History tells us that after the age of thirty running backs seem to enter the NFL glue factory. Year in and year out these older running backs are struck with injuries or ‘lose a step’ only to lose a job. Let’s take a look at the running backs that are 29 years or older and their backups.
San Francisco – Frank Gore (29) has been running strong this year but he has only played two full seasons out of seven, last year being one. His legs might be due for a rest in the form of injury in which case the backup back to replace him would be Kendall Hunter and not Brandon Jacobs (30) who has already struck injury.
Green Bay – Cedric Benson (29) AND John Kuhn (30) both get a limited amount of touches (they have a combined 31 carries in two games) in a pass heavy offense which should keep their legs fresh as the season wears on. Alex Green shows promise on the bench but little more at this point.
Buffalo – Fred Jackson (31) didn’t even make it through one game and has been shown up something fierce by CJ Spiller over two games. His lateral collateral ligament recently passed a motion test and won’t need surgery. He is healing faster than the eight week maximum and looks closer to four week minimum of games missed. Knee injuries are never good to see on a running back let alone his second major injury in ten months but this was only a sprain. He usually outperforms Spiller when they are both active but this might be the season he comes back looking slow and you wouldn’t want to depend on him since Spiller may have earned a bulk share of the carries even when he comes back. I’d say pick up Spiller but that ship has certainly sailed in every league.
Denver – Willis McGahee (30) continues to run strong and outperform Knowshon Moreno for the time being and has seen 70% of the carries (38 to Moreno’s 8). McGahee has only missed eight games in eight seasons but should he miss any time this year Moreno is the next guy in and this offensive line might not pass block well but they can run block all day.
New Orleans – Darren Sproles (29) doesn’t even have a carry yet and should stay healthy as the Saints seem to prefer him as a receiver rather than a back.
Carolina – DeAngelo Williams (29) has been healthier than his backup, Jonathan Stewart, who might miss the Thursday night matchup with the Giants with an ailing toe and ankle injury. After missing ten games two years ago Williams stayed healthy all year last year but should he see an injury Stewart would take a larger role, assuming he is healthy at that point. If not, free agent converted fullback Mike Tolbert would be next in line.
St. Louis – Steven Jackson (29) was held out of the second half of last week’s game which gave us a great look at Daryl Richardson who seems to have just recently overcome Isaiah Pead as the backup. Jackson had a tight groin which warranted an MRI on Monday morning. Jackson has been the better back by far on this team for years and should still get the bulk of the carries regardless of how much time he logs on the practice field. Should he miss time and he has missed thirteen games over eight seasons; Richardson would be the back to own at this point.
Atlanta – Michael Turner (30) is in an offense that looks to pass first and maybe run later at this point. Turner has 28 carries in two games and second in rushing yards on the team is quarterback Matt Ryan. Jacquizz Rodgers has been forecasted to overcome Turner with speed and ability in the passing game but as of yet isn’t beating Turner’s lowly 2.6 yards per carry and only has two catches. Rodgers needs to take a big step forward or Turner who has played four full seasons out of five in Atlanta would need to take a big step back.
I will check back in on the status of these backs as the season unfolds and situations change. In deeper leagues, twelve teams or more, you might seek out a backup early to avoid the waiver rush once one of these starters goes down. Kendall Hunter or Daryl Richardson could be a one to three week stud just as CJ Spiller has performed with Fred Jackson out. If you have an open spot on your roster that isn’t producing at this point it might be worth a look to own one of those two for the opportunity that might come their way. You never know it might just save your starters bye week.