Today I will weigh in on questions at the running back position.
Jamaal Charles: Denver Broncos
While the Broncos remain a defensive powerhouse, the offense has been in the outhouse after the retirement of superstar quarterback Peyton Manning.
Manning’s last season was marked by a serious decline in play due to old age and injuries. But the savvy old vet still had enough moxie to guide the team to an upset win over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. He was able to just manage the game and let the running backs and defense win it, it was ugly as hell but it worked.
The 2016 Broncos were an offensive disaster. With Manning retired and Brock Osweiler bolting as a free agent, the quarterbacking duties fell to former seventh-round draft pick Trevor Siemien.
Siemien was serviceable until starting running back C.J. Anderson went down with a season-ending injury in week seven. After that, the wheels came off as Siemien was putrid and had no functional running game to act as a fig leaf.
Rookie Devontae Booker was a huge bust, so much so that the Broncos brought in Ravens retread Justin Forsett which didn’t work out well.
This year, Denver has signed former Kansas City Chiefs workhorse Jamaal Charles who has been plagued by injuries the last two seasons. If Charles is able to return to any semblance of his former self and stay healthy, he could emerge as a dangerous threat in the Mile High City.
If Charles is able to return to any semblance of his former self and stay healthy, he could emerge as a dangerous threat in the Mile High City along with the returning Anderson.
Leonard Fournette: Jacksonville Jaguars
The former LSU wrecking ball was drafted fourth overall this year to provide beleaguered quarterback Blake Bortles with a consistent running game.
Fournette was a load in college when he was on but when he was off, he was really off. While injuries could have been part of the problem, the big man often looked like a clumsy lummox who had fumble problems.
This is not the Fournette that the Jaguars need to see, Bortles is already a turnover machine who is under the microscope this year after regressing badly in 2016.
The pressure on the rookie to perform right out of the gate will be considerable.
If both Fournette and Bortles can return to their 2015 forms, the Jaguars could be dangerous.
Todd Gurley: Los Angeles Rams
Few running backs had as disappointing a season as Gurley who was poised for a breakout year until the reality struck that he was on a very crappy team.
The Rams returned to Los Angeles but fans didn’t have much to cheer about as the team stumbled to a 4-12 record that got head coach Jeff Fischer fired before the season was even over.
One of the team’s biggest problems was at quarterback despite trading up to tab former California star Jared Goff with the first overall pick. Goff was clearly not ready to play and some wonder if he ever will be which would set the team back years.
The struggles at quarterback adversely affected Gurley who didn’t even break the 1,000-yard mark.
It could be another down year for Gurley after the Rams hired 31-year-old Sean McVay as their new head coach. This is a team that may give the New York Jets a run for their money as the worst in the NFL.
David Johnson: Arizona Cardinals
While 2016 was an overall down year for the Cardinals who missed the playoffs after going all the way to the NFC championship the prior year, the team has found a new superstar.
The highlight of last year had to be second year running back David Johnson who emerged as a dynamic double threat. Johnson led the NFL in all-purpose yards, with 2,118 and added 20 total touchdowns.
Despite a week 17 knee injury, Johnson is ready to go and should play an even bigger role in the offense in 2017. Head coach Bruce Arians is on record as saying he wants to get Johnson 30 touches a game so expect another monster statistical performance.
Eddie Lacy: Seattle Seahawks
The Super Bowl window of opportunity is rapidly closing on the Seahawks and they have strayed far from the formula that won them one championship and nearlya second if not for a coaching brain fart.
The success of the team came when a bone-crushing defense was combined with a punishing ground attack. Marshawn Lynch aka Beast Mode was feared by opponents for his bruising style that helped out the defense by allowing the team to control the clock.
After the Super Bowl 49 fiasco, Seattle became quarterback Russell Wilson’s team albeit with mixed results. While the Seahawks have remained a perennial playoff contender, the often brilliant but inconsistent Wilson often struggled. The sub-standard set of receivers certainly weren’t any help either.
Now Seattle tries to get that running game back on track and have brought in former Green Bay Packer Eddie Lacy in the hope that he can fill the role previously played by Lynch.
Lacy’s Green Bay career was marked by injuries and problems with his weight, both of which led to the Pack moving on from him. The Packers were a passing team anyway with Aaron Rodgers slinging the rock on practically every down with the running game being used to set up the pass.
If he can stay healthy and maintain a proper diet he has the chance to prosper in the Emerald City.
Doug Martin: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Martin is fortunate that he still has a job after another year of injuries, erratic play and a suspension for violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Following two down seasons, Martin had a stellar 2015 when he rushed for over 1,400 yards and caught 31 passes. It was largely due to the Muscle Hamster that rookie Jameis Winston was able to develop as quickly as he did.
His big year led to a new five-year contract with $15 million guaranteed. It is hardly an understatement to say that Martin didn’t earn any of it in 2016.
The Bucs are looking to break out this year, having vastly improved to the point of narrowly missing out on the playoffs last season. If they are to take the next step, they need Martin to regain his form which is no certainty.
Another down year and expect Tampa Bay to move on from him.
Adrian Peterson: New Orleans Saints
With the clock ticking down on the career of future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, the 2017 season may be his last shot at another Super Bowl ring.
To take some pressure off Brees, the Saints have brought in former Minnesota Viking Adrian Peterson whose beset days may be behind him.
Once the best running back in the NFL, one has to wonder how much tread is left on Peterson’s tires after an abbreviated season with the Vikings in 2016 in which he was injured in the season opener.