Several NFL backfields underwent major changes last offseason, perhaps none greater than that of the New York Jets. A season after they had four different running backs with at least 35 carries, the Jets backfield now belongs to Le'Veon Bell, who was the crown jewel of last offseason's free-agent class.
The Jets signed him to a four-year deal, so they're set at RB1 until 2022, barring any major injuries. (Or, of course, a decision by first-year GM Joe Douglas to prematurely move on from one of the banner moves of his predecessor, Mike Maccagnan -- something that was bandied about at the trade deadline.) Not all teams are in this position, though. This week, I'm looking at three NFL teams that do not have their starting running back for 2020 on the roster right now.
Buffalo Bills: At the moment, the Bills have a solid 1-2 punch with veteran Frank Gore and rookie Devin Singletary. Gore has received a majority of the carries this season, but I'm not sure if he'll be back in 2020, since he's due to become a free agent this offseason. Singletary has played in just six games, making two starts, after battling a hamstring injury earlier in the year. Upon return, the rookie has been productive in the run and pass games, but I question whether the third-round draft pick can be the feature back for the Bills. At 5-foot-7 and 203 pounds, Singletary is a small, shifty back who can no doubt make plays, but I expect the Bills to acquire a bigger-bodied back to pound the rock in those cold Western New York temps. If I'm Buffalo, impending free agent Melvin Gordon is the guy I want as the RB1, with Singletary providing a spark as a spell back. Putting this pair together while also utilizing Josh Allen's mobility would make the Bills one of the most feared rushing attacks in the league next season.
Miami Dolphins: The Dolphinsshipped Kenyan Drake to Arizona before the trade deadline, making way for Kalen Ballage to see a greater share of the carries. The second-year pro has been a solid player, but he's not the type of running back who will keep defensive coordinators up at night. With the Dolphins holding three first-round picks in the 2020 draft, I expect them to take a running back late in Round 1. (Miami could have two picks in that range since it holds first-rounders from the Texans and Steelers.)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: For the last two seasons, Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones have had so many opportunities to claim the starting job. It feels like neither of these players actually want it. They have made big plays at times, but there is no consistency. Barber is due to become a free agent this offseason, and I know the Bucs are high on Jones, who showed playmaking ability out of the backfield last week, but they should really consider signing free agent-to-be C.J. Prosise this offseason. Prosise is part of a crowded backfield in Seattle, so he hasn't had a ton of opportunities. But his skill set is similar to that of David Johnson as a versatile playmaker. Prosise was a receiver for a portion of his college career at Notre Dame, but he also has the size (6-1, 225) to run downhill.
Now, let's get to the weekly rankings ...
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 2019 season. His rankings are based on this season's efforts alone. Here is MJD's list heading into Week 11.
Another 100-yard rushing performance for McCaffrey is par for the course, but I can't help but think that falling short of the goal line on the final play of the game (when a TD would have given the Panthers the chance to tie it up with a two-point conversion) set him back in the MVP race. Those are the type of impactful moments every MVP candidate needs on his resume.
Dalvin Cook set the tone for the
Vikings from the get-go
against the Cowboys and continued to dominate until the end. The league's leading rusher far out-performed the the reigning rushing leader,
Ezekiel Elliott, in this game on Zeke's turf. That's how you help your team win in prime time.
Chubb led the charge against the Bills and totaled 116 yards on 20 carries for 5.8 yards per tote, but royally struggled when in the red zone. He had seven rushes for -4 yards there. That's -.6 yards per carry. Woof.
Henry gashed the Chiefs' defense -- dragging two or three defenders with him at times -- for 188 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. That's 8.2 yards per carry! It's no wonder the Titans won this game -- they are 6-0 when the former Heisman winner has 100-plus rush yards in a game. The only game in which Henry rushed for more yards was that monster performance last December against the Jags.
Coming off a bye week, Fournette is averaging career highs in touches per game (23.8), scrimmage yards per game (125.1) and yards per touch (5.3). It's not all that surprising, considering the Jags' RB1 is sixth in the NFL in rush yards heading into Week 11. Even with Nick Foles returning Sunday, Fournette should be as productive with the veteran as he was with rookie Gardner Minshew.
Snow isn't always a bad thing. In fact, it's often a great thing for NFL running backs because they are more inclined to get the rock in poor weather. Green Bay's RB1 went off for three rushing touchdowns against the Panthers, causing this move up the ladder. The issue I have with Jones is his inconsistency. He's either scoring three TDs a game or doing very little.
Coming off a solid outing in Seattle's win over San Francisco, Carson ranks fourth in the league in rush yards. A year ago, he finished fifth in the league with 1,151 rush yards, giving him the chance to become the first Seahawks running back since Shaun Alexander to finish as a top five rusher in back-to-back seasons.
Gurley averaged 6.1 yards per tote against the Steelers' defense, which is why I'm confused by the fact he only got the rock 12 times. I know Gurley's carries have been limited all season, but in a game this close when Gurley is running well, why not continue to give him the ball? The Rams are 11-21 when Gurley has less than 20 touches in a game over his career -- and 26-8 when he has 20 or more. Sitting on the outside of the NFC playoff picture at 5-4, it's time to give him the rock.
As I've mentioned before, Peterson has benefited from Bill Callahan taking over as interim coach. The Redskins have run the ball on 51.9 percent of offensive plays since Week 6 (31.2 percent in Weeks 1-5), and Peterson has averaged 95.8 rush yards per game since then. He's putting together a solid campaign, but will soon split carries with Derrius Guice, who was moved off the injured reserve list late last week. We'll see who emerges in this backfield soon enough.
Gordon had a slow start after returning from his holdout, but he is returning to his 2018 form with each passing week. He has had four touchdown runs in the last three games, and in his last two games, Gordon has logged 188 rush yards, three rush TDs. The Chargers have a big divisional game with the Chiefs on Monday in Mexico City, and they'll need Gordon to continue that upward trend when he takes the field again.