Marshall Faulk. Priest Holmes. Shaun Alexander. LaDanian Tomlinson. What do all these star running backs have in common?
If you guessed that they've all broken the single-season touchdown record at some point in the last seven years, you're correct. The breaking of that record hasn't exactly been uncommon in the 21st century. So we, as football fans, should realize that there's a distinct possibility that LaDanian Tomlinson's immortal 31 teeders last season will be met and surpassed at some point in the next three years.
Don't believe me? Think back to this date last year. Odds were, most people believed that Shaun Alexander's ridiculous 28 touchdowns the previous year was a mark that wouldn't be surpassed for a while. So I'm not saying it will happen this year, or really even that it ever will, but I'm saying there's a good chance. And with that in mind, let's look at who could possibly average 2 touchdowns a game over the course of a season to break the record. Candidates are listed in order of likelihood. (I realize that the most likely person to score 32 times is probably LaDanian Tomlinson, but for arguments sake, and to follow the recent trend, he won't be in the discussion.)
1. Steven Jackson- Rams Jackson, the NFL's leader last season in yards from scrimmage, has emerged as the consensus second best running back in the NFL. He's only 24 and has had just one season of real wear on his body, so he'll be fresh for a while yet. And as the focal point of one of the league's more potent offenses, he could see the end zone alot in the next few years. Jackson has the breakaway speed required for long TD sprints, and is also a powerful, North-South runner, so he'll get almost all of the Rams' goal-line carries. It also helps that he caught 90 passes last season, more than alot of good receivers. What his 32 might look like: 24 rushing TDs, 8 TD catches
2. Reggie Bush - Saints Aside from his ugly performance Thursday night against the Colts, Bush may be the only player in the league who is literally just as likely to catch a touchdown pass as he is to run for one. As the X-factor in the Saints' dynamo offense, Bush is option 1A to Deuce McAllister's 1 on the ground. But because of the Saints' lack of depth at wideout behind Marques Colston, Bush is Drew Brees' main target through the air. He is arguably the biggest home-run threat in the league. What his 32 might look like: 15 rushing TDs, 13 TD catches, 4 punt/kick returns
3. Maurice Jones-Drew - Jaguars The 5'7 MJD was the biggest surprise in the league last year not named Marques Colston. And as Fred Taylor gets older each week, Jones-Drew will take more and more of his carries as the games, and seasons, go on. He's fast and a tough inside runner, and he gets to play the weak run defenses of Tennessee, Houston, and Indy (although that's extremely debatable these days) twice each. What his 32 might look like: 26 rushing TDs, 4 TD catches, 2 punt/kick returns.
Honorable Mentions (and why they didn't crack the top 3)
Larry Johnson (700 touches over the last two seasons. May only have 2 dominant years left, and they'll be spent behind a makeshift O-Line and a sub-par quarterback.)
Joseph Addai (Could be the league's best back in 6 years. But his team passes way too much.)
Laurence Maroney (See Joseph Addai.)
Shaun Alexander (injury prone, aging)