(Ezekiel Elliott photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)
(LaGarrette Blount photo courtesy of Eric J. Adler/New England Patriots)
Talk of Fame Network
Jamaal Charles, the AFC’s 2013 rushing champion, hasn’t suited up yet for the Kansas City Chiefs. Neither has 2014 AFC rushing champion Le’Veon Bell for the Pittsburgh Steelers. And 2015 NFL rushing champion Adrian Peterson will be sidelined indefinitely with a torn meniscus for the Minnesota Vikings.
That leaves the 2016 NFL rushing title up for grabs. And that’s the subject of our weekly Talk of Fame Network poll – who will win the league rushing title this season? We’re offering you six choices:
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh. Emmitt Smith sat the first two games in 1993 in a contract holdout but still managed to capture the NFL rushing crown that season with 1,486 yards. Can Bell do it sitting out the first three games with an NFL suspension? He is considered the most complete back in the game today and plays for a team that likes to hand the ball off. His understudy, DeAngelo Williams, leads the NFL in rushing through two weeks with 237 yards, but he’ll give the job back to Bell when he returns.
LaGarrette Blount, New England. Without Tom Brady for the first month, the Patriots figured to run the ball to protect an inexperienced quarterback, and Blount has been the beneficiary. He has rushed for 193 yards through two weeks to rank fourth in the NFL in rushing. With backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo now on the sideline and rookie Jacoby Brissett taking the snaps, there’s even more reason for the Patriots to run it these next two weeks. Blount can also make the play-action game go when Brady comes back.
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas. There are plenty of reasons for the Cowboys to be ground-centric in 2016. First, they have the best blocking front in the NFL. Second, they must protect a rookie quarterback (Dak Prescott) because of the injury absence of Tony Romo for the first two months. And third, the Cowboys used the fourth overall choice last April on the best running back in the draft -- Elliott. He averaged 6.7 yards per career carry at Ohio State, with 43 touchdowns in his three seasons.
(Todd Gurley photo courtesy of the Scott Rovak/Los Angeles Rams)
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles. Gurley became one of just seven backs to rush for 1,000 yards last season despite playing only 13 games. And he did it as a rookie. He rushed for 100 yards in each of his first four NFL starts and wound up with 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns. Like the Cowboys, the Rams have to protect an inexperienced quarterback, whether it’s Case Keenum or rookie Jared Goff. And besides, putting the ball in the hands of Gurley gives the Rams their best chance for success.
(Doug Martin photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay. Martin finished second in the NFL in rushing a year ago with 1,402 yards. He’s had a slow start this season with just 85 yards in two games and limped off the field in that second week with a hamstring injury. But this is a back capable of the spectacular. He rushed for 235 yards in a game against Philadelphia and had long runs of 89, 56, 49 and 39 yards last season. The better Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston performs, the more dangerous a weapon Martin becomes.
(Lamar Miller photo courtesy of the Houston Texans)
Lamar Miller, Houston. The Texans tired of waiting on the oft-injured Arian Foster so they moved on in the offseason, luring Miller away from the Miami Dolphins in free agency with a four-year, $26 million deal, with $14 million of it guaranteed. He rushed for 1,000 yards in 2014 and 872 more in 2015. He ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing this season with 189 yards through two weeks.