The Jacksonville Jaguars have one very good running back on the roster. Will the team add more depth to the position this offseason?
The Jaguars have a good running back in Leonard Fournette but runners take a lot of pounding in the NFL. The team needs at least one other back to take some of the pressure away from Fournette and provide more versatility.
The Jaguars have five running backs on their current roster: Fournette, Ryquell Armstead, Devin Ozigbo, Devante Mays, Taj McGowan, and Jeremy McNichols. In 2019, Fournette was the one and only back with significant playing time. It was a miracle that he survived the season because he spent a great deal of time running into a wall. The coaching staff appeared to have little or no confidence in the other backs on the team.
Also, the Jaguars had no change of pace back and no fullback. Although running back is not as critical as other team needs, it would be great to develop a more diverse running game.
What should the Jaguars look for in a running back this offseason? According to Danny Heifetz of The Ringer, “So much has changed for running backs—how often they’re on the field, how many times they get the ball, and even where they’re supposed to line up—but the core traits that make a running back successful have remained. Five areas, in particular, stand out: instincts, burst, elusiveness, pass-catching, and “getting yards.” Many other relevant skills that can be learned and coached fall under these five umbrellas, but these are—and have been—the five most important traits for running backs.”
There are several types of running backs in this age of specialization. The Jaguars were one of the best running teams in the NFL in 2017 (over 140 yards per game) and adopted a “ground and pound” style of attack. It worked because they could move the chains, take time off the clock and allow their defense to force their opponents off the field.
The past two seasons have been a lesson in searching for the right kind of style that moved the chains and scored in the red zone. Neither was extremely successful.
“You have your COMPLETE backs (or clean backs) who can contribute on every down running, blocking and catching, SPEED backs who stretch the corner and excel in space,” writes Chris Landy of landryfootball.com. “POWER backs can run through tackles and grind out tough yardage and UTILITY backs who possess diverse skills, capable of contributing in a number of roles.”
If the Jaguars look to free agency, there are several potential candidates, although many are too pricy or older. There are several realistic candidates.
Austin Ekeler of the Los Angeles Chargers is a player who could become a solid complement to Fournette in the backfield. There is Jordan Howard of the Philadelphia Eagles. If the front office wants to add a fullback to the roster, Danny Vitale and C.J. Ham are players who should be considered.
It is more likely if the position is addressed this offseason, it will be through the later rounds of the NFL Draft. These players are projected to be drafted in rounds 3-5. Darius Anderson from TCU is a quick change of pace back and could be perfect for the Jaguars. Eno Benjamin from Arizona State is another change of pace back that could give the Jaguars more versatility. Fullback Brady Ross from Iowa in a quality lead blocker who is a possible rookie free agent candidate.
Although running back is not a critical need, I would love to see the Jaguars acquire two more players on the roster. A diverse running game could benefit the quarterback and take the pressure off the receiver corps.