IRVING, Texas – The best running back in the NFL hasn't changed in several years. The Cowboys faced Adrian Peterson last year and had trouble stopping the Vikings' superstar.
Peterson is not on the Cowboys' schedule in 2014, but there are still several of the NFL's elite backs on the tilt.
The guys at Dallascowboys.com – Rowan Kavner, David Helman, Bryan Broaddus and Nick Eatman – composed the list, pinpointing only the 13 opponents on the schedule. In addition, DeMarco Murray was not on the list, although the staff seemed to think he would rank either No. 4 or No. 5 if included.
Despite avoiding the NFLâ??s best RB this year, plenty of other great backs will surface on the Cowboysâ?? 2014 schedule. Hereâ??s a Top-10 list of opposing RBs for 2014.
Honorable Mention: Darren Sproles –He's now in Philadelphia with Chip Kelly so he's not the most dynamic back on his own team. But he's given teams, including the Cowboys, fits for years. This offense could make him even more dangerous this year, especially with most of the focus on his teammate, LeSean McCoy.
10. Pierre Thomas – With Sproles now gone, Thomas should get more carries and touches even though the Saints like to use a committee of backs. Thomas has been a consistent player for New Orleans over the years and seems to be an ideal fit in Sean Payton's system.
9. Andre Ellington – Arizona found something with last year's rookie from Clemson. In the first eight games, Ellington never got more than seven carries and totaled just 179 yards as the Cardinals went just 3-4. In the final eight games, Ellington got at least nine carries every game and rushed for 453 yards. More importantly, the Cards went 7-1 with Ellington as the starter. Ellington also led the NFL with a 5.5-yard rushing average per carry.
8. Trent Richardson– After a promising rookie year in Cleveland that saw him score 11 touchdowns in 2012, there wouldn't have been many takers on the bet Richardson would play all 16 games in 2013, but score just three touchdowns and never rush for 65 yards in a single game. The trade to Indy didn't elevate his game as some might have thought. Still, paired up with Andrew Luck should eventually pay off.
7. Zac Stacy– It took a couple of games, but the Rams figured out soon enough what they had in the rookie from Vanderbilt. Stacy was a consistent force for the Rams' attack and should be even better in Year 2. The Cowboys face Stacy in St. Louis, where he rushed for 667 yards. He had just 307 rushing yards on the road.
6. Alfred Morris– Usually when a player drops from 1,613 rushing yards to 1,275, it's considered a down year. For Morris, the 1,275 might be even more impressive considering the Redskins' 3-13 record last season. Washington continued to feed Morris despite trailing in most of its games. The former sixth-round pick from Florida Atlantic still has 2,888 rushing yards in his first two seasons. A healthy quarterback and the addition of DeSean Jackson might open up the ground game even more.
5. Frank Gore – For the first time in his career, Gore played in all 16 games in consecutive seasons. His numbers are slightly decreasing, but he's still very productive. A third straight 1,000-yard season for Gore earned him his third straight Pro Bowl appearance and fifth overall.
4. Arian Foster – Injuries cut his season in half last year, but Foster has enough skins on the wall to deserve a good ranking on this list. Before the injury-riddled year, he was in the same ballpark as Peterson. A healthy 2014 for Foster and he likely goes right back into elite status once again.
3. Matt Forte – If running backs are supposed to be slowing down by their fifth or sixth year, no one told Forte, who had the most yards from scrimmage of his career (1,933) last season. Forte is a dual-threat player who rushed for 1,339 last year and had a career-high 594 receiving yards. With two big targets such as Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall occupying attention in the secondary, the middle has been left wide open for Forte.
2. Marshawn Lynch – Watch out for flying Skittles. Seahawks fans love to throw Lynch's favorite candy into the end zone when he scores, and he does that better than anyone else. In the last three seasons, Lynch has double-digit touchdowns, including 12 last season, which tied him for first with Jamaal Charles. Lynch's bruising running style plays into the Seahawks' hands, considering their attacking defense. [embedded_ad]
1. LeSean McCoy – No player had more yards from scrimmage or even all-purpose yards, than McCoy's 2,146 in 2013. Despite some minor injury setbacks, he proved to be as dynamic as ever in Chip Kelly's system. And now with Sproles in the mix, it could open up McCoy even more. Last year, the Cowboys allowed 133 rushing yards to McCoy in the season finale, after holding him to just 55 rushing yards in a Week 7 win over the Eagles in Philly. He still averaged 94 yards a game in the two meetings.