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AFC East backfields looking gray

6/14/2010

NFL.com columnist Bucky Brooks recently produced an interesting look at tricenarian running backs who can contradict the dictum running backs of that age don't have anything left to give.

The piece featured a chart of all the 30-plus tailbacks, and five of the oldest seven play in the AFC East.

The NFL's three oldest backs -- Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris -- are New England Patriots.

Next is Miami Dolphins back Ricky Williams. Fifth is Michael Bennett of the Oakland Raiders, followed by former New York Jets workhorse Thomas Jones, now of the Kansas City Chiefs. Jones' roster replacement for the Jets, LaDainian Tomlinson, is seventh oldest.

Williams and Jones were the only two thirtysomethings to rush for 1,000 yards last year.

The Buffalo Bills' incumbent feature back, Fred Jackson, turned 29 in February.

Brooks compiled a list of five backs in their 30s who still could thrive this year.

  • Chester Taylor, Bears: "Given [offensive coordinator Mike] Martz's desire to involve his running backs in the passing game, Taylor, who has caught at least 40 passes in four of the last five seasons, will be a multidimensional threat."

  • Tomlinson, Jets: He "still has the vision, cutback ability and hands to be effective as a complementary back in New York."

  • Larry Johnson, Redskins: "Johnson's hard-charging running style is an ideal fit in the team's zone-based system, and the presence of Donovan McNabb will eliminate some of the eight-man fronts that defensive coordinators have used to clog up his running lanes in recent years."

  • Williams, Dolphins: "He has seemingly retained the power and burst that made him a dynamic runner between the tackles. ... With [Ronnie] Brown poised to return, Williams should continue to produce as a part-time playmaker."

  • Brian Westbrook, free agent: "Although he's contemplating retirement due to a series of concussions, Westbrook's skills as a runner and receiver would make him an intriguing third-down back in the right offense."

Not included on the NFL.com list were fullbacks. Had they been, the AFC East would have been even more prominent. Jets fullback Tony Richardson is the oldest running back of any type. He turned 38 in December.