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5/26/2007

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To Be a Two Back System or Not To Be

| You can say the Cowboys started this revolution in 2005, when we added Marion Barber III to the backfield. The Cowboys drafted Julius Jones the year before. In 2005, we drafted MB3, and some thought he would be used as a possible back up to Julius Jones, but those weren't the plans. Parcells planned on using a two-back attack, and the Cowboys one of a few teams that paved the way for other teams going to a two back system.

ESPN's Len Pasquarelli suggests that the two back system is on its way out. Pasquarelli points out several teams getting away from the two back system, such as Indianapolis and a few other former two back systems:

Addai, who led all rookies in rushing yards in 2006 despite not starting a regular-season game, also figures to tote a significantly heavier load in the offense this year.

Dominic Rhodes, the nominal starter in 2006, is gone, having defected to Oakland as an unrestricted free agent

Other top contenders that have moved away from the two back system are New England and the Bears. Corey Dillion was released from the Patriots, and is about to retire, the Bears opted to trade Thomas Jones to the Jets. Basically these teams have not moved away from this system, but have been forced to rely on a #1 RB due to player attrition via release, trade, and free agency. There's going to be attrition every year, and teams would like the luxury of having a two back system, but there are all these variables that will come into play. In addition, some players in a two back system aren't going to be happy because in some cases one of the two backs wants to be the #1 and only starting back.


More:
Just when it seemed the pendulum was swinging toward teams that preferred a two-back system, a practice that would have been anathema not too many years ago, the momentum seems to have shifted again. General managers who were justifiably concerned over the effects of wear and tear on their No. 1 tailbacks, and thought that they had found a viable solution by spreading the carries around, suddenly find themselves fretting again about a lack of distribution in the running game.

The system does work well, but when you have two good running backs, one of the two will eventually want the chance to be the #1 sole starter for another team. Its the idea that doesn't work well with young talented players that inherently want the spotlight, recognition, and accolades - its natural, its competition. Everyone wants to be the next Emmitt, Walter, or Barry.


There are still some top contending teams that utilize the system like The Cowboys (Jones & Barber), the Saints (McAllister & Bush) ,the Chargers (Tomlinson & Turner), and Jacksonville (Taylor & Maurice-Drew). With these teams, we'll probably see some attrition with the Cowboys and Chargers, eventually the Saints in a year or two. This doesn't mean the system is dead or does it?. If the Cowboys choose not to extend Julius he'll be a free agent next year, but the Cowboys may already have their eyes set on a few other RBs to come in. The Chargers are going to lose Turner next year, so we'll see what their plans are, Norv's background employs a one back system for the most part, so they may be done with the two back system after this year.

So in the end, its not whether teams want a two back system, teams do want the system, but its more of a "short term luxury" than a need. There are great benefits for a two back system. Your offense is more balanced, you have fresh legs in the game at all times, and the wear and tear is diminished a bit on the running backs. The majority of the teams in the playoffs this year employed the two back system - they had that luxury last year. Will we see these teams return to the playoffs with their loses at RB? We will see.

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