There have been only six NFL running backs to eclipt the 2,000 yard mark rushing, and I will explain to you what I think is the best rushers to do so. It's not a career thing, it's a single season thing. These are the best 2,000 yard seasons in my opinion.
WARNING: This may offend you...Barry Sanders fans.
1. Terrell Davis, Denver Broncos, is the best 2,000 yard rusher I have ever seen and in my heart, is the best RB I have ever seen play the game. There was a great reason why John Elway didn't win a title until his last two seasons, and that reason was Terrell Davis. Davis punished defenders in every facet of the game. He would juke you and if the defender didn't buy the juke, he would bull doze his way through. Many will say that Mike Shanahan's zone blcoking scheme had many RBs gain over 1,000 yards, but the fact was Shanahan could never find another like Davis who destroyed opponents. Davis may not have had that flashy TD score, but he did what football die hards appreciate the most...he mad the trenches even more painful for defenses. Elway rarely had to deal with a long situation because it was a guarantee that Davis was going to win yards with just his effort.
2. Eric Dickerson, Los Angeles Rams- Dickerson led a team with absolutely nothing to the playoffs and played in a close game, lost 10-7 to the NY Giants. He had Jeff Kemp for a QB and his leading WR had 34 catches for the entire season. Yet, Dickerson was able to earn over 2,000 yards. If there is any RB in the history of the NFL who had nothing, it was Eric Dickerson, and he shattered a record in the process. Dickerson did gain over 120 yards in the Rams defeat in the playoffs.
3. Jamal Lewis, Baltimore Ravens- Lewis came into the NFL and helped a bad offensive team win a super bowl. His 2,000 yard season didn't happen until a couple of years after the super bowl run. Everybody remembers that Trent Dilfer was the QB for the Ravens when they won a super bowl. What people refuse to remember is that Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright were the Ravens QBs during Jamal Lewis' phenomenal season over 2,000 yards. It did help playing the Browns twice during that season, but a division title is a division title. Lewis' only help was TE Todd Heap who led the team in receptions with 57 receptions. Who was their best WR? Travis Taylor. Need I say more?
4. OJ Simpson, Buffalo Bills- Simpson had his single season rushing yars records broken, but I think he is secure to never have his yards per game average broken. Simpson averaged 143 yards per game in his then NFL record season. He only played 14 games which was the standard in the NFL during his era. Dickerson broke his record but at fewer yards per game due to the elongated season. Simpson's Bills had a respectable 9-5 record, but back in his days, it wasn't good enough to make the playoffs. Simpson didn't have any help at all either when it came to receivers taking the pressure off the running back. The leading WR for the Bills had 30 receptions in his record year. OJ may be hated for reasons off the football field, understandably so, but the fact remains he was one of the best in the NFL at running the ball.
5. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans- Sanders fans have to be stewing by now, but let me make my last few points. Chris Johnson, the only player to rush for than 2,000 yards whose team didn't make the playoffs in the modern era, was the only focus of the Tennessee Titans. Johnson, like others on this list had no help. His biggest fault is that his team dedicated the end of their season to helping him get over 2,000 yards. Their goal was to break the record and they fell short. The Titans had the worst record out of all the 2,000 yard rushers, but when you look at their roster, it was of no surprise. What makes Johnson's season great is that he was only in his second season and he also shatter Marshal Faulk's single season record for total yards. What that means is that not only was Johnson a threat with the ball out of the backfield, he was a threat catching the ball as well. Johnson had to deal with a QB change as well as having nothing for WRs to take the pressure off of him.
6. Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions- In my opinion, Barry Sanders' 2,000 yard season was the least important out of all of the RBs who conquered the feat. Sanders proved that age was not a factor in the record as he was 29 years old when he gained over 2,000 yards. However, Sanders greatness during the season did not translate into the playoffs. His amazing 6.1 yards a carry was almost cut in half in the playoffs versus the Buccaneers, the same team he burnt during the season for 215 yards. 18 carries for 65 yards does not cut it for a 2,000 yard rusher, and I don't care who the defense is. People can argue that Sanders' QB was ineffective, Scott Mitchell- 79 QB rating, but he had studs for WRs, Herman Moore and Johnnie Morton. Moore had 104 receptions and Morton had 80.
Terrell Davis is the only RB to gain over 2,000 yards and win a super bowl. Many want to claim he was just part of a great system, but I think he was the the reason why the system became great. Part of the greatness for a running back is making every yard count. Every time the QB gives you the ball, make it count. Part of making it count is by reading holes and not losing yards that can easily change the flow of the drive. Davis exemplified making every yard count. He refused to lose yardage and when the QB gave him the ball, it would be at worst, a different down with the same amount of yardage to go. Maybe it's his very short career or even the hype of John Elway, Elway deserves the hype, but Davis is lost in the argument for greatest RBs of all time. Obviously, a bad RB doesn't get 2,000 yards. It's an elite class of its own. In my opinion, Terrell Davis leads that elite class. My argument for him other than that will continue...