NFL free agency produced quite a shuffle at the offensive skill positions, including running back. NFL Network analyst and former RB Maurice Jones-Drew has surveyed the recent relocations of 10 running backs, answering one question for each: Will the player post greater, similar or lesser production with his new team in 2021 than he did with his previous club in 2020?
Old team: Carolina Panthers
Davis’ stock rose this past season when he provided Carolina with a reliable every-down back while Christian McCaffrey remained on the sidelines. In 2021, he’ll get a chance to be the primary back (the way things look now, anyway) in an Arthur Smith offense that thrives off a productive run game. Davis routinely runs through contact and should do well as a check-down option for Matt Ryan in the Falcons’ dynamic passing attack, which is one of the best in the league and should keep second-level defenders out of the box. I expect the 28-year-old vet to take full advantage of his opportunities within an explosive offense, and if he does, he’ll have his best season yet.
2021 production: 250 carries, 1,100 yards, 10 TDs
Old team: Los Angeles Rams
The Dolphins trotted out a slew of running backs last season and still appear to be searching for their starter. Brown, who spent the last six season with the Rams, will compete with Myles Gaskin for the top job — unless the Dolphins draft a guy. Brown is a downhill runner who will help consistently move the chains and take some pressure off second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. He’s going to get more opportunities than he did last season — when it seemed like the Rams were rotating their running backs like musical chairs — and in turn, Brown should have his best season to date.
2021 production: 200 carries, 800 rush yards, five TDs
Old team: San Francisco 49ers
Coleman may be in a new uniform in 2021, but he should be plenty comfortable with the offensive scheme, given that he’s moving across the country with new Jets coordinator (and former Niners passing-game coordinator) Mike LaFleur. The veteran should do well here if he can stay healthy. This feels like a big IF, because it’s something he’s struggled to do throughout his career. He’s played in all 16 games just once in his six NFL seasons and is coming off a season in which he had just 28 carries, but his familiarity with LaFleur and skills as a runner and pass catcher should allow him to flourish in the Jets’ revamped offense — as long as he’s on the field.
2021 production: 150 carries, 700 rush yards, six TDs
Old team: Denver Broncos
I understand why Lindsay left Denver. The Broncos shifted their backfield attention to Melvin Gordon last offseason, and the former Charger ended up topping the team in all major rushing categories in 2020. Gordon’s production likely helped lead both sides to a mutual parting of ways (the result of Denver rescinding its tender on Lindsay, allowing the restricted free agent to become an unrestricted free agent). The thing I don’t understand is why Lindsay then signed with a team featuring other quality players at the position. He could’ve been the clear lead back in a number of other spots, but in Houston, he’ll be fighting for carries with Mark Ingram and David Johnson. There’s a decent chance Lindsay ends up being the guy in the Texans’ backfield — thanks to an aging Ingram and a banged-up Johnson — but he’ll have to earn it.
2021 production: 150 carries, 700 rush yards, six TDs
Old team: Kansas City Chiefs
The last time we saw Williams, he ran all over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV for 104 rushing yards and two total touchdowns. And while he made a lasting impression before opting out of the 2020 season, the reality is, by the time he takes the field as a Chicago Bear in September, more than a year and a half will have passed since he last saw game action. Williams will be fresh and ready to serve as a pass-catching complement to David Montgomery, who took off down the stretch in 2020 to finish in the top five in the NFL in rushing yards. The Super Bowl champion will be Montgomery’s backup and primarily used on third-down and passing situations. He won’t have starter numbers, but I expect solid production under Matt Nagy and Bill Lazor, comparable to what we saw out of him in 2019.
2021 production: 80 carries, 450 rush yards, two TDs
Old team: Seattle Seahawks
Battling injuries over the last half of last season in Seattle, Hyde did some good things, ultimately averaging 4.4 yards per carry for the Seahawks. The eighth-year back now joins his former Ohio State coach, Urban Meyer, in Jacksonville — calling the decision to sign a “no-brainer” — to see if he can get back to the top of his game. This time, however, that’ll mean quality over quantity for Hyde, given that James Robinson was one of the biggest surprises of the 2020. The fact that the undrafted rookie finished tied for fifth in the league in rushing yards despite playing in 14 games solidifies Hyde’s spot as the RB2.
2021 production: 100 carries, 400 rush yards, three TDs
Old team: Baltimore Ravens
Like I said above, the Texans’ backfield is quite crowded. The 31-year-old running back should get most of his opportunities on short-yardage or goal-line situations, but perhaps the biggest reason the Texans brought him to Houston is for leadership purposes. He’s been part of winning organizations throughout his career and will help first-year head coach David Culley — who spent the last two seasons in Baltimore with Ingram — establish a new culture. This was a smart move on the Texans’ part, even if they’re likely to get more off the field than on from Ingram.
2021 production: 100 carries, 500 rush yards, four TDs
Old team: Chicago Bears/Washington Football Team
After suffering a season-ending knee injury during the 2019 preseason, Miller spent time with both the Chicago Bears and Washington Football Team in 2020. He played in just one game for Chicago before being signed off the practice squad by Washington, which had several running backs battling injuries down the stretch. Still, Miller never saw the field. If you want to get technical, this is a re-sign for Washington, but the fact that Miller did not play a single down for them last season makes it feel otherwise. While Miller might provide some speed, this signing is all about ensuring someone can bring experience and a veteran presence to the RB room. Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic should be the go-to ball-carriers for Washington in 2021.
2021 production: 50 carries, 200 rush yards, one TD (maybe?)
Old team: Green Bay Packers
Williams was the second and sometimes third option in the Packers’ backfield, behind Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. He’s essentially going into the same situation in Detroit, with the versatile and flashy D’Andre Swift and injury-prone Kerryon Johnson already in place. I don’t see Williams beating out Swift for the starting job, but he could take carries away from Johnson, offering Jared Goff‘s new offense a change-of-pace back and another target out of the backfield. He’ll have a limited role once again, which is why I suspect we’ll see the same production year over year.
2021 production: 120 carries, 500 rush yards, 15 catches, 150 receiving yards, three total TDs
Old team: Arizona Cardinals
Drake is going from starting in Arizona to splitting carries with one of the most consistently productive running backs in the league in Josh Jacobs, who’s put up back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. So naturally, Drake’s production will decrease. The former Cardinal said he was drawn to the Raiders because Jon Gruden plans to use him in “a multitude of ways,” but I think we’ll see his versatility show through in the passing game as a third-down specialist. Drake can have value in this offense as a pass catcher rather than solely a runner.
2021 production: 130 carries, 600 rush yards, four rush TDs; 50 catches, 600 receiving yards, four rec. TDs
Follow Maurice Jones-Drew on Twitter.
Source: Read Full Article