Running Back Runaround

A year ago, the Vikings answered a lot of questions at the running back position by drafting Adrian Peterson. A year later, a lot of other NFL teams have running back issues of their own.

A year ago at this time, the Vikings were sitting with Chester Taylor as their No. 1 running back and Mewelde Moore as their No. 2 guy – a third-down and change-of-pace back. A year later, Taylor is entrenched at No. 2 and Moore is gone to the Steelers. To some, this would seem like a drastic change, but in the NFL life of running backs, it is nothing.

The Vikings made the biggest splash of the first round of last year's draft by taking Peterson with the seventh pick overall. A year later, there are plenty of teams that are wondering what the future of their own running game is going to be. Consider the following:

Dallas - The Cowboys are expected to use one of their first-round picks on a running back after losing Julius Jones and having Marion Barber as a restricted free agent who could bolt after this season.

Chicago - The Bears are now convinced they may have kept the wrong running back after trading Thomas Jones to the Jets and keeping bust Cedric Benson. By year's end last season, "the other" Adrian Peterson was getting most of the carries.

Detroit - The Lions cut veteran Kevin Jones Thursday, leaving them with just Tatum Bell as their primary back after losing T.J. Duckett in free agency. They will likely have to use their first-round pick on a running back unless they can swing a deal in free agency.

Atlanta – The Falcons signed free agent Michael Turner to be a contract, which left Warrick Dunn out in the cold. Despite putting together a solid season with the Falcons, his big cap number and advancing age wasn't enough for the Falcons to continue investing in him.

Carolina - The Panthers released leading rusher DeShaun Foster and thus far have only replaced him with Jaguars castoff LaBrandon Toefield.

Tampa Bay - The Bucs learned yesterday that Carnell Williams' knee injury may be career-threatening. The result could be a committee RB approach with Earnest Graham, Warrick Dunn and Michael Bennett.

Arizona - Just two years after signing Edgerrin James to a mammoth contract (about twice as much at Taylor's), the Cards have realized he will never a be a game-breaker and are seriously considering running back with the 16th pick in the draft.

Seattle - The Seahawks signed Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett in free agency, which will likely usher the end of Shaun Alexander's career with the team – just two years removed from a MVP season.

Miami - Ronnie Brown was having a huge season before injuries wiped out his 2007 and if he won't be 100 percent heading into training camp, the Dolphins may have to look in another direction.

Cincinnati - After signing a big contract, Rudi Johnson hasn't looked like a dominant running back and the Bengals have sent out some feelers in the free-agent market to some of the available running backs.

Houston - The Ahman Green experiment was a dismal failure and, despite signing oft-injured Chris Brown in free agency, the team might still target a running back with its first-round pick.

Tennessee - The Titans lost Brown to free agency and LenDale White is coming off of surgery, leaving some question marks there as well a year after losing Travis Henry in free agency.

Denver – The Broncos have annually produced 1,000-yard rushers, but the Travis Henry dynasty may be very short-lived. He had to take a pay cut just to return for 2008.

Oakland - The most dysfunctional team in the league has spent the last three offseasons spending millions on running backs – Lamont Jordan in 2006, Dominic Rhodes in 2007 and Justin Fargas this year. Despite that, rumors persist that the team will use the fourth pick of the draft on RB Darren McFadden.

San Diego - Even with LaDainian Tomlinson, the loss of backup Michael Turner could have the Chargers looking at a running back early in the draft.

With so many teams having issues at running back and a changing of the guard, the Vikings are fortunate in that, for the first time in a long time, heading into the draft, running back is no longer an area of concern.

FRIDAY NOTES
* Along with releasing Kevin Jones Thursday, the Lions also cut DE Kalimba Edwards.
* Rookie running back Jonathan Stewart of Oregon underwent turf toe surgery that could drop his draft stock since he won't be able to take part in individual workouts like other top rookie backs.
* Another veteran QB came off the board yesterday as the Saints signed veteran Mark Brunell, who was recently released by the Redskins.
* Trent Dilfer is on the market after being cut by the 49ers Thursday.
* CB Nathan Jones, who visited the Vikings Wednesday, was meeting with Dolphins officials Thursday.

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