It is impressive when running backs who are 30 or older actually manage to make an impact on the team they are playing for. This year, the Buffalo Bills’ Fred Jackson and the New York Jets’ LaDainian Tomlinson are two running backs that are still relevant in their “old” age. The Detroit Lions’ Maurice Morris and the Kansas City Chiefs’ Thomas Jones also have the opportunity to prove to the world that they remain valuable players.
The 30-year old Jackson provides the much-needed momentum that will keep the Bills rolling down the road to the playoffs, which is why I’m naming him the best of the 30-plus club. In all actuality, he is one of the best running backs in the league. After playing in two American indoor football leagues and the NFL Europe, Jackson got his chance to play for the Bills in 2007. In 2009, he had his best season with 1,062 rushing yards. Halfway through this season, he has already accumulated over 1,000 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns.
LaDainian Tomlinson has only rushed for 111 rushing yards this season, but has remained a viable receiver that Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has targeted 20 times for 260 yards and a touchdown.
Chiefs running back Thomas Jones, who received high praise during his time with the Jets and the Bears, was given a second chance to show his worth after starting back Jamaal Charles went down with a torn ACL early in the season. But with the veteran Jones having failed to deliver the goods after five games, grabbing a measly 10 yards against the Chargers this past Monday, running back Jackie Battle is looking like a better option. Unless a spark of last decade’s talent jump-starts Jones, his future looks fairly bleak.
That spark, however, could happen at any moment — after all, when Detroit star running back Jahvid Best went down with an injury three weeks ago, Lions backup Maurice Morris showed new youth, posting solid numbers after two starts. Morris proved, if not that Best must share the ball with him, at least that he’s worthy of staying on the roster for a couple more years.
The New England Patriots’ Kevin Faulk and the Oakland Raiders’ Rock Cartwright are two running backs who have never really been anything more than insurance, so their time should be up after this season. They don’t even have 100 yards between the two of them halfway through the season. And, despite a good run in Minnesota in the mid-2000s, Arizona Cardinals running back Chester Taylor has not been able to make much use of his 10 years of experience, averaging 2.3 yards on 10 carries this season.
Jackson, Tomlinson and Williams will be remembered for many years to come, but running backs like Faulk and Cartwright will soon fall away into obscurity. Morris and Jones, on the other hand, still have a chance to write the last chapter of their football careers. One thing, however, is certain: they are all running on fumes.
Ondo is a member of the class of 2014.