New England Having 1,000 Yard Rushing Duo Practical Or Dumbfounding?

July 10, 2022
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After looking through the Patriots’ stats, I thought of the possibility of there being two 1,000-yard rushers in New England and learned about how much has to go right but how possible it is. Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson could easily run for 1,000 yards individually, but the hard part will be both of them doing it in the same season.

I will go over the teams that have had two 1,000-yard rushers (running backs and team success that year), and I will give five reasons why Harris and Stevenson will both rush for 1,000 yards and five reasons why one or both will fail to reach 1,000 yards as well as my prediction on their season stats.

Previous 1000 Yard Duos

No.SeasonTeamLeading rusherPositionGamesYds.Y/ATDsSecond-leading rusherPositionGamesYds.Y/ATDsRef(s).
11972Miami Dolphins^Larry Csonkadaggerdouble-daggerFullback141,1175.26Mercury MorrisdaggerHalfback141,0005.312[15][16]
21976Pittsburgh SteelersFranco Harrisdaggerdouble-daggerFullback141,1283.914Rocky BleierHalfback141,0364.75[17][18]
31985Cleveland BrownsKevin MackdaggerFullback161,1045.07Earnest BynerdaggerHalfback161,0024.18[19]
42006Atlanta FalconsWarrick DunndaggerHalfback161,1404.04Michael VickdaggerQuarterback161,0398.42[20]
52008New York GiantsBrandon JacobsHalfback131,0895.015Derrick WardHalfback161,0255.62[21]
62009Carolina PanthersJonathan StewartHalfback161,1335.110DeAngelo WilliamsdaggerHalfback131,1175.27[22]
72019Baltimore RavensLamar Jackson dagger*Quarterback151,2066.97Mark Ingram Jr. dagger*Halfback151,0185.010[23][24]
These are the previous 1000-yard duos in NFL history

1972 Dolphins

Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris were the first 1,000-yard duo. Both made the Pro Bowl, and Morris led the league in rush TDs. Csonka won Super Bowl MVP and eventually made the Hall of Fame. The Dolphins did this in just a 14-game season and famously became the only undefeated Super Bowl champion.

1976 Steelers

Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier also ran for 1,000 yards in a 14-game season. Harris made the Pro Bowl, led the league in rush TD that season, and ended up in Canton. The Steelers went 10-4 to win the AFC Central but lost in the AFC Championship Game, ending their three-peat hopes.

1985 Browns

It took nine years and an increase to 16 games a season for Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner to become the next 1,000-yard duo. Mack also made the Pro Bowl that season. The duo helped Cleveland go from 5-11 to 8-8, but it was good enough to win the AFC Central, which started a streak of three straight AFC Central titles.

2006 Falcons

It took 21 years for Warrick Dunn and Michael Vick to become the fourth 1,000-yard duo, and this was a historic one as Vick became the first quarterback to ever rush for 1000 yards in a season. The Falcons went just 7-9 as they somehow finished 25th in scoring offense.

2008 Giants

Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward became the fifth duo to go over 1,000 just two years later. Jacobs missed three games which makes this even more impressive. The Giants went 12-4, winning the NFC East but lost in the Divisional Round, failing to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

2009 Panthers

Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams did it the very next year. Williams missed three games but made his first and only Pro Bowl. Carolina fell from 12-4 to 8-8 due to having just the 21st-ranked scoring offense (which was an ominous warning sign as they went 2-14 the next year and had the worst scoring offense in the NFL).

2019 Ravens

Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram are the most recent 1,000-yard duo. Both made the Pro Bowl while Jackson won the MVP. This season was made possible by the rise of the RPO, which revolutionized their Ravens offense and helped the Ravens go 14-2 before losing in the Divisional Round.

Why They Will

Both Had A Chance Last Year.

If things went a bit different, we could have had two 1,000-yard rushers last year. Harris missed two games but still ended up running for 929 yards. Stevenson missed five games, had three others with five or fewer carries, and still managed 606 yards on 133 carries. He might have gotten there if he had been a key factor in the offense from the start.

