Spiller shaping up for rushing title

  • By: David John (Twitter: @SLifeDaveJohn)
  • Last Updated: September 2 2013, 15:31 BST

Our NFL expert David John has three selections for the battle to top the rushing charts this season.

CJ Spiller: Can make an impact among the running backs
CJ Spiller: Can make an impact among the running backs

One of the most remarkable performances of last season in the NFL was Adrian Peterson winning the rushing title.

Remarkable as he became one of a select few running backs to hit the 2,000-yard mark, finishing a tantilising eight yards short of Eric Dickerson's all-time record of 2,105.

It was even more remarkable considering he had torn two knee ligaments the previous year and had to undergo reconstructive surgery on the affected area.

Peterson sets the standard again in the betting as he remains the guiding light on a semi-anaemic Minnesota offense that invariably looks to their star turn for impetus.

His price is anything from 5/2 to 10/3 and with a buffer of almost 500 yards to his nearest rival at the final reckoning last year, Peterson could feasibly afford a little bit of a drop-off in performance and still be hugely competitive in the category.

But Peterson's previous injury highlights the precarious role of the running back - perhaps more so than any other position - and there are a couple of potential improvers just behind him in the betting who could be genuine contenders for top honours granted the rub of the green in terms of fitness.

First up is Alfred Morris at a general 10/1.

Robert Griffin III may have taken the lion's share of the headlines for the Washington Redskins in 2012 but Morris made a tremendous impact in his rookie year with his 1,613 yards only bettered by Peterson.

That was a single-season record for his team and naturally made him an immediate hit with the fans in the nation's capital. No question it will be a hard act to follow but his head coach Mike Shanahan could not contain his excitement.

Shanahan has always had a knack of turning workaday running backs into productive performers but in Morris he has the most talented player on his hands since Terrell Davis in Denver at the back end of the 1990s.

He said: "I would be surprised if he (Morris) doesn't have an excellent year. No question, he is going to be one of the best backs this year.

"He has spent a lot of time in the off-season catching the football, running routes and you can see that hard work has paid off because he's a lot more natural."

Reuben Droughns and Mike Anderson were two players who enjoyed a big first season under Shanahan only for their numbers to drop the following year as wear and tear took a toll.

Morris is a similarly bruising runner and his punishing style which adds yards after first contact will always be a worry but he has time on his side at the moment in just his second campaign to go with a tremendous work and team ethic.

Another young running back on an upward curve is Buffalo's CJ Spiller and he is talking a very good game in the run-up to kick-off.

He became only the seventh player in the game's history to average over six yards per carry in what was a breakout performance last year as he rushed for 1,244 yards, a total good enough for eighth place overall.

That was gained from just 207 carries as the Bills' best offensive player by some way was criminally underused be previous head coach Chan Gailey.

New man Doug Marrone plans to adjust that considerably as new co-ordinator Nathaniel Hackett - with rather a lack of taste - admitted "we are going to give him the ball until he throws up".

Spiller has taken a bit of time to find his feet in the NFL despite being a former first-round pick out of Clemson but now looks to have the bit between his teeth and I like the fact he has set himself a goal of the magical 2,000 yards.

A third and final selection is LeSean McCoy, who should also reap the benefit of a coaching change at the top in Philadelphia.

'Shady' has been part of a potentially dynamic Eagles offense for a little while but with pass-first head coach Andy Reid now departed for Kansas, he should find more opportunities with former Oregon supremo Chip Kelly in the hotseat.

A greater number of touches of the ball looks assured while McCoy will also have the best offensive line of his career to work with now that the starters who were dropping like flies last year are all back and healthy.

The mood is upbeat with Mike Vick winning the quarterback job in training camp so the offense will go into the new campaign reading from the same hymn sheet with no potential controversy - second-year player Nick Foles will be a solid back-up after the experience he gained in the second part of 2012.

McCoy is a real game changer at his best, not only running but also catching the ball from out of the backfield. His aim this year is to get back to what he called "dominating" - if he does the 28/1 available should give us a decent run for our money, to coin a phrase.

  • Preview posted at 1530 BST on 02/09/2013.