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Tuesday, March 16, 2010
The Big Question: What's an old RB?

By Tim Graham

There has been a serious amount of debate lately about how much LaDainian Tomlinson and Thomas Jones have left to spare and whether the New York Jets made the right decision.

So many numbers have rolled over on their odometers. They're running backs in their 30s with thousands of touches. Their bones have absorbed countless hits.

Ricky Williams
Ricky Williams is coming off a season in which he rushed for 1,121 yards.
Yet there are four more AFC East backs who are older than Tomlinson and Jones.

How much more can the rest of these thirtysomethings contribute?

By the time Tomlinson turns 31 and Jones turns 32, a backfield quartet within the division will be 33 or older.

Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams will be 33, while New England Patriots veterans Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris will be a combined 101 years old.

Age alone doesn't always provide an accurate forecast., an outside-the-box analytical site, recently theorized the sell-by date for a running back is 2,800 touches, the combined number of rushing attempts, receptions and kick returns.

Based on that, Taylor is closest to the end. He turned 34 in January and missed most of last season because of ankle surgery. He has 2,779 touches. Don't expect much, even in the Patriots' diluted backfield.

Williams is next. He will turn 33 in May and is coming off a season in which he rushed for 1,121 yards, breaking the NFL record for most years between 1,000-yard campaigns.

Dolfans point to Williams' extended absence from the game as a reason he still has something left. But in his prime, Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt rode him hard. Williams recorded at least 430 touches in consecutive seasons and has amassed 2,474 to date.

The Patriots' other two tricenarians have lower mileage. Faulk has only 839 career rushing attempts, and even with his 181 kick returns, has 1,537 touches. Morris has only 32 career starts and 853 touches.