Rice one of several NFL backs looking to rebound

Rice one of several NFL backs looking to rebound
February 9, 2014, 10:00 am
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Here’s a barbershop debate for NFL fans. Which running back will gain the most yards next season - Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew, or Chris Johnson?

All three have something to prove, after disappointing 2013 seasons.

The Ravens are counting on Rice to bounce back, after averaging a career low 3.1 yards per carry in 2013, and gaining just 660 yards. While it’s common for running backs to decline quickly once they reach age 30, Rice is just 27 years old. If Rice stays healthy, and if the offensive line improves, the Ravens hope he will return to being a 1000-yard back. From 2009-12, Rice gained at least 1100 yards every season, and averaged no fewer than four yards per carry.

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Jones-Drew turns 29 years old in March, and has been plagued by injuries the past two seasons. In 2011, Jones-Drew led the NFL in rushing. But his numbers last season (234 carries, 803 yards) were not special. If he is not willing to take a pay cut, the Jaguars may release Jones-Drew, and he will have to prove he can still be a No. 1 back elsewhere.

Johnson may be leaving the Titans, after averaging a career-low 3.9 yards per carry. Johnson is 28 years old, with an $8 million contract for next season. That is very pricy for a back no longer at the top of his game. Look for the Titans to release Johnson, and for another team to sign him at a much lower price.

Rice, Jones-Drew, and Johnson – three backs that will be under the microscope in 2014. The Ravens don’t have to worry about Jones-Drew and Johnson. But next season, we will find out if the Ravens have to worry about Rice.

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