With Halloween right around the corner, let's talk about the scariest running backs to tackle.
We'll get to current players in a second, but I can't bring up this topic without mentioning one particular run by Jerome "The Bus" Bettis. The Pittsburgh Steelers legend plowed right over Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher and a pair of additional Chicago Bears at the goal line during a snowy December game in 2005. When I say he plowed over them, I mean, he RAN OVER THEM like a fifth-grader against a bunch of first-graders. It was soul-crushing to Da Bears' D; beautiful to Steelers fans and running backs far and wide.
Bettis' bust now resides in Canton, Ohio, but there's one player who's carrying the torch for the NFL's scariest RB to tackle today, one guy who routinely makes defenses look overmatched and undermanned. It's the man who just received AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors ...
The Titans' 6-foot-3, 247-pounder has become the back I had hoped he'd be -- making NFL players look average, just as he did to his opponents during his collegiate days at Alabama. No one wants to tackle him. No one!
Henry comfortably leads the NFL in rushing yards after contact (442), per Pro Football Focus, with Kansas City's Clyde Edwards-Helaire in a distant second (346). It should also come as no surprise that Henry leads the league in missed tackles forced on runs (25). Let me remind you that Henry has only played in five games, while plenty others have played six at this point. Against Houston in Week 6 alone, he gained 174 rush yards after contact (most in a single game this season) and forced nine missed tackles on runs (second-most in a game this season). Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith does a great job getting Henry on the outside and in space, allowing him to run against safeties and corners rather than sure-tackling linebackers.
I'm starting to think it's a mental thing for defenders. When they see a 250-pound running back coming at them with blazing speed, it's like they turn into a kicker or punter on special teams plays -- doing everything possible to funnel the ball-carrier to the next guy in an effort to avoid contact at all costs. It's really kind of funny. The scary thing is we're not even to the cold-weather months when Henry really gets going.
While the Chiefs' rookie may not be as evidently scary as Henry at 5-foot-8 and 207 pounds, he is tough as nails to bring down. CEH ranks third in the NFL in missed tackles forced on runs (23), per PFF, with seven in both Week 1 vs. Houston and Week 6 vs. Buffalo. He's able to slip so many tackles due to his compact physique, contact balance and short-area quickness. Monday's rainy game against the Bills showcased his abilities more than any other this season as the centerpiece of the Chiefs' offense; Edwards-Helaire logged season highs in touches (30), carries (26) and rush yards (161) against a good Sean McDermott-led Bills defense. CEH is a special back who is constantly falling forward for extra yardage (346 yards after contact) and looks to be a mainstay in Andy Reid's system.
Cook is a different kind of scary. He's extremely quick and explosive with the ball in his hands and often accelerates through contact. My former running backs coach in Jacksonville, Kennedy Polamalu, is the current RBs coach in Minnesota. Kennedy used to tell me it's all about winning contact battles, and that's exactly what Cook does. He is the one initiating contact with defenders and gets faster as the game progresses. Thus, it's no coincidence that Cook, who ranks second in missed tackles forced on runs (24, per PFF), leads the league in rushing TDs. He's a nightmare anywhere on the field.
Man, I've been sleeping on Jones -- must be my UCLA bias. Sorry, dude. The third-year back has been ballin' ever since the Buccaneers signed Leonard Fournette. Whether it's the threat of another RB taking his job or Tom Brady lighting a fire under him, Jones is finally performing like everyone thought he would coming out of USC. The 5-11, 208-pounder is tough to tackle because he runs over, through and right by defenders, and that spin move in traffic is a nice little cherry on top of his game. Jones is on pace for season highs across the board and sits third in rush yards after contact (340) through Week 6, according to PFF.
What Jon Gruden is doing with Jacobs reminds me of his days in Tampa with Mike Alstott. I realize the two ball-carriers are very different, but both thrive in Gruden's system. Like Cook in Minnesota, Jacobs accelerates through contact and often bounces off defenders, forcing 22 missed tackles on runs (fourth in NFL) and a league-leading 10 in a single game (Week 1 vs. Carolina), per PFF. At 5-10, 220 pounds, Jacobs' compact body makes it hard for defenders to wrap up, especially in the third and fourth quarters. What makes him so dangerous as a runner is he can evade defenders in the tackle box and in space.
Top 15 Running Backs
2020 stats: 5 games | 123 att | 588 rush yds | 4.8 ypc | 6 rush TDs | 8 rec | 84 rec yds | 0 rec TDs
2020 stats: 5 games | 61 att | 281 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 38 rec | 395 rec yds | 3 rec TDs
2020 stats: 6 games | 107 att | 505 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 1 rush TD | 21 rec | 177 rec yds | 0 rec TDs
2020 stats: 5 games | 92 att | 489 rush yds | 5.3 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 12 rec | 64 rec yds | 0 rec TDs
2020 stats: 5 games | 75 att | 389 rush yds | 5.2 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 18 rec | 161 rec yds | 2 rec TDs
2020 stats: 5 games | 61 att | 289 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 21 rec | 140 rec yds | 3 rec TDs
2020 stats: 5 games | 75 att | 369 rush yds | 4.9 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 12 rec | 83 rec yds | 0 rec TDs
2020 stats: 5 games | 106 att | 377 rush yds | 3.6 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 15 rec | 108 rec yds | 0 rec TDs
2020 stats: 6 games | 97 att | 472 rush yds | 4.9 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 17 rec | 84 rec yds | 0 rec TDs
2020 stats: 6 games | 83 att | 387 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 13 rec | 80 rec yds | 3 rec TDs
2020 stats: 6 games | 101 att | 413 rush yds | 4.1 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 32 rec | 204 rec yds | 1 rec TD
2020 stats: 6 games | 119 att | 428 rush yds | 3.6 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 21 rec | 138 rec yds | 1 rec TD
2020 stats: 6 games | 85 att | 362 rush yds | 4.3 ypc | 3 rush TD | 23 rec | 207 rec yds | 1 rec TD
2020 stats: 6 games | 105 att | 478 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 6 rec | 22 rec yds | 0 rec TDs
2020 stats: 6 games | 72 att | 348 rush yds | 4.8 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 7 rec | 96 rec yds | 1 rec TD
DROPPED OUT: Todd Gurley, Falcons (previously No. 15).