NFC South 'power' backs will surprise you

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

Every week, the fine folks at ESPN Stats & Information send us several massive packages of statistics. Every week, they include a category for running backs rushing up the middle.

Every week this season, I’ve left this category alone because it’s not really the NFC South’s forte. It still isn’t because only four NFC South running backs are even in the 35 that are ranked in this category. But this week, it caught my eye because of who those running backs are.

In a big surprise, New Orleans’ Reggie Bush, who might be the last guy in the NFC South you’d consider a power runner, actually is second among the division’s backs in this category.

Bush ranks 12th in the NFL in runs up the middle with a 5.1-yard average. Granted, he only has seven of these types of carries, but he’s delivered 36 yards and a touchdown in these situations.

His teammate, Mike Bell, has averaged 4.3 yards on six carries up the middle. The Saints never are going to be a team known for pounding it up the middle, but I think it’s interesting that they’ve shown they can do it pretty well when they try it.

The guy who actually leads the division is also a surprise because he’s someone a lot of people haven’t heard of. That’s Atlanta’s Jason Snelling. He plays behind Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood, but you can see the Falcons gradually increasing his role. Snelling has a 5.7-yard average on six carries up the middle.

The only other NFC South back even on the list is Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart, who probably fits the description of a true power back more than any other runner in the division. Stewart is tied for 29th in the league with a 3.8-yard average.