RBs coming and going like never before

Updated: August 19, 2004, 12:46 PM ET
Pro Football Weekly
Here's some running commentary worth contemplating: Only 13 teams in the NFL enter the 2004 campaign with the same undisputed No. 1 running back as last season.

That's an amazingly small number to begin with, but when you add the likelihood that at least one or more of those team's featured backs will run into harm's way in the coming weeks and months – and probably be forced to put on the brakes for a significant period of time – the volatile nature of the RB position in the NFL becomes a trend even more worthy of tracking.

Enter the featured attraction in this issue of Pro Football Weekly – a comprehensive look at the ever-shifting state of the league's running backs. Talk about frisky business.

With Miami's Travis Minor becoming the NFL's most recently anointed No. 1 back in the wake of Ricky Williams' blockbuster retirement, 10 teams were expected to start the season with new headliners in their backfields at presstime.

PFW presents special features on two of the more intriguing players in this group – New England's Corey Dillon, who rocked to his own beat both on and off the field in Cincinnati and now must keep in step with Bill Belichick's super-successful program, and San Francisco's Kevan Barlow, a back the Niners believe could quickly become one of the league's best.

There are another nine teams that are either in the midst of training-camp battles for the No. 1 job or planning to go with a RB-by-committee approach. PFW breaks down the league's RB landscape into four distinct classifications – New Starters, Battles to Watch, Backs-by-Committee and Status Quo – and offers a detailed rundown of every RB situation around the league, pointing out each team's top rushers last season as well as projecting each team's most productive foot soldiers this coming season.

Onward march!