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Matt Jones, David Johnson leading the way for NFL's impressive rookie running back class

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Two weeks into the season, rookie running backs are making an impact on the game.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

This year's class of rookie running backs was thought to be one of the strongest in years, and through two weeks of action, they're definitely making their mark on the NFL. Melvin Gordon and Ameer Abdullah appear to be the future of the position with the San Diego Chargers and Detroit Lions, while the St. Louis Rams hope to get Todd Gurley into action just as soon as he's healthy.

But beyond those top guys, there are even more interesting players, including Tevin Coleman, T.J. Yeldon and Jay Ajayi.

Gordon is currently 10th in the NFL with 139 rushing yards and boasts a per-carry average of 4.6 yards. Yeldon isn't far behind at 121 yards with an average of 3.3 yards per carry. Coleman has 112 yards, just two fewer than Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks. Meanwhile, Abdullah has put up 189 kick return yards for the Lions.

None of these players are breaking games wide open at this point in the season, but they are difference makers on the field, and every single one of them fits the bill of a starting running back in today's NFL.

There are two players who come to mind in particular, two players who were somewhat overlooked throughout the draft process and into the regular season: David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals and Matt Jones of Washington.

As far as Jones is concerned, he went under the radar in Week 1. A third-round pick this offseason, Jones had six carries for 28 yards behind starter Alfred Morris against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1. He ran the ball well, but was ultimately overshadowed by the 121-yard performance by Morris.

Week 2 was a different story.

Jones, still backing up Morris, got a handful of carries and did a lot with them early against the Rams. On Washington's second possession of the game, Jones took his first carry of the game for 39 yards and a touchdown, giving Washington an early lead. By the end of the game, he didn't take as many snaps as Morris did, but he outgained the veteran. Jones finished with 19 carries for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Morris had 18 carries for 59 yards.

Both running backs had 10 carries in the second half, a game Washington was trying to put away late. Morris gained 7 yards on his 10 second half carries, while Jones managed a total of 43 yards on his.

Even though Morris has more total yards, snaps and touches, Jones has put himself in the starting discussion, or at the least, he's going to get his fair share of carries going forward. Washington can't look at that performance and keep him on the sidelines. On the other hand, Morris has 4,142 yards and 28 touchdowns in four seasons with Washington. That's working in his favor, though you also have to consider the fact that Morris' contract expires after the season.

David Johnson, a third-round pick by the Cardinals this offseason, was often listed as a player who could make an impact if he found his way into playing time behind Andre Ellington and offseason signing Chris Johnson. David Johnson has done just that, earning a spot on kick returns and working his way into the offense while Ellington is sidelined with an injury.

His first NFL touch came in Week 1 on a kick return. He took that return 43 yards and set the Cardinals up in great field position against the New Orleans Saints. His second NFL touch came late in the game on offense. On first down, Chris Johnson ran for 2 yards, and then Carson Palmer tossed a 55-yard pass to David Johnson that went to the house for a touchdown, sealing the game for Arizona.

That gave the coaches some faith in him, and he rewarded them by taking the opening kickoff in Week 2 against the Chicago Bears 108 yards for a touchdown. Arizona wound up winning that game, and the momentum from the franchise record-breaking return certainly helped. That put David Johnson firmly on everyone's radar, but he also did well with his limited five carries in the game, taking them 42 yards with another touchdown.

Two games into his NFL career, Johnson has scored three different ways: kick return touchdown, a receiving touchdown and a rushing touchdown, and that's while only touching the ball nine times in total. He's second only to Abdullah in kick return yards, and just above rookie receiver Tyler Lockett.

Johnson's performance emphasizes how much impact rookies are making all over the field. In some cases, they're doing a whole lot with a whole little. Rather than look at specific yards per carry or yards per return, we've taken a look at each running back's touches and their average yards gained per touch:

The players who eat up big chunks of yards on kick returns are getting a bit of a boost there, but contributing is contributing. The return game can be something of an afterthought in today's NFL, and guys like Johnson and Abdullah are trying to change that.

At some point this season, both Ellington and Morris could lose out on their starting jobs to third-round rookies. Ellington has always had durability concerns as a bell-cow type running back, and Morris could be on his way out at the end of the season. If Jones keeps running hard, there's no time like the present for Washington to make the switch and give him the reins.

Karlos Williams of the Buffalo Bills only recently got some attempts with LeSean McCoy not at a 100 percent on Sunday, and he probably did enough with his carries to warrant more playing time. Gordon is running hard for all of his yards, same as Yeldon, and neither are getting much help from their offensive lines. With some work, both of those guys can be punishing runners. Coleman is showing a lot of explosiveness and seems to be a natural fit for Atlanta's offense.

Beyond even all of those names, the Rams have Gurley waiting to be unleashed upon the NFL. The Dolphins have Ajayi, who is on short-term injured reserve but will have high expectations upon his return. The San Francisco 49ers have Mike Davis, another highly regarded player who is starting to get looks while Reggie Bush is banged up.

Several teams are benefiting from the work of rookie running backs already this season. We may see a handful of them develop into elite superstars before the season is done, but you'll probably need to keep an eye out for all of the names mentioned above in the seasons to come.