Skip to main content

Ground Index

Presented By

RB Index, Week 3: Let's get physical ... at the goal line! Plus, a new No. 1 in the running backs rankings

In advance of Week 3, I'd like to deliver a public service announcement:

To everyone with a role in goal-line offense across the National Football League, you have to figure out a way to get into the end zone. Through two weeks of the 2022 season, on fourth down from the opponent's 2-yard line and in, offenses have converted just three of nine opportunities (33.3 percent). Eight of those tries were run plays. We need to do better. We MUST do better.

This is a problem and it's tough to watch -- especially as a former running back. Teams just aren't being all that physical up front, leaving these punch-in attempts short of the end zone.

The most recent make was Monday night, when the Titans faced a fourth-and-1 on the Bills' 2-yard line in the first quarter. Everyone in the stadium knew Derrick Henry was going to get the rock, and the 6-foot-3, 247-pound back easily pushed his way into the end zone. In the early goings of this season, Henry hasn't looked like the prolific beast we became accustomed to watching prior to last year's injury, but I must applaud his ability to hit paydirt on such a critical down. The only other two successful instances were Jimmy Garoppolo's QB sneak in San Francisco's Week 2 win and Jalen Hurts' 1-yard trot out of shotgun for a TD in Philly's Week 1 victory.

When I look back on my own nine-year career in the league, I only missed one out of probably a billion goal-line tries (don't actually look this up), and I remember it vividly. It was Week 17 of 2011 against the Indianapolis Colts. Pat Angerer and Jamaal Anderson stopped me in my tracks on fourth-and-goal. Thankfully, we (the Jaguars) ended up winning that day, but I had to have a real come-to-Jesus moment with myself that day. Now I'm having one with all of you.

Expanding on this theme: Overall, regardless of down, teams have enjoyed more success on pass plays than on rushes inside the 2-yard line, converting 51.7 percent of 29 pass plays into TDs and 43.9 percent of 41 run plays -- with the only turnovers being two fumbles on rush attempts by Denver in Week 1.

As fun as it is watching splashy pass plays, Vince Lombardi would be beside himself looking at this type of football. As a league, we need to be more physical at the goal-line and stop leaving points off the board.

Top 15 running backs

Former NFL rushing leader and NFL Network analyst Maurice Jones-Drew will survey all running backs and rank his top 15 each week of the 2022 season. His rankings are based on this season's efforts alone. Here is MJD's list heading into Week 3.

NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from last week's rankings.

Nick Chubb
Cleveland Browns · Year 5

2022 stats: 2 games | 39 att | 228 rush yds | 5.8 ypc | 3 rush TD | 4 rec | 28 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Even in a terrible loss, Chubb was still the man -- and as such, he has risen to the top of my list. Scoring three rushing touchdowns against the Jets -- even if he regrets his third one -- after not scoring at all in Week 1, Chubb now shares the league lead in the category with Eagles QB Jalen Hurts.

UPDATE: In Thursday night's win over the Steelers, Chubb had 23 carries for 113 yards (4.9 yards per carry), including a touchdown on fourth-and-goal at the Steelers' 1-yard line in the fourth quarter. (The Browns obviously read my intro atop this file prior to kickoff.)

Saquon Barkley
New York Giants · Year 5

2022 stats: 2 games | 39 att | 236 rush yds | 6.1 ypc | 1 rush TD | 9 rec | 46 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Barkley wasn't much of a factor Sunday until the second half, when he had three runs of at least 10 yards. Not all games will be flashy, but as long as the Giants keep feeding Saquon the ball -- even to chew the clock -- he'll remain in a good spot.

D'Andre Swift
Detroit Lions · Year 3

2022 stats: 2 games | 20 att | 200 rush yds | 10.0 ypc | 1 rush TD | 5 rec | 62 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Speaking of being in a good spot, Swift is thriving in this new high-scoring Lions offense. He is massively efficient in both the run and pass games, and he's popped a 50-yard run in each game. Not sure how long he can continue that streak, but let's just enjoy the moment right now for a star in the making. I mean, how about this catch-tumble-and-run touchdown?!

Jonathan Taylor
Indianapolis Colts · Year 3

2022 stats: 2 games | 40 att | 215 rush yds | 5.4 ypc | 1 rush TD | 5 rec | 23 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

The Colts put up a complete dud against the Jaguars. What's impressive is Taylor still managed to average 6 yards per carry in this game. But only 10(!) total touches for the team's best player? C'mon, man.

