The table below shows the leader in rush attempts for every three year period beginning with the AFL-NFL merger. Here’s how to lead the Lynch line: From 2011 to 2013, Lynch, who was 27 in 2013, led the NFL in carries. Over that period, he rushed 901 times for 4,051 yards, a 4.50 yards per carry average.
Some quick observations:
- Seeing a 29-31 year old Thomas Jones lead the NFL in carries from 2007-2009 — his three years with the Jets — still blows my mind even though I lived through that era. While Jones produced a historically unique career, there’s a part of me that still first thinks of him as a Cardinals bust.
- In addition to Jones, who was 31 in year three, only two other backs were in their thirties at the end of their three-year run: Dickerson, who was 30, and John Riggins, who was thirty-five/
- The youngest players on the list? Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders each led the league in carries during their ages 21-23 years. Those two are conveniently ignored by folks who like to trot out the “tread on the tires” theory of running back aging patterns.
- On the other hand, both Earl Campbell and Terrell Davis were essentially done after rushing over 1,100 times in three straight years. They’re the only players in NFL history to hit that threshold, and at this rate, who knows if it will ever happen again.
What does that mean for Lynch? Even if you were to subscribe to the theory that a high workload is a bad thing for a running back’s future, any concerns about Lynch should be mitigated since his workload hasn’t even been that high. Lynch also has another 101 carries in the postseason, but 1,002 carries over three years is far from a historic outlier. More on Lynch and running back carries later this week.