Top Ten Rushing Teams in the NFL | Daily Brew

When the Texans made official the signing of running back Rex Burkhead, I heard a lot of commotion as to why the Texans would sign another running back, another veteran running back. I've always, ALWAYS been fearful when Burkhead was on the other sideline as a Bengal or a Patriot, so I was thrilled to see him on our side for once.

That said, it got me thinking about what makes for a successful running game in the NFL? Most importantly, though, the question truly, for me, became what is the right makeup for a successful running game?

So, I took note of the top ten rushing teams in the league last year, per total yards

Baltimore Ravens - 3,071 yards, 191.9 ypg
Leading rushers - Three ball carriers 23+% of total, make up 82.5% of total
(QB) Lamar Jackson - 1,005 yards (32.7% of total)
J.K. Dobbins - 805 yards (26.2% of total)
Gus Edwards - 723 yards (23.5% of total)

Tennessee Titans - 2,690 yards, 168.1 ypg
Leading rushers - One ball carrier 75+% of total (Wow!)
Derrick Henry - 2.027 yards (75.3% of total !!)
(QB) Ryan Tannehill - 266 yards (9.9% of total)
Jeremy McNichols - 204 yards (7.6% of total)**

Cleveland Browns - 2,374 yards, 148.4 ypg**
Leading rushers - Two ball carriers 35+% of total, make up 80.4% of total
Nick Chubb - 1,067 yards (44.9% of total)
Kareem Hunt - 841 yards (35.4% of total)

New England Patriots - 2,346 yards, 146.6 ypg
Leading rushers - Four ball carriers 11+% of total, make up 85.5% of total
Damien Harris - 691 yards (29.5% of total)
(QB) Cam Newton - 592 yards (25.2% of total)
Sony Michel - 449 yards (19.1% of total)
Rex Burkhead - 274 yards (11.7% of total)
*James White - 49 receptions (17.3 % of total receptions)

Minnesota Vikings - 2,283 yards, 142.7 ypg
Leading rushers - Two ball carriers 19+% of total, make up 87.2% of total
Dalvin Cook - 1,557 yards (68.2 % of total, 12.6% of total receptions)
Alexander Mattison - 434 yards (19.0% of total)

New Orleans Saints - 2,265 yards, 141.6 ypg
Leading rushers - Three ball carriers 20+% of total, make up 90.3% of total
Alvin Kamara - 932 yards (41.1% of total, 22.4% of total receptions)
Latavius Murray - 656 yards (29.0% of total)
(QB?) Taysom Hill - 457 yards (20.2% of total)

Arizona Cardinals - 2,237 yards, 139.8 ypg
Leading rushers - Three ball carriers 20+% of total, make up 99.3% of total
Kenyan Drake - 955 yards (42.7% of total)
(QB) Kyler Murray - 819 yards (36.5% of total)
Chase Edmonds - 448 yards (20.0% of total)

Green Bay Packers - 2,118 yards, 132.4 ypg
Leading rushers - Three ball carriers of 11+%, make up 87.4% of total
Aaron Jones - 1,104 yards (52.1% of total)
Jamaal Williams - 505 yards (23.8% of total)
A.J. Dillon - 242 yards (11.4% of total)

Philadelphia Eagles - 2,027 yards, 126.7 ypg
Leading rushers - Four ball carriers of 13+%, make up 92.3% of total
Miles Sanders - 867 yards (42.8% of total)
Boston Scott - 374 yards (18.5% of total)
(QB) Jalen Hurts - 354 yards (17.5% of total)
(QB) Carson Wentz - 276 yards (13.6% of total)

Los Angeles Rams - 2,018 yards, 126.1 ypg
Leading rushers - Three ball carriers 20+% of total, make up 82.7% of total
Cam Akers - 625 yards (30.9% of total)
Darrell Henderson - 624 yards (30.9% of total)
Malcolm Brown - 419 yards (20.8% of total)

The first thing that stood out was the unreal reliance on Derrick Henry in Nashville. The fact that he accounts for 75% of the run game on his own is just ridiculous and he's a unicorn in this situation. But, look at every other team, three or four ball carriers make up 80% or more of the yardage total. Take a look at where head coach David Culley spent his last few years in coaching (Baltimore) and where GM Nick Caserio spent two decades (New England). I can't tell you the last time I saw a truly ball/carry dominant running back, like a Henry or a Dalvin Cook for those teams. Furthermore, three ball carriers, including Lamar Jackson, in Baltimore and four plus running options, including Cam Newton, in New England accounted for 80% of those teams' total.

The above breakdown is just a snapshot of the top ten, but it's clear evaluating the rest of the league, as well, that teams need multiple options in the running game. A great running game doesn't guarantee success, but when a diverse running game comes up big in the clutch, it pays dividends. Take the Bucs last year.

Tampa Bay v. WFT in Wild Card game - 142 yards
Tampa Bay v. New Orleans in Divisional playoff game - 127 yards
Tampa Bay v. Green Bay in NFC Championship - 76 yards
Tampa Bay v. Kansas City in the Super Bowl - 145 yards
Average in four playoff games - 122.5 yards per game
Season average - 94.9 yards per game

So, it was clear that the signing of Rex Burkhead earlier this week got people's attention. When examining the information above, though, his presence may make more sense than what most first thought.

The Texans hit the Houston Methodist Training Center on Thursday during the second week of OTAs.

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