exact same sort of numbers and ratios and that considering he was hampered with injury for much of the 2004 season. No fear of seeing his carries decrease here. Tomlinson actually had 93% of runs when he was completely healthy in 2003.

San Francisco # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Barlow, Kevan 13 66% 75% 41% 21 18 60 0.5 3 2 16 0.0
Hicks, Maurice 3 65% 69% 56% 24 19 74 0.7 4 3 27 0.0

New offense will be commanded by offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy under the direction of new head coach Mike Nolan from Baltimore. That doesn't spell much in the way of sharing carries within a game. But a likely struggling offense with a rookie quarterback in a new system is not a recipe for success (okay- maybe in New York last year but the offensive line in SF is not as good). The 49ers took Frank Gore in the NFL draft last April but he's no specialist waiting to be part-timered in.

This offense should increase the use of primary backs this season and the only question is if Barlow impresses the new coaches that just drafted a nice back-up tailback.

St. Louis # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Faulk, Marshall 12 73% 72% 73% 20 14 59 0.3 5 4 25 0.1
Jackson, Steven 3 67% 69% 44% 23 20 99 0.7 3 2 27 0.0
Harris, Arlen 1 92% 100% 67% 23 19 61 0.0 4 4 41 0.0

The Rams were never an RBBC team until last year and Faulk typically would run 88 - 90% of rushing plays within games. But he was often injured if not playing hampered and Steven Jackson came on board last year. Now Jackson is anointed as the starter so the question is if the Rams will merely reverse the 70/30 ratio of last year? Chances are very good that is what would be most reliably expected. However, it may not be quite that much as Jackson should be an effective runner and not be needed to be spelled and Faulk could turn into just a third down back whose contributions will be primarily via pass receptions.

This will be RBBC to some degree without a doubt, but it may not be quite as bad as could be feared.

Tampa Bay # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Pittman, Michael 13 71% 77% 52% 22 17 71 0.5 5 3 30 0.2
Garner, Charlie 2 65% 71% 56% 18 12 50 0.0 6 4 14 0.0
Alstott, Mike 1 57% 63% 45% 17 12 65 0.0 5 4 30 0.0

The Buccaneers had long been an RBBC proponent and bring Jon Gruden to the team only continued that trend. But when he likes a runner, the sharing is much reduced. In 2003, Thomas Jones ran 80% of the times he was the primary runner in games and in 2004, Michael Pittman was at 77%. Simple enough - Gruden has never had a tailback of the ability of Cadillac Williams and has said repeatedly that Williams will be a primary back with no agenda to split carries with Michael "butterfingers" Pittman beyond the occasional spelling that is normal. This should be the first season that RBBC is clearly gone from Tampa Bay.

Tennessee # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Brown, Chris 11 73% 82% 44% 23 20 97 0.5 3 2 13 0.0
Smith, Antowain 5 85% 94% 51% 22 19 76 0.6 3 3 16 0.0

The Titans were always non-RBBC in sharing carries and last season was even higher than what Eddie George once produced in ratio of carries. But now new offensive coordinator Norman Chow will be changing the offense and there's the specter of Travis Henry who was acquired this summer. Throw in the propensity of Brown to get injured and it is reasonable enough to believe the talk about Brown and Henry sharing carries this season. Brown is a dynamic runner when healthy and perhaps lesser use would help keep him upright (and not limping).

The safest assumption here is that the Titans will be going with RBBC this year and even if they did not, Brown is hard to rely on every game all season. This should be the year the new offense sorts itself out and a clearer picture will be known for 2006.

Washington # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Targets Caught Yards TD
Portis, Clinton 13 87% 90% 74% 30 25 97 0.4 4 3 18 0.2
Betts, Ladell 3 69% 69% 53% 17 16 65 0.3 1 1 13 0.0

First year in the new Gibbs offense and Portis never shared carries. He did not always run as well as was hoped, but there is no hint of RBBC here. With an improved line and a second season, his ratio may go even higher. Until the offense changes, this should be a pure one back backfield with Portis getting all the action.

The RBBC Score Card

Team RBBC Likely? New Offense Scheme? New Primary RB?
Arizona No No Yes
Atlanta Yes No No
Baltimore No No No
Buffalo No No No
Carolina No No No
Chicago No Yes Yes
Cincinnati No No No
Cleveland Possible Yes Possible
Dallas No No No
Denver Possible No Yes
Detroit No No No
Green Bay Yes No No
Houston No No No
Indianapolis No No No
Jacksonville No Yes Possible
Kansas City Possible No No
Miami Possible Yes Yes
Minnesota Yes No No
New York Giants Possible No No
New York Jets No Yes No
New England No No No
New Orleans No No No
Oakland No No Yes
Philadelphia Yes No No
Pittsburgh Yes No No
San Diego No No No
San Francisco No Yes No
Seattle No No No
St. Louis Possible No Yes
Tampa Bay Yes No Yes
Tennessee Yes Yes No
Washington No No No

The final score: RBBC 13, Non-RBBC 19
Teams with new offensive schemes: 7
Teams with new primary RB: 9
Teams returning same primary RB, same offensive scheme and unlikely to use RBBC: 13 ( 41%)

This season is not unusual in the number of new offenses and really not that high with new primary runners. But mixing in seven new offenses and thirteen new potential primary backs into a league that has thirteen teams with indicators to being RBBC means that there are only thirteen teams that return the same running back, same offensive system and will not likely be using an RBBC scheme this year: BAL, BUF, CAR, CIN, DAL, DET, HOU, IND, NE, NO, SD, SEA and WAS.

Just because a team uses RBBC does not make the running back worthless in fantasy football, it just caps what he can do on a weekly basis and has a bigger effect on the consistency he can offer. Complicating the review is that it cannot consider what injuries may happen this season so 41% is only a starting point.

What impact this has on fantasy football can be significant. Top backs that never share are obvious first round picks, but value can be found in the position later by taking backs that are in an unknown situation and yet the eventual "best player" there will be an 80%+ carry running back.

You may disagree with some of the categorizations of the above, but before you add any more teams to the RBBC list, consider the history of the coach and the difference between finding the best player and a true scheme employing specialists. By the same token, watch out for the rampant coach-speak and reporter embellishments during the summer. There's a whole lot of microphones being shoved into a faces right now and they have to say something.

Chances are it won't be something to help opponents prepare. It will be some quasi-truthful accolades or barbs with an agenda that will mask the inevitable truth for most teams and schemes.

The best players play.