I just went through the playing time figures for all NFC South running backs through the first three games and spotted some very telling trends.
Let’s take a team-by-team look at how many snaps each running back has played.
Atlanta Falcons: Michael Turner remains the starter, but there’s no question the Falcons are following through on their promise to lighten his load. In fact, in the Week 3 victory against San Diego, Jacquizz Rodgers got slightly more playing time than Turner. Rodgers was on the field for 34 of Atlanta’s 72 plays, while Turner participated in 32. On the season, the Falcons have had 194 offensive plays. Turner has been on the field for 101 plays, while Rodgers has participated in 83 plays. Reserve running back Jason Snelling has been on the field for 36 plays. Fullback Lousaka Polite has participated in 46 plays.
Carolina Panthers: This one is a little out of sorts because Jonathan Stewart has played in only one game due to injuries. Stewart played in Week 2 against New Orleans and the split of playing time with DeAngelo Williams was pretty balanced. Stewart took part in 23 of 63 offensive plays, while Williams was on the field for 25 plays. Fullback/running back Mike Tolbert took part in 18 plays in the New Orleans game. On the season, Carolina has had 171 offensive plays and it turns out Tolbert has been the most-used back. He’s taken part in 85 plays, while Williams has participated in 76.
New Orleans Saints: Although he’s not getting a lot of carries, Darren Sproles has been on the field more than any New Orleans running back. Sproles, who sometimes lines up as a receiver has been on the field for 109 of the Saints’ 210 offensive plays. Pierre Thomas who has been the main ball carrier, has participated in 73 plays. Mark Ingram, a first-round draft pick, is clearly No. 3 on the depth chart. Ingram has been on the field for 42 plays. Fullback Jed Collins has participated in 63 plays.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Rookie Doug Martin clearly is getting the most playing time of Tampa Bay’s running backs. Martin has been in the game for 140 of Tampa Bay’s 177 offensive plays. D.J. Ware has participated in 28 plays and former starter LeGarrette Blount has only been on the field for 12 plays. Fullback Erik Lorig has participated in 77 plays.