The way I see it, the unit that is the closest to being a complete unknown other than our offensive line, is our running back group. We’ve assembled a few pieces, a few with similar skill sets, and really, not one clear number one guy that at least on paper looks to receive the lions share of carries. In today’s NFL, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Many teams have RB by committee and our Head Coach, Mike McDaniel employed his running backs in that very same manner across the country in San Francisco as run game coordinator. To further illustrate my point, the only back in our stable that came with 70 yards of a 1000 yard season was our last pickup, Sony Michel, who has played for the Patriots and Rams. In fact, discard the yardage stats, the only RB on our team who had more than 200 carries in a season is Sony Michel. At the moment, we have 7 RB’s on our roster, Sony Michel, Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, Zaquandre White and Gerrid Doaks. Since we have a FB on our roster, that means maybe 3-4 RB’s on the roster and a couple on the PS.
It’s going to be interesting to see if rookie UDFA Zaquandre White can develop quickly enough and show enough to stay on the roster. If we carry 3, that would be nearly impossible, but if we do carry 4 backs, I think White has a chance. Mostert is a speed guy and we will try to get him out in space to get big chunks of yardage. He will not be a bellcow back, only Michel even partially resembles that type of back. Edmonds is a very good receiving back who has caught more than 50 passes in a season and Myles Gaskin is very much the same, missing 50 by one with 49 receptions last season. Both Edmonds and Gaskin had 4 TD’s receiving each last season.
You look at some teams and you know they have a RB that will be getting tons of touches, especially carries. Najee Harris of the Steelers, Jonathan Taylor of the Colts, Antonio Gibson of the Commanders, and then you have the 2 hybrid backs who may as many receptions as carries like Alvin Kamara and Dalvin Cook. Sony Michel was 12th in rushing last season with 845 yards, Gaskin was next at #22 with 612 yards. This is why when you look at our team, and try to figure out who’s going to do what, besides the numerous questions about the O-line, the runni9ng backs are really the next biggest question. On defense, we couldn’t be any more set, everyone has their place. At WR, and even TE, we know who who the top 3 WR’s are, and we know the top 3 TE’s. Will the O-line stay with Terron Armstead at LT, Liam Eichenberg at LG, Connor Williams at C, Robert Hunt at RG and Austin Jackson at RT? Will we just play the hot hand at RB each week or will we rotate backs so often there will never really be a top back?
I wouldn’t say I’m concerned about run game, much of that will actually depend on the aforementioned O-line and its success in our new outside zone blocking scheme, which employs lots of movement, and a lot of choreographed movements, so guys need to be where they’re supposed to be or else! I know a lot fo us were hoping for a top tier RB in this year’s draft and oddly enough it was the Jets who ending up getting one of the best RB’s in the draft in Breece Hall. Instead, we traded for one of the most dynamic WR’s in the NFL, and in turn settled for a collection of decent running backs, not one 1000 yard back (which in a 16 or 17 game season isn’t all that impressive anyway). I think the depth chart at RB will constantly morph as players get banged up and considering Sony Michel is really the closest player to a bellcow back, I’d guess he’ll get the most carries, but not necessarily the most touches. A short passing game with RB’s is essentially the same as a running game and something Tua excels at since he delivers a quick, accurate ball. I think Mostert and Edmonds may catch more passes than they have carries while Michel will lead the rushing attack. I’d love to see Zaquandre White make the team because there’s nothing like a hungry young back that runs with ferocity. Training Camp is just a few days away, so we may just get some idea about what’s happening with our RB’s, or we may have to wait until preseason or later. It’s going to be fun to watch no matter what.