Training camp is approaching and the competition is getting stiffer. With the additions of Kenyan Drake, Jerick McKinnon, and Javonte Williams in 2021, the AFC West’s running backs’ rooms are undoubtedly flooding with talent. It’s time to rank the division’s running back duos to find out how these rosters stack up against the Las Vegas Raiders.
So where do the Raiders rank this year?
4. Los Angeles Chargers
Austin Ekeler/Justin Jackson
While Austin Ekeler is the clear leader in the Los Angeles backfield, he has yet to prove he’s capable of a workhorse role. Totaling just 530 rushing yards and one rush touchdown over ten games in 2020, Ekeler has never surpassed 560 yards on the ground in a season. However, his ability to produce in the passing game cannot be overlooked. Over the past two seasons, Ekeler has totaled 1,396 receiving yards and ten receiving touchdowns, with 403 of those yards and two touchdowns coming in 2020.
Second-string running back Justin Jackson has shined when given the opportunities, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, and 9.1 yards per reception in 2020. Jackson has also proved he can handle duties as a primary back when the Chargers need him. If the Los Angeles backfield can squash their nagging injury bug, they can have one of the league’s most versatile running back rooms.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
Clyde Edwards-Helaire/Darrel Williams
Undoubtedly, Clyde Edwards-Helaire impressed in his rookie season, totaling 1,100 total yards to pair with five total touchdowns in just 13 games. When considering the Chiefs’ running back room, there is a significant drop from Edwards-Helaire to Darrel Williams, who had just 285 total yards and one touchdown in 2020. Williams has been reliable for Kansas City in the past, but after the addition of Jerick McKinnon, it is clear that the Chiefs understand the lack of depth.
The Chiefs’ recent bolstering of their offensive line should allow the running game to make an even greater impact in 2021. Kansas City shouldn’t have to rely on their backfield too much to win games. If Edwards-Helaire can stay healthy, the Chiefs will roll.
2. Denver Broncos
Melvin Gordon/Javonte Williams
The Denver backfield took a hit after the departure of Phillip Lindsay in free agency. However, the Broncos bolstered their run game by drafting the impressive Javonte Williams. The 1-2 punch of Melvin Gordon and Williams is unproven but looks to be one of the more exciting backfields in 2021.
Since signing a two-year $16 million deal with Denver, Melvin Gordon has totaled 1,144 scrimmage yards with ten combined touchdowns in 15 games. Javonte Williams, on the other hand, is coming off of a monstrous final season for North Carolina. in 2020, Williams ran for 1,140 yards, while averaging 7.3 YPC, to go along with 22 total touchdowns for the Tar Heels.
If their quarterback issues continue, the Denver backfield could be the difference makers in 2021.
1. Las Vegas Raiders
Josh Jacobs/Kenyan Drake
The highly scrutinized additions of both Kenyan Drake and offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, prove that running the ball will remain a priority for Jon Gruden in 2021. The Crimson Tide duo of Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake will bring a lethal “thunder and lightning” dynamic to the Silver and Black offense.
Despite coming off of a season where he averaged only 3.9 YPC, Jacobs totaled over 1,000 rush yards yet again, while earning Pro Bowl honors in Year 2. The addition of Drake also helps keep Jacobs fresh, while adding a whole new dimension to the Raiders’ offense. Coming off of a season that saw him total nearly 1,100 all-purpose yards, Drake will be a dynamic weapon in which Gruden can line up almost anywhere on offense.
Not only is the Raiders’ running back duo the best in the division, but they should also be in contention for the best 1-2 punch across the league.
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*Top Photo: Jose Carlos Fajardo/The Mercury News