AFC West

2020 Projection: AFC West Runs Wild on NFL

While it is a “passing league,” the running game still controls the flow of it all when spread properly. Given some recent changes, it’s safe to say AFC West running backs will be running wild on NFL. Let’s take a look at these new tandems that will be wreaking havoc on the league.

AFC West: Denver Broncos

The Broncos made the biggest splash in free agency when it comes to running backs. Not only did they have Phillip Lindsey on the roster, but they went on and got former Charger Melvin Gordon as well. That is going to be a nasty tandem. This may leave Royce Freeman as the odd man out, but I expect all three to be part of a rotation. Since Denver already had a nice tandem in Lindsey and Freeman, they didn’t need Gordon, but every team can use someone with his talent. I was hoping the Raiders would grab him to mentor up Jacobs for a year. Either way, this running back group will be one of the best in 2020.

2019 numbers:

  • Phillip Lindsey played and started all 16 games rushing for 1,011 yards with seven touchdowns on 224 carries. He added another 196 yards on 35 receptions.
  • Melvin Gordon held out and only played in 12 games with the Chargers. He still racked up 612 yards with eight touchdowns on 162 carries. Through the air, he added 296 yards and one touchdown from 42 receptions.
  • Royce Freeman played in all 16 games for the Broncos. He had 496 yards on 132 carries with three touchdowns, as well as another 256 yards on 43 receptions with one touchdown.

Biggest questions to watch for: Will Lindsey beat out Gordon? Will Gordon’s arrival spell the end of Lindsey’s tenure in Denver?

Related: Josh Jacobs is poised to have a better season

AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs ran a carousel in the running back room due to the injury bug. LeSean McCoy is gone and Darrell Williams has yet to be re-signed. Damien Williams is the tentative starter until he gets hurt the way he does every other year. Nonetheless, Kansas City drafted a solid guy ready to take over in Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Likewise, they also brought in former Raiders running back DeAndre Washington. They could re-sign Williams and even keep Darwin Thompson around but I think the former three will be leading this stable.

2019 numbers

  • Damien Williams played in 11 games. He had 498 yards and five touchdowns on 111 carries as well as two touchdowns and 213 yards through the air. He made up for his numbers when he took over the Super Bowl though. He could have been MVP of the game.
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire played in all 15 games for LSU last year. He rushed for 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns on 215 attempts as well as 453 yards with one touchdown on 55 receptions.
  • DeAndre Washington played all 16 games and even started three, filling in for Josh Jacobs. He racked up 387 yards and three touchdowns on 108 carries. He caught 36 receptions for 292 yards.

Biggest questions: Can Damien Williams stay healthy? Will it be enough to keep Edwards-Helaire on the bench?

AFC West: Las Vegas Raiders

Josh Jacobs is the unquestionable starter here. His injury last year cost him the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, but he showed toughness playing through the injury in multiple games. To save him, the Raiders need to mix it up a bit. They should be able to count on Jalen Richard, rookie Lynn Bowden Jr. and newcomer Devontae Booker. This group will be solid.

  • Josh Jacobs played in 13 games. He had 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns on 242 carries. He also added 166 yards on 20 receptions.
  • Jalen Richard played in all 16 games as mostly a blocker, but he still put up 145 yards on 39 carries. He caught 36 passes for 323 yards.
  • Lynn Bowden is labeled a receiver but he rushed for 1,468 yards and 13 touchdowns on 185 carries. He also had 348 yards and one touchdown on 30 receptions last year with Kentucky. Expect him to carry a load here, maybe even as complementary back if Booker doesn’t pan out.

Biggest question: Can another running back step up to spell Josh Jacobs?

AFC West: Los Angeles Chargers

With the loss of Gordon, Austin Ekeler is the main man, but offensive coordinator Shane Steichen has indicated he plans to feature a three-back tandem with Ekeler, Justin Jackson, and rookie Joshua Kelley. I expect this group to be used heavily as they transition from quarterback Tyrod Taylor to Justin Herbert. This unit may seem like the most unknown and weakest in the division, but they really are not. Ekeler is a stud, Jackson, and Kelley could surprise people.

2019 numbers:

  • Austin Ekelor played all 16 games. He started eight and had 557 yards and three touchdowns on 132 carries. He added 993 yards and eight touchdowns on 92 receptions.
  • Justin Jackson only played in seven games. He racked up 200 yards on 29 carries as well as 22 more yards on nine receptions. Expect those numbers to double or even triple this season.
  • Joshua Kelley played in 11 games for the UCLA Bruins last season, racking up 1,060 yards with 12 touchdowns on 229 carries. He caught 11 passes for 71 yards and one touchdown.

Biggest question: Can these guys step up and carry the load during this team quarterback transition phase?

Final thoughts on the AFC West

In closing, these units should be fun to watch this season. The Broncos might be the biggest threat, but I would not be surprised if the Chiefs or the Raiders have better rooms when all is said and done. The Chargers are a big question right now given the fact Gordon and Phillip Rivers are gone. These teams will be fun to watch this season and should make for some good smash mouth football.

You May Also Like: How Can Raiders Maximize Lynn Bowden Jr’s Talent?

For more Raiders content, keep it here in the Ramble. To check other things Ben’s written, head to eagleyeforum.com.

Top Photo: Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sport

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