The rushing title is an NFL award that still means something, so who will walk home with the hardware in 2014?
#5 – Bishop Sankey – Tennessee Titans
This might come as a surprise to a lot of people. Bishop Sankey is a rookie after all and should not be expected to excel so quickly. Still, he was the first running back taken in the draft and will play under a head coach who loves to employ balanced football. That means Sankey will get his touches. Add in the fact he’s playing behind a big, young and talented offensive line and his chances of a big season go up.
#4 – DeMarco Murray – Dallas Cowboys
Despite missing two games and touching the ball only rushing 217 times, DeMarco Murray still put up over 1,100 yards and scored nine touchdowns. The Dallas Cowboys now know they can trust feeding him the football, especially after beefing up the offensive line with 1st round pick Zack Martin. Murray is 26-years old and in his prime. If he can stay healthy and the Cowboys don’t stray from getting him the ball, he will have his best season as a pro.
#3 – Matt Forte – Chicago Bears
To finish second in the NFL in rushing his first year in a new offense is an impressive feat for Matt Forte, especially with two rookies blocking on the offensive line in front of him. Now the Chicago Bears Pro Bowler will have a chance to top even that. Those two rookies are returning with more experience, as are the other three starters for the Bears offensive line from last season. That continuity should lead to better blocking efficiency, and as a result more holes for Forte to dash through.
#2 – LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles
There is no reason to suspect LeSean McCoy won’t do everything possible to defending his rushing title in 2014. He’s still young and in an offense under Chip Kelly that is going to feed him the ball. McCoy has the speed and elusiveness to go along with deceptive strength that will allow him to continue making tacklers miss, provided his team doesn’t overuse him. The offensive line is intact from last year as well, so there is no reason to doubt he’ll suffer a drop off.
#1 – Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings
Norv Turner is in charge now. Everybody knows his reputation. He will want to develop the quarterbacks for the Minnesota Vikings, namely rookie Teddy Bridgewater. Yet even he can’t ignore the value of feeding a beast like Adrian Peterson. “All Day” had another solid season in 2013 but is smarting from his loss of the rushing title to McCoy after missing two games due to injury. Nonetheless Peterson is and will remain the centerpiece of their offense. If he has one more rushing title in his 29-year old body, then 2014 will be his time.