There are a handful of veterans that are running for their lives this season, but opposing defenders are the least of their concerns.
A host of backs are attempting to elude the dreadful clutches of Father Time in the twilight of their respective careers.
Although conventional wisdom would suggest that turning 30 means one still has a significant portion of life remaining, the age seemingly signals the beginning of the end for running backs.
The history books are littered with examples of elite players drastically dropping off after reaching 30.
While there are a number of factors that have contributed to the rapid decline, the biggest reason for the drop in production is the cumulative effect of a career's worth of hits.
Feature runners typically log 300 or more carries annually, and the toll of stringing together multiple seasons with such a heavy workload eventually wears out the body. Consequently, nagging injuries begin to appear in the latter stages of a running back's career, and the burst that keyed their ability to squeeze through cracks at the line of scrimmage quickly evaporates.
Robbed of their explosiveness, veteran runners often lose their big-play potential and are quickly shuffled out the door.
There are a few notable players, however, who are capable of staving off Father Time for another season. Let's take a look at five backs who could thrive in 2010 despite their advanced age:
Chester Taylor, Bears
The ninth-year pro could enjoy the finest season of his career while serving as Mike Martz's do-it-all weapon.
Taylor showed he was capable of handling a big workload during his time in Baltimore and Minnesota, but lacks the heavy wear and tear of most runners his age. Although he has amassed 1,028 rushing attempts in his eighth-year career, he has only tallied 352 carries over the past three seasons as Adrian Peterson's backup, so he should have plenty of juice remaining in his legs.
Given Martz's desire to involve his running backs in the passing game, Taylor, who has caught at least 40 passes in four of the last five season, will be a multi-dimensional threat.
LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets
The former league MVP was cast aside in San Diego after failing to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career. Although Tomlinson no longer possesses the quickness and burst that once made him the most feared offensive weapon in the game, he still has the vision, cutback ability and hands to be effective as a complementary back in New York.
With the Jets committed to playing smash-mouth football behind one of the league's best offensive lines, Tomlinson could emerge as an unlikely difference-maker if the team makes a Super Bowl run.
Larry Johnson, Redskins
The two-time Pro Bowler has been viewed by many as a washed-up runner, but the Redskins have the pieces to help him return to the ranks of the elite.
Johnson's hard-charging running style is an ideal fit in the team's zone-based system, and the presence of Donovan McNabb will eliminate some of the eight-man fronts that defensive coordinators have used to clog up his running lanes in recent years. Consequently, Johnson could find big seams in the middle of defenses, and supplant Clinton Portis as the feature runner in the Redskins' new version of the "Over the Hill Gang."
Ricky Williams, Dolphins
Williams shocked everyone with his production following Ronnie Brown's injury last season. The 32-year-old put up 1,121 yards on 241 carries with 11 touchdowns, while logging seven starts.
He has seemingly retained the power and burst that made him a dynamic runner between the tackles. Although doubters will question whether he can duplicate his success, the addition of star receiver Brandon Marshall should help create more running room for Williams in 2010. With Brown poised to return, Williams should continue to produce as a part-time playmaker.
Brian Westbrook, free agent
The two-time Pro Bowler has been one of the most productive multi-purpose players in the history of the game, but the cumulative effects of single-handedly carrying the Eagles' offense has led to a host of injuries. Although he's contemplating retirement due to a series of concussions, Westbrook's skills as a runner and receiver would make him an intriguing third-down back in the right offense.
With Washington's Mike Shanahan or Denver's Josh McDaniels creating packages for Westbrook, the ninth-year pro could post solid numbers as a specialist.