Looking at the Best Running Back Backups in the NFL

For every starting running back, its NFL team needs a good backup (or two). Some of these players may either take over in the starting role or get their opportunity in the next season. They may also be guys you may want to add to your fantasy teams as well.

Take a look.

Ben Tate (Houston Texans) – Sitting behind starter Arian Foster, who is nursing a calf strain, backup Ben Tate can pinch hit as a starter when called upon. He did have a disappointing 2012 season with 279 rushing yards but it’s a contract year for Tate. He’ll be playing for his job or gathering interest from other teams should he be on the market in 2014.

Bryce Brown (Philadelphia Eagles) –As a rookie last season, Brown stepped in for an injured LeSean McCoy in two games and showed promise with his 347 rushing yards and four touchdowns. McCoy can be counted on to miss one game a season from an injury and if Brown is called upon to start, the team will be in good hands. Change has come to the Eagles with Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense and there should be lots of opportunity for the running game.

Bernard Pierce (Baltimore Ravens) –While Little Ray Rice is solid as the Ravens starter, there’s still opportunity for Pierce with the absence of former wide receiver Anquan Boldin and the injured tight end Dennis Pitta. Last season as Rice’s backup, Pierce had 108 carries for 532 yards. Look for his role to expand this season.

Andre Brown (New York Giants) –  This week, the Giants listed running backs David Wilson and Brown as co-starters. This makes sense as Brown’s 2012 stats were better than Wilson’s: eight touchdowns over 10 games vs. Wilson’s four; 5.3 average-yard carry  versus Wilson’s 5.0 average and 385 rushing yards to Wilson’s 358. Depending on Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, Brown could see more playing time this season—maybe more than Wilson.

Shonn Greene (Tennessee Titans) – Titans starting running back Chris Johnson ran 1,243 yards in 2012. Some would call this disappointing for him and bringing in former New York Jets running back Shonn Greene could give him a nudge to push harder. Greene brings different skills to the field than Johnson as a big, strong back but he should be a good complement and one to gain yards.

Michael Bush (Chicago Bears) – As the backup to Matt Forte, Bush also brings a complementary role with his physical, grinding style. He’s great on the goal line and short yards. With new head coach Marc Trestman focusing on offense, a healthy Forte should get most of the touches but add in Bush and this could be a great duo.

Mikel Leshoure (Detroit Lions) – New addition Reggie Bush has the starting role and is expected to give his 2012 23rd ranked rushing attack a jolt of energy. He will split the workload with Leshoure, who was the team’s leading rusher with 798 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Maybe Bush will inspire Leshoure to play at a higher level.

Ryan Williams (Arizona Cardinals) – The Cardinals picked up former Pittsburgh Steeler Rashard Mendenhall as their starter with Ryan Williams to have backup duty. Both have been nursing knee injuries but expectations are high for this duo to jumpstart 2012’s worst NFL running game. Williams will need to improve from his 2.8 yards per carry but his new coach Bruce Arians believes in him.

The Rookies

Montee Ball (Denver Broncos) – On Tuesday, the Broncos released their running back depth chart and Ball grabbed the second spot behind Ronnie Hllman. He enters the season with expectations and recently showed why as the Denver Post noted he had outplayed his fellow running backs in a scrimmage. He’s been called “better” than Hillman but as a rookie, he’ll start out in the second spot but this could change.

Joseph Randle (Dallas Cowboys) – DeMarco Murray remains the Cowboys’ starter but thanks to his growing injury history, Randle has been added as a some insurance and the No. 2 back. But it doesn’t mean he won’t get some starting play if Murray again goes down (see nine missed games over two NFL seasons).


Debbie Baratz

Deb has been writing about the NFL and NCAA football for the last few years. She is a full-time writer and an avid sports fan. Follow her on twitter @ldbar.

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