Joe Mixon
Cincinnati Bengals · Year 6

2022 stats: 2 games | 46 att | 139 rush yds | 3.0 ypc | 0 rush TD | 10 rec | 89 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

And what's going on with the Bengals? The offense looked completely lost in Dallas on Sunday. Mixon still ended up with 19 carries, but a stout Cowboys run defense kept him from doing any major damage.

Leonard Fournette
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · Year 6

2022 stats: 2 games | 45 att | 192 rush yds | 4.3 ypc | 0 rush TD | 4 rec | 19 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Fournette had one job last Sunday in New Orleans, and that was being the clock drainer for an ugly game -- not many big gains to be had. Sometimes it just comes down to making a defense tired, and Fournette is certainly capable of doing that.

Miles Sanders
Philadelphia Eagles · Year 4

2022 stats: 2 games | 30 att | 176 rush yds | 5.9 ypc | 1 rush TD | 5 rec | 15 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

There are a lot of mouths to feed on this Eagles team, and Sanders got his share with 80 yards on 17 carries (4.7 ypc) in a prime-time win over Minnesota. The RB1 isn't going to get the touchdown nod every week, but he is certainly one of the team's best players when it comes to moving the chains.

James Robinson
Jacksonville Jaguars · Year 3

2022 stats: 2 games | 34 att | 130 rush yds | 3.8 ypc | 2 rush TD | 3 rec | 17 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

With a five-slot climb in the RB Index this week, Robinson continues to be a solid weapon in Jacksonville. A 37-yard touchdown run was his main highlight of the day. 

Cordarrelle Patterson
Atlanta Falcons · Year 10

2022 stats: 2 games | 32 att | 161 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 1 rush TD | 3 rec | 16 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Patterson's usage came back down to earth after the Falcons decided to make Week 2 a Drake London game. It is worth noting that rookie Tyler Allgeier had the same amount of carries (10) as Patterson against the Rams. Something to monitor.

David Montgomery
Chicago Bears · Year 4

2022 stats: 2 games | 32 att | 148 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 0 rush TD | 5 rec | 38 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

It was only a matter of time before Montgomery made it back on here. He brought the "It" factor against the Packers, carrying the ball 15 times for 122 yards -- 8.1 yards per carry! He is the best offensive player on this struggling Bears team, so I expect him to be an RB Index regular.

Aaron Jones
Green Bay Packers · Year 6

2022 stats: 2 games | 20 att | 181 rush yds | 9.1 ypc | 1 rush TD | 6 rec | 65 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

It was teammate AJ Dillon on this list last week, but this time around, Jones has the spotlight. Jones had one of the top performances of Week 2 during his Sunday Night Football clash with the division-rival Bears: 15 carries for 132 rush yards and one TD; three catches for 38 receiving yards and an additional score. Not a bad evening at the office.

Christian McCaffrey
Carolina Panthers · Year 6

2022 stats: 2 games | 25 att | 135 rush yds | 5.4 ypc | 1 rush TD | 8 rec | 50 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Overshadowed by the Panthers' narrow loss to the Giants, McCaffrey had his first 100-yard rushing game since Week 10 of 2019. It was good to see him return to form.

Dalvin Cook
Minnesota Vikings · Year 6

2022 stats: 2 games | 26 att | 107 rush yds | 4.1 ypc | 0 rush TD | 7 rec | 37 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Cook was held in check by the Eagles' defense all Monday night. Not too many chances for him in the 24-7 loss. But he could get back to scoring this week against a Lions' defense that has given up an NFL-high five rushing touchdowns.

Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans · Year 7

2022 stats: 2 games | 34 att | 107 rush yds | 3.2 ypc | 1 rush TD | 0 rec | 0 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

This isn't the Derrick Henry we're used to seeing. I'm going to chalk this one up to the matchup -- the Bills are that good. Henry needs a massive bounce-back game Sunday at home against the Raiders to help the Titans avoid an 0-3 start.

Javonte Williams
Denver Broncos · Year 2

2022 stats: 2 games | 22 att | 118 rush yds | 5.4 ypc | 0 rush TD | 12 rec | 75 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

The Broncos' offense had to mostly rely on the run game, and Williams delivered. With a solid outing vs. Houston -- 15 carries for 75 yards (a robust 5 yards per tote) -- he continues to make the most of his touches in a shared backfield.

DROPPED OUT: Antonio Gibson, Commanders (previously No. 8); Michael Carter, Jets (No. 12); AJ Dillon, Packers (No. 14).

Follow Maurice Jones-Drew on Twitter.

The Ground Index presented by FedEx ranks NFL running back performances all season long. Check out the weekly FedEx Air NFL Players of the Week and cast your vote after Sunday Night Football.

Related Content