New Orleans Saints senior writer John DeShazier looks at the top five running backs the New Orleans Saints will face in 2015:
- DeMarco Murray has a chance to answer a very significant question this season: Was his league-leading 1,845 rushing yards last year mainly a byproduct of Dallas' dominant offensive line, or is Murray an elite back who's capable of making a line look dominant? A change of scenery has him in Philadelphia, replacing LeSean McCoy as the Eagles' feature back. The spread offense in Philly may suit his game to a "T" but if it doesn't, the murmurs will swell. The best guess is that no one runs for that many yards and touchdowns (13) without a ton of talent. But Murray also was on the receiving end of one of the heaviest workloads in league history (392 carries), so we'll see if that affects his production this year, too.
- Figure on Washington to lean heavily on Alfred Morris again this season, due to a quarterback situation that doesn't do justice to the word "unsettled." Morris ran for 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns on 265 carries last year. The year before, it was 1,275 yards and seven touchdowns on 276 carries and as a rookie, he totaled 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns on 335 carries. Since the Redskins aren't certain what they'll get from the quarterback position, Morris likely will be counted on again to be the consistent offensive force.
- How much does Frank Gore have left? He's 32 – ancient by NFL standards – and is entering his 11th season. But the Colts are gambling that the former 49er has enough to help bolster a running game that has bordered on pathetic during Andrew Luck's three seasons as quarterback. Gore ran for 1,106 yards and four touchdowns on 255 carries last season, and has run for more than 1,000 yards in eight of his last nine years. He doesn't have to be a game-breaker anymore. All he needs to do for Indy is to be a consistent churner, which he has shown he can do.
- DeMarco Murray's departure left a gaping void at running back for the Cowboys. How do you replace that kind of production? With whom? If Dallas' offensive line is as good as it's believed to be – and last year, it likely was the best in the league – then the Cowboys again will be effective running the ball. So, Dallas' gumbo at running back – Darren McFadden, Joseph Randle, Lache Seastrunk, etc. – has to be respected simply because the mixture will be running behind a line that is formidable.
- Ordinarily, it'd be disrespectful to put a quarterback on a list like this. But there aren't many running backs that the Saints will face who'll be more threatening to them than Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. In his four-year career, the former No. 1 overall pick has rushed for 2,571 yards and 33 touchdowns on 467 carries, an average of 5.5 yards per carry. He's especially threatening in goal-line situations and just as much, his ability to scramble and to compromise a defense puts him in better situations when he chooses to pull up and pass instead of run. He often serves as Carolina's de facto running game when the backs struggle.
Associated Press and player photos of Mark Ingram from the 2015 Pro Bowl in Arizona.