Let’s begin today’s assessment of the backfields in the NFC East with a bit of trivia. What do LaGarrette Blount, Sony Michel, Damien Williams, Leonard Fournette, and Cam Akers have in common? I’ll give you a minute.
These are the five running backs who led the winning team in rushing in each of the last five Super Bowls. How many All Pros do you see there? If you guessed one, you’d be too high.
Several of these guys, especially Blount, were productive workhorses, but there is not a single true standout among them. During their combined careers, they ran for about 570 yards per season.
The takeaway? Sure, you want a good reliable running. But you don’t really need one to win a Super Bowl. Not the way the NFL plays these days.
On the other hand – Stafford, Brady, Mahomes, Brady, Foles. Those were the quarterbacks for the winners. Takeaway? You need a really good quarterback. (Or Nick Foles.)
So we’re going to look at the NFC East backfields, but keep in mind the quarterback matters way more than the running backs. You probably already knew that. (Still, I hope you liked the trivia.)
Commanders NFC East Rankings: Offensive backfields
1. Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott is the best quarterback in the NFC East. He has some serious question marks and potential holes in his game. That says all you really need to know about the state of the NFC East. After his devastating ankle injury early in 2020, Dak rebounded in 2021 to establish career highs in completion percentage and touchdowns. He took his team to the postseason for the first time since 2018.
Dak can throw. He can run. He has developed into the leader of one of the NFL’s most iconic franchises. But until he wins, there will be doubters. In 2021, Prescott did not resemble the running threat he had been early in his career. He had rather serious ball security issues, fumbling 14 times and losing six of them. Worst of all, he came up small in the playoffs, failing to beat San Francisco in a home wildcard game.
Dak is a good quarterback. For Dallas, he needs to be a great quarterback. That jury is still out.
As for backups – well, Dallas doesn’t have one. Technically. Dallas did not keep any other quarterback on their active roster on cutdown day, and as of this writing, they have still not added one. Of course, that will change, and it will most likely be Cooper Rush, who has served as the primary backup for the past several years. Both Rush and Will Grier were signed to the Cowboys practice squad. Rush is a perfectly reasonable journeyman who knows the Dallas system. He’s the very definition of mid-level backup.
There has been a big call for Dallas to move on from Ezekiel Elliott as the primary back and hand the ball to the younger, fresher Tony Pollard. Zeke, now seven seasons in, is looking slow. In 2018-19, Zeke could be counted on for about 100 yards a game. Over the last two seasons, that number plummeted to 62. Running backs rarely find the fountain of youth seven years into a high-volume career.
Pollard, on the other hand, had a very productive 2021, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. With new questions about the offensive line, Pollard may again be a better option for the Cowboys. But it remains to be seen how he will perform with a heavier workload. Dallas will need both backs to play well. I expect a decent year from Zeke, but I fear his glory days are in the past.