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Running for the Record
By Matt Spencer
Special to

Division Rivals Battle for Glory

Halfway through the RZL's 19th(!) season, things are looking a little slow across the forums. Let's delve into a battle between two future Hall of Famers who have been playing increasingly better with age and show no sign of slowing down.

Let's hop in our way-back machine, back to the 2014 season and the Buffalo Bills coming off of a disappointing 4-12 campaign and ending up with the 6th overall pick of the draft. The New York Jets, holding the Washington Redskins' original 5th pick, fell asleep at the GM wheel and wound up missing their selection. Both teams needed franchise ball carriers, and the decisions (or lack thereof) made on that draft day would change the course of RZL history.

The Bills selected RB Sol Hogan with their first pick in that draft, a man that, 11 seasons later, is still getting the job done. Actually, not just getting the job done, but carrying the ball at an elite level averaging more than 5 yards per carry. Hogan has provided the team with consistent production across an entire decade, a decade in which the team endured just 1 losing season.

Similarly, the New York Jets found their backfield rock the very next season, using the Philadelphia Eagles' first round pick on RB Ben Tate (15th Overall). Tate has run for more than 1,300 yards in every season except for two, one of which was an injury shortened campaign. Selected 7 picks ahead of Tate was RB Toby Gerhart and Gerhart was considered the superior prospect coming into the RZL. Tate has blown away Gerhart, posting nearly 2,000 more career yards.

The Bills and Jets have had a long rivalry in the RZL, both teams have remained competitive throughout the league's existence never really bottoming out, but then again, never climbing their way to the Super Bowl. Tate and Hogan have been a big part of the two teams' success since being drafted, and a look at the league's Career Leaders shows us why.

Even with an extra year in the league, Hogan trails Tate by 23 yards on the all time totem pole (Tate has played 1 less game in 2024). The two backs have the utmost respect for each other, but each knows that whomever claims that top spot, they will be very hard to dethrone by the league's future backs. It's amazing to most around the league that Hogan is still even finding carries. He's never been the fastest player in the league, but his ability to shed tacklers is probably among the greatest the NFL or RZL has ever seen, and that ability has not degraded over time like his athleticism has.

Ben Tate is an entirely different runner, and may not be able to stick around for an extra season or two like Hogan has. That's why this 2024 season might be the breaking point between these two. Hogan surely can't still produce after another regression, and might hang them up anyway with the Bills trying to rebuild. And with GM Matt Spencer's history in turning over rosters, this could be the last season we see Ben Tate with the Jets as he will surely regress past the point of usefulness.

The New York Jets love their stars, and Ben Tate has been one of the brightest. His goal is to join former teammate Calvin Johnson as one of the league's best, but he tells us that he isn't following it:

Ben Tate :
To be honest, I knew I was up there, but I didn't know how close it was or if I was on top. It's a tip of the cap to excellent blockers throughout the years and great Training Staffs and doctors that have kept me on the field so much. I'd gladly trade a few thousand of those yards for a Super Bowl championship though.

Hogan, on the other hand, sounded like a guy on a mission to ensure his place in history:

Sol Hogan :
It means a lot. I've talked with Ben about it, don't let him play coy, he knows exactly where he's at and he follows our games to see how I do, just like I do when they play. I don't know if this is my last season, but I'm playing like it is, just like I have my entire career. Leave it all on the field, and let chips fall as they may.

There are 7 games left in the 2024 season, these two old-timers could approach 15,000 career yards. Let's all sit back and enjoy the race for history!
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