We Run The Ball A Lot.

We ranked sixth in the NFL in rushing attempts last season with 489 (46.5%). This is not a one-year thing, as we ran it 502 times in a 16-game season (53.3% rate (second in the NFL)) in 2020. After Brady’s departure, Belichick wants us to be near the league leaders in rushing attempts, so this will help.

Both Are Young & Can Improve.

Harris will only be 25 next season, and Stevenson will be just 24 and heading into just his second season, which leaves a lot of room for improvement. Improvement could also lead to more rushing attempts, especially for Stevenson, who could get many more carries.

Recency Bias

Four of the seven 1,000-yard duos have occurred since 2006 after having just three in the first 86 NFL seasons despite the passing game being more and more of a priority, especially in the last decade. This may be because of my next point.

Backfields Are Becoming More Balanced.

The age of offenses having feature running back as their focal point appears to be (mostly) in the past, but the age of carrying splitting has arrived, where two running backs have a relatively equal amount of carries. This leads to more chances for two backs to get enough carries to reach 1,000 yards.

Why They Won’t

Mac Jones Will Likely Pass The Ball More.

A large part of why we ran so much over the past two seasons is that in 2020 Cam Newton was the starting QB and ran it 137 times, and in 2021 we helped ease Mac Jones into the offense. As a result, I think we will have a passing ratio closer to the league average of 58% next year.

Health Could Be An Issue.

Running back is one of if not the most injury-prone positions in all sports, and having one running back, never mind two running backs playing 17 games while getting significant carries, is no sure thing. Runners need 58.8 yards per game to reach 1,000 yards. Just three of the sixteen players to average over 58.8 yards per game played all 17 games last year.

James White Could Make An Impact.

He only had ten carries last season due to injuries but is back this season and should take his place in the running back rotation. He averaged 50 carries per season over the six years and 60.7 catches per season which means less time on the field for Harris and Stevenson.

One Could Significantly Outperform The Other.

Even if Harris and Stevenson go well over 2,000 yards combined, one could have a tremendous season and go well over 1,000 and end the other’s chances. Only one of the previous 1,000-yard duos featured even one player reaching 1,150 yards before.

Neither Has Reached 1000 Yards Before.

It is hard to believe that two running backs on the same team can reach 1,000 yards in a season if neither has done it before. Only one of the previous seven duos had two players who had never reached 1,000 yards before (with a rookie and a second-year player making up the duo).

Prediction

Damien Harris: 225 carries, 1025 yards, 15 touchdowns

I will go out on a limb and say Harris will play all 17 games and sneak over the 1,000-yard barrier with a 100-yard performance in Week 18. Harris will also get 15 touchdowns again and be named to the Pro Bowl as an alternate.

Rhamondre Stevenson: 115 carries, 575 yards, five touchdowns

It feels unlikely that Stevenson will play 17 games this season as he has had injury issues (missed five games in 2020 at Oklahoma throughout his career. He will do well when he does play but will likely be the one to lose opportunities to James White.

James White: 35 carries, 140 yards, two touchdowns

He will take some carries away from Stevenson and play a role in the passing game.

Mac Jones: 30 carries, 100 yards, two touchdowns

Mac Jones tied for third on the Patriots with 44 carries which was extremely surprising as he did not run that much in college and is known as a pocket passer. I don’t think he will have 44 carries again, but he could easily have 30 carries (he had 22 non-sack carries in 13 games in 2020 at Alabama).

J.J. Taylor: 25 carries, 90 yards, zero touchdowns

Taylor will have a small role in the running game and is not a massive threat to the top two.

Pierre Strong Jr.: 20 carries, 70 yards, zero touchdowns

The rookie fourth-rounder will not have a significant role in the offense and will be primarily a special teams player. He could be used on a trick play or two as he went 9/9 passing for 208 yards and six touchdowns in three seasons at South Dakota State.

Kevin Harris: 5 carries, 15 yards, zero touchdowns

He will spend most of the season on the practice squad but will get in a game or two due to injuries.

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