In part two of our four part series “Gotta Do Better”, we take a look at a few running backs who have something to prove in 2016.
Lamar Miller: Houston Texans
The first name on the list might be a bit of a surprise to some, but to others like myself, it makes perfect sense. Miller didn’t remain quiet when it came to voicing his displeasure in regards the amount of touches he got per game with the Miami Dolphins.
Over the course of four years, Miller was handed the ball a total of 638 times, for an average of 159.5 attempts per season. With the workload he was given, Miller was able to rack up a total of 2,930 yards for an impressive average of 4.6 yards per carry.
Those numbers might seem like the start to an impressive and promising career, but for Miller, he believes he can do better. He will get the chance to do just that in Houston, after being inked to a 4-year deal worth a total of $26 million.
Although that’s a nice pay day for a young stud who has shown more than just flashes of brilliance, Miller will be under the same pressure as any other player who just signed a big contract, if not more due to the fact he was so vocal about desiring a larger role. It’s time for Miller to put up or shut up, and prove he’s worth the dough and the touches.
Demarco Murray: Tennessee Titans
Nobody should be surprised to see this name listed here. The NFL rushing champion of 2014’s career took a sudden nose dive when he jumped ship from Dallas to Philadelphia in the ensuing offseason.
The thinking was that Murray would be able to bring his ground and pound style to the other side of the NFC East and make it work. However, that style just didn’t seem to fit the vision or system that Chip Kelly had instilled.
Rather than running Murray up the middle, which is where he found the majority of his success in Dallas, Kelly would send him on these weird sweep and hook routes where Murray would have to rely on his speed rather than his power.
All that came of that plan was a ton of one and two yard gains, and a bunch more three and outs. Now, having gotten a much needed fresh start with the Titans in Nashville, Murray hopes the newly appointed head coach Mike Mularkey will be able to put him in the best position to succeed, much like what Jason Garrett did in Dallas