The Jacksonville Jaguars let one of their best players in franchise history walk away after the 2013 season when running back Maurice Jones-Drew signed with the Oakland Raiders. Well past his prime, the Jaguars let MJD leave with no one on the roster capable of taking over full time. The team responded by signing Toby Gerhart in free agency, and the hype train got up to full speed by the start of the regular season.
Expectations were abnormally high for Gerhart, based on the logic of his high pedigree (2nd round pick) and the lack of wear and tear since he was Adrian Peterson‘s backup in Minnesota. Unfortunately, Gerhart never really got a fair shake as the starter thanks to a fairly serious injury in the first game of the year that limited his playing time and overall effectiveness. He finished the season with 101 carries for 326 yards, resulting in an underwhelming average of 3.2 yards per carry.
Despite some promising performances by Denard Robinson in the middle of the season, the Jaguars aimed to upgrade the running back position this offseason. After missing out on DeMarco Murray in free agency, general manager David Caldwell drafted T.J. Yeldon in the 2nd round and claimed Bernard Pierce off of waivers.
By all accounts so far at OTAs, Yeldon looks like the real deal and should be the primary ball carrier in 2015. Denard Robinson showed enough to warrant at least a rotational role, and Bernard Pierce and Storm Johnson will likely duke it out for a spot on the final 53-man roster.
The question now is how does Toby Gerhart fit into the backfield? The Jaguars waived all of their fullbacks with the intent of utilizing Gerhart somewhat in that role, but how many carries is he going to warrant?
Over at Bleacher Report, Kristopher Knox listed Gerhart as one of the big names who could be cut this offseason:
"None of Gerhart’s remaining salary is guaranteed, and Jacksonville also has Denard Robinson, Storm Johnson and Bernard Pierce on the roster. If Gerhart cannot make the roster as a fullback, he may not make it at all."
That’s key, as the Jaguars can move on from Gerhart right now if they wanted to and incur no penalty. I think Gerhart will get an honest chance to prove he belongs on the roster as an h-back, and I would be surprised if he was actually cut before the start of the regular season. Gerhart was solid in pass protection last year and he was surprisingly effective catching the ball out of the backfield. He’s by far the most experienced player in the backfield rotation, and he can carry the load for a game or two given an injury ahead of him.
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