Top 6 rushing duos this season

Which one-two punch out the backfield has been most productive? Eric Eager walks you through the top rushing duos.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

(AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

Top 6 rushing duos this season

The running back position has become more and more of a committee position in the NFL, with the number of 300-carry running backs from 2005 to 2015 being 10, 10, 6, 5, 6, 7, 2, 5, 2, 2, and 0 (so far), respectively. With teams splitting opportunities more and more evenly between backs, we take a look at the top six backfield duos through the first 15 weeks of the season. 

To be eligible for this list, a duo must consist of two players (not necessarily both running backs) with 300+ snaps each, and at least six games where both played over 30 percent of their team’s snaps. Not in the group of 13 eligible duos are notable pairs Le’Veon Bell (94.0) and DeAngelo Williams (83.3) of the Steelers, and Marshawn Lynch (90.1) and Thomas Rawls (81.1) of the Seahawks, since there was just one game total between both pairs where both backs played over 30 percent of the team’s snaps (Pittsburgh in Week 8), and it was due to Bell’s season-ending injury midway through the game.

1. Doug Martin (89.9 overall grade) and Charles Sims (81.8), Buccaneers

Martin has been arguably the best RB in the league this season, leading the NFL in elusive rating (73.0), while being second in the league in yards per carry after contact (3.3) and breakaway percentage (42.9). Sims has been wonderful out of the backfield complementing Martin, possessing the second-lowest drop rate (2.44) and the fourth-best yards per route run (1.96) out of RBs.

2. Jonathan Stewart (85.1) and Cam Newton (87.1), Panthers

It may seem strange to have a quarterback on this list, but Newton isn’t an ordinary quarterback. His 119 rushing attempts, 580 yards and seven touchdowns are the most among QBs, and many of these yards have come from QB power concepts, where Newton has acted very much like a RB. Stewart has been excellent this year, posting the fifth-best elusive rating (54.1) among halfbacks, fifth-best yards after contact (603), and the ninth-best pass blocking efficiency (94.1)

3. Devonta Freeman (81.5) and Patrick DiMarco (83.8), Falcons

Freeman owes a lot of his success this season to DiMarco, the highest-graded FB in the league by a wide margin.  Despite a slow month recently, Freeman continues to lead the league with 10 rushing touchdowns, while posting the seventh-best yards per route run among RBs (1.70). DiMarco has caught 12 of the 15 passes thrown his way, with two touchdowns and zero drops. 

4. Chris Ivory (82.9) and Bilal Powell (71.9), Jets

Ivory has been one of the best backs in the league by himself, with an elusive rating (56.0) and breakaway percentage (37.8) that rank fourth in the league. Powell has missed some time with injuries, but has come on late—posting the sixth-best yards per route run (1.73) among RBs.

5. Duke Johnson (75.0) and Isiah Crowell (72.4), Browns

This pair has been a rare bright spot for Cleveland this season, with Johnson posting the sixth-best receiving grade (88.3) and Crowell the fifth-best breakaway percentage (37.0) among RBs. 

6. Giovani Bernard (75.3) and Jeremy Hill (65.8), Bengals

While the Bengals probably anticipated this order being switched at the beginning of the season, the platoon between Bernard and Hill has been productive thus far, with Hill tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns (10), and Bernard posting the fifth-best yards per route run (1.86) among RBs.

| Analyst

Eric Eager joined Pro Football Focus in 2015. He is currently working on a number of analytics projects, primarily focused on the NFL.

  • Bengal Fanatic

    Bernard is having a fine year though the team needs to take better advantage of his skills as a receiver. Hill is having trouble breaking tackles and has a tendency to run too high. I would like to see more snaps for Rex Burkhead.

    • Eric

      Burkhead has been used sparingly (64 snaps, many as a slot receiver). He’s been either handed the ball or thrown to on 16 (25 pct) of these snaps. I wonder if that ratio would continue with more playing time. Thanks for reading.

  • shaunhan murray

    I know Bell is injured but next season him and deanglo will be on this list.

    • Eric

      Interestingly when Bell played Williams received fewer than 5 snaps, so if that would have continued they wouldn’t be eligible for this this list. Thanks for reading.

      • shaunhan murray

        Really I thought I saw games where the split was more 3 to 1…maybe that was just me but it seemed the steelers oddly enough used deanglo on third down alot.

        • Eric

          I misspoke a bit, his snaps when Bell played were 5,6, 9, 2 and 10. Still not a backfield duo the way that Martin and Sims are, where both men play at least 30 pct of the snaps almost every game. Thanks again for reading, I appreciate it.

          • shaunhan murray

            Makes sense bell is the kind of player u dont (if u can)take off the field.

  • bigtrip

    Cleveland is 31st in rushing. Buffalo with Shady McCoy and Karlos Williams are 2nd in rushing. No wonder Bill Belichick thinks these sites aren’t accurate.

    • James Winslow

      Maybe they get a lot of carries or something.

    • Eric

      McCoy and Williams don’t qualify for the list, because Williams hasn’t played enough yet this year. Johnson has been one of the best receivers out of the backfield so far this year, which elevates he and Crowell substantially. Thanks for reading.

  • Tim Edell

    Thanks for reading. Thanks for reading. Thanks for reading.