The AFC West is one of the most competitive divisions in all of football heading into the 2020 regular season. All four teams in it have impact players at different positions that will create a battle royale for supremacy within the division.
Over the next few weeks here at the Ramble, we will examine each position amongst all four teams.
Here’s the first entry to the series:
The second position we look at are the running back committees and their lead runners.
1. Josh Jacobs – Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders are thrilled as they enter year 2 with their marquee first-round draft selection in 2019, Josh Jacobs.
— Dr. Umar’s Personal Assistant (@pbcgod_ignant) April 11, 2020
Las Vegas added additional offensive skill players this offseason to make the offense less predictable. The Tulsa, Oklahoma native is in a tier of his own compared to his AFC West counterparts as a workhorse back. With that being said, the Raiders have attempted to alleviate Jacobs’ burden as the focal point of the offense. The team opted to utilize one of their three third-round draft selections last month on another dynamic rusher.
— The Game Haus Sports (@TGHSports) October 6, 2018
Veteran Jalen Richard will anchor the youthful pairing of Jacobs and Lynn Bowden Jr. A crafty player who brings more to the table than meets the eye.
RB Jalen Richard (@RocketRich30) played in 20 snaps, two of which he was asked to pass block.
He made this rep count.. pic.twitter.com/onBWXIDcGc
— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) September 30, 2018
Richard serves as a reliable receiving option, and a vital pass protector on third down. The Raiders have a backfield that will make Sin City’s rushing attack a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
2. Austin Ekeler – Los Angeles Chargers
Second on the list is Chargers running back Austin Ekeler. The departure of Melvin Gordon has elevated him to the lead rusher in Los Angeles backfield. Despite his smaller stature, Ekeler showed last season that he is capable of making impact plays in a starting role.
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) December 8, 2019
On the other hand, Justin Jackson is entering his third year in the NFL. He is an elusive back that will also see an increase in offensive snaps as Ekeler’s backup.
— NFL (@NFL) December 3, 2018
Rounding out Los Angeles’ backfield, presumably, is their 2020 fifth round draft selection.
🗣 Joshua Kelley coming through! 🗣
He puts another one on the board for @UCLAFootball.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) November 3, 2019
Joshua Kelley is a physical runner who will prove to be a value pick for the organization for years to come. The Chargers possess a backfield that will cause mismatches for opposing defense’s in the receiving game.
3. Kansas City Chiefs – Damien Williams
Third on the list is Chiefs starting running back, Damien Williams. As we all know, Kansas City’s passing offense is the lifeblood for Andy Reid’s offense. However, when Williams is tasked with running the football, he makes the most of his opportunities.
Damien Williams with the dagger! #SBLIV
— ESPN (@espn) February 3, 2020
Damien is an option in both the passing and receiving game for the Chiefs. After his 2020 playoff performances, he will receive the bulk of the rushing workload to start the new season. Despite his above average play down the stretch, Kansas City still opted to add another back with their first round draft selection in last month’s draft.
One prospect whose stock is soaring and has received rave reviews from everyone that I’ve talked to is LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire. pic.twitter.com/6pBwj0duEc
— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) April 18, 2020
Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the first running back chosen in the 2020 NFL draft at No. 32. The Chiefs have added yet another multidimensional threat to their offense that will become a difference maker sooner rather than later.
4. Denver Broncos – Phillip Lindsay
Last but not least is the Denver Broncos’ starting running back, Phillip Lindsay. Lindsay had a respectable sophomore season. Nonetheless, he saw a decrease in touchdowns and receiving yards compared to his rookie year. Make no mistake, Phillip is still one of the more explosive players in the NFL when he enters the open field.
30 for 30!
— NFL (@NFL) November 3, 2019
Opposing defense’s started to overload the line of scrimmage with defenders last season due to early season quarterback woes. Former Chargers running back Melvin Gordon joined the Broncos this offseason. He offers experience as a former starter that can create mismatches if him and Lindsay are on the field at the time.
🚨MELVIN GORDON SCORED A TOUCHDOWN🚨
Fantasy owners rejoice 🙌pic.twitter.com/BDO1Ev7tok
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) October 27, 2019
Given the plethora of additions on the offensive side of the ball this offseason in Denver, the Broncos rushing attack should have more success in 2020 compared to 2019.
Each team in the AFC West has a healthy mix of versatile players at the running back position. In Las Vegas and Denver, physicality will be the name of the game for their rushing attacks. In Los Angeles and Kansas City, their running backs will have heavier involvement and production in the passing game. Regardless of team, the division is flooded with backs who can change the fortunes of a game if not properly gameplanned for.
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Top Photo: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images