Going into the offseason after the 2013 regular season, the Jacksonville Jaguars appeared to have one of the weakest rosters in the NFL and seemed to be in need of an upgrade at almost every position. Some of the moves made by general manager David Caldwell during the free agency period have quelled some of those concerns temporarily, but there are still plenty of long term needs.
One of the positions Caldwell addressed almost immediately in free agency was running back. With Maurice Jones-Drew out the door and very little chance of his return, Caldwell signed former Vikings backup running back Toby Gerhart. Since being drafted in the second round out of Stanford, Gerhart has been doing more sitting than running in Minnesota thanks to Adrian Peterson. He signed with the Jaguars mostly for the prospect of being the starter and bell cow back on this young offense.
While many, myself included, thought the Jaguars would address the offensive backfield in the draft, they went ahead and signed a starter in free agency. So what does this mean come May? Well, the Jaguars probably shouldn’t make running back a priority in the first four rounds, unless someone slips and presents a tremendous value at some point in the 2nd and 3rd day.
Toby Gerhart might not be an elite running back, but he does have the skillset to provide yards on every carry. He has quite a bit of tread left on his tires, and he should flourish in Jedd Fisch’s offense.
The wild card in this whole equation is second year player Denard Robinson. Initially listed as an offensive weapon, Robinson has committed himself to playing running back full time by bulking up to 212 pounds this offseason.
“I think he’s up to 212 pounds and he came to us at 197… He has taken a different approach. He’s coming in to get ready and he understands he’s a running back.”
– Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley at NFL owner’s meetings
Despite flashing at times in his rookie season, Robinson was very inconsistent and couldn’t force himself into the line up very often. Robinson only managed 3.3 yards per carry on 20 carries, and he somehow managed to fumble the ball 3 times in that span. He also dropped the only pass thrown his way.
Jordan Todman played well given the opportunity in 2013, but the success of this running back corp in 2014 hinges on the development of Denard Robinson. Shoelace has the tools to be an explosive force out of the backfield, he just needs to learn the craft of the position and work on his hands. If not, then the Jaguars will be looking for a complementary back in 2015.
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