The 30 Greatest Modern-Era Running Backs – #2) Eric Dickerson

Famous as the single-season record holder with 2,105 rushing yards in 1984, Dickerson inexplicably remains one of the most underrated, underappreciated and misunderstood of the game’s great running backs. And the single-season rushing record isn’t even the most impressive of his accomplishments.

He rushed for 1,808 yards as a rookie in ’83, still a record, and gained more yardage his first 2 seasons, 3 seasons and 4 seasons than any RB in history. He averaged an incredible 110.2 rushing yards a game his first 6 years in the league, a 90-game stretch. And for 5 of those 6 seasons, a 76-game stretch, he averaged 114.2 yards a game. All in, Dickerson averaged more than 100 yards-per-game for a season 5 times. Only Barry Sanders did it as many as 4.

He hit 10,000 career rushing yards in just 91 games, fastest ever to 10,000, and averaged 1,653 yards rushing his first 6 seasons. In that span he won 4 rushing titles, 5 rushing yards-per-game titles, 4 yards-from-scrimmage titles, and led the league in carries 3 times, a stat that testifies to the huge workloads he shouldered. He is one of just 3 running backs (Sanders, Simpson) to rush for 1,800 yards in a season more than once. Sanders and Simpson each did it twice. Dickerson did it 3 times.

Misconceptions about Dickerson run wild. The classic highlights of his seemingly effortless gallops down the field in open space with long, leggy strides and his legendary upright, almost regal running posture paint a woefully inaccurate picture of one of the toughest, most dogged workhorse RBs to ever play the game.

He averaged 356 carries a season and 23.7 carries a game his first 6 seasons and posted 4 seasons of over 400 total touches. Dickerson was strong, physical, and a truer contact rusher than is commonly realized. He was actually among the hardest RBs to tackle, and relentlessly ground out short and medium-yardage runs as mainstays of his career. No running back who’s pounding the rock nearly 360 times a season for 6 straight seasons is gliding or coasting. Dickerson worked.

And this, too. The longest run of his career, 85 yards, happened his rookie year. The next longest, 66 yards, took place the next year. After that, Eric Dickerson never carried a football 60 yards on any play. I easily rank him the 2nd-greatest running back of the modern era.

 

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