Jaguars Training Camp: The battle at running back
By David Levin
The revamped Jaguars running back room has plenty of competition this season. This should make for an interesting training camp battle for four spots on the roster.
Let me first state that I really like what the Jaguars have done with their running back room. If there was a group that is better based on the notion of addition by subtraction, this would be the one.
Walking into last season, it looked like the Jaguars were taking a chance by only keeping three running backs on the roster with Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant. The team did keep Tommy Bohanon as the fullback, but he did little help in the running game. Bohanon became a free agent this offseason.
Injuries took their toll – with Fournette suffering a hamstring injury in Week 1 against the New York Giants that led to seven games missed and Corey Grant missing the remainder of the season midway through Week 5 against Kansas City. Jacksonville traded for Carlos Hyde prior to the deadline, but he did not pan out.
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Better things are expected this coming season.
Fournette is going to be asked to once again lead the way. He has vowed to play better this coming season and looks to have read dedicated himself to becoming the premier back the team envisioned for him when he was drafted in 2017.
After that, there are a few questions about how depth plays out, and which back doesn’t make the roster.
After Fournette, Alfred Blue figures to be the primary back-up. The former Houston Texans reserve told me he is excited to be here in Jacksonville and to help this offense get back on its feet. He in for net could be a favorably formidable 1-2 punch. Blue is by far the biggest back in the group and should be a nice compliment as a different kind of runner to the bullish style Fournette presents.
Temple rookie Ryquell Armstead figures to be part of the rotation. The Jaguars like his size and his ability to run through a pile. I could see him take carries away from Blue as the season progresses. If the Jaguars can get 75 touches from Armstead, that means there is a balance as a unit.
Then comes the challenging position of determining which one of the two – Benny Cunningham or Thomas Rawls – wins the fourth spot on the roster.
Cunningham was brought in because of his ability as a third down back and special teams play. Rawls has done everything the team has asked him to do, and when he runs, it’s with a purpose and authority.
When I spoke to Rawls during OTAs, he told me he was excited for the opportunity to work in an offense with both Fournette and quarterback Nick Foles. I would love to see the team keep five backs on the roster, but that doesn’t seem logical.
The decision of which one of the two fields to make the roster, as painful as it is, it could be the last roster spot taken on the 53.