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Player Trends Report - Running Backs - Week 9
Michael Courter
October 28, 2008
Quarterbacks  |  Running Backs  |  Receivers
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RISING

DeAngelo Williams, Panthers - The Panthers drafted Jonathan Stewart in the first round of the 2008 Draft with the idea that he would take over the main running back role in the Carolina offense sooner rather than later, making Williams a top-notch change of pace back on third downs, but the three-year veteran refuses to go quietly, with week eight’s performance providing more substance for his defense.  Williams was a difference-maker again, pacing the Panthers with108 yards and a touchdown from 17 carries in the hard-fought 27-23 home win over Arizona.

LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers - It’s now week eight and it took a trip across the pond for LaDainian Tomlinson, the perennial No.1 fantasy football back of the last few seasons, to return to the form that we have come to know and revere.  LT finally be past the big toe? His all-around dominance in the Chargers 37-32 loss to the Saints in England of 105 yards rushing and 65 receiving and a touchdown should answer that question with a resounding ”Yes”.  Given LT’s recent history of getting stronger as the season matures, his fantasy owners have cause for hope and increased expectations.

Leon Washington, Jets - With a juicy week eight match-up against one of the league’s worst defenses in the Kansas City Chiefs, it was change-of-pace back Washington, and not Jets starter Thomas Jones, who took the bull by the horns last Sunday in New York’s 28-24 narrow escape in the Meadowlands.  Washington produced two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving), and 101 total yards (67 rushing, 34 receiving), highlighted by a 60-yard scoring run. This is the second week in a row that Washington’s found the end zone and with starter Thomas Jones failing to assert a game-dominator vibe on a consistent basis, the former Florida State product will continue to receive opportunities to shine each week.

Brian Westbrook, Eagles - Westbrook seized upon his re-entry back into fantasy active duty, dropping a 209 total yards (167 rushing, 42 receiving), two touchdown fiesta on the visiting Falcons in the Eagles 27-14 win at the Linc last Sunday.  In his first game back after recovering from broken ribs, Westbrook reminded all observers that he hasn’t lost a beat and, when healthy and on the field, is arguably the best running back in fantasy football.

Deuce McAllister, Saints - Deuce delivered a capable performance as Reggie Bush’s replacement in the Saints 37-32 triumph in jolly ol’ England, rushing for 55 yards and a touchdown and catching four passes for 30 yards.  A potential buzz-kill looms around the corner for hopeful fantasy owners though as a pending four-game suspension due to a rumored failed steroid test could derail the opportunity before him while Reggie Bush’s knee mends over the next three weeks.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots - More for touchdown-emphasized leagues, the rookie from Mississippi has reached the end zone in the last two games out of a total of three career games as a professional, which bodes well for BJGE’s fantasy football future, despite being one of four or five backs in New England’s backfield rotation.  Bill Belichick seems to favor the youthful legs of Green-Ellis near the end-zone, making him an appropriate waiver-wire pickup with upside, given that the Patriots other backfield parts- Lamont Jordan, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, are all bit long in the tooth and have trouble staying healthy.

FALLING

Edgerrin James, Cardinals - The last thing the struggling James needed was a road trip to face the tenacious Panthers defense in their home arena and last Sunday’s results told the predictable story.  The aging ball-carrier produced only 17 yards on seven carries and had zero receptions in the Cardinals 27-23 loss.  Impressive rookie back Tim Hightower from Richmond scored another touchdown (2-yards) from in close, giving him a season total of six after seven games played, doubling James’ three touchdowns.

Jonathan Stewart, Panthers - What happened?  Expectations were high for Stewart in Carolina’s home game against visiting Arizona last weekend and Stewart blew it.  Eight carries for ten yards is not cutting the mustard, on the field or in fantasy football.  Stewart has been deceptive this year, and that’s not a good thing in the rotisserie football world.  One week shows great promise, but then its followed by what we saw last Sunday or two weeks ago (six carries for 12 yards against the Buccaneers).  With DeAngelo Williams outshining him on an increasing basis, it’s hard to justify using one of two starting running back spots on Stewart in the near future.

Marion Barber, Cowboys - Falling, just a bit, and here’s why.  Obviously Barber’s production will receive a boost once Tony Romo returns to action, which is currently slated for week eleven.  My beef with Barber is that we have cast him as an elite running back this year and my idea of a franchise back is a player that can carry an offense when the chips are down, someone that can consistently produce even when the offense isn’t 100% healthy.  The fact is, Barber has been a non-factor since Tony Romo broke his pinky finger, only briefly taking advantage of garbage time in the Cowboys dreadful loss to lowly St. Louis (18 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown) when the Rams played prevent the whole second half. Last week, in a must-win home game against the Buccaneers, Barber averaged only 2.8 yards per carry and did not find the end zone.  This weekend’s road game against the NFC East leading Giants, who will be swarming the immobile Brad Johnson, will also prove difficult for Barber, as the Cowboys will stack the line with eight-man fronts, yielding very little points for fantasy owners who decide to play him.

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