Better production by a mile (1.5, actually)

July, 22, 2013
7/22/13
6:00
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Running back situations in the NFC West come into clearer focus when we consider the 2012 stats for backs currently on division teams' rosters.

Check out the stats in the chart. They show current backs for the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals with a combined one rushing touchdown last season, compared to 27 combined rushing scores for backs with the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.

We already knew the Cardinals and Rams were counting on players new to the league, returning from injuries or trying to reestablish themselves. Taking a look at those numbers drives home the contrast.

Think of it this way: Running backs currently with the 49ers and Seahawks combined for 3,799 yards last season, compared to 1,092 yards for their counterparts on the Rams and Seahawks. The difference between those figures is 2,707 yards, or 1.54 miles.

The Rams have become more pass-oriented in their personnel and mindset. They'll be looking for Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead and rookie Zac Stacy to combine for healthy production overall. The Cardinals are hoping free-agent addition Rashard Mendenhall and incumbent Ryan Williams can get healthy and stay that way.

The Seahawks and 49ers, meanwhile, have the best starting backs in the division, Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore. They also have the best backups, led by Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James in San Francisco, and Robert Turbin and Christine Michael in Seattle. They have allocated more financial resources and draft capital toward the position over the past couple years. They also have quarterbacks with rushing ability, but their stats don't show up in the chart.

Seattle's Russell Wilson had 498 yards rushing last season. The 49ers' Colin Kaepernick had 415 yards. Those figures nearly match the totals for running backs in Arizona (563) and St. Louis (529).

In some cases, teams pass the ball effectively to win games, then run the ball to control games. Seattle and San Francisco have been more run-oriented by design. I wouldn't expect significant shifts in philosophy even though both teams' quarterbacks have proven they can throw the ball to great effect.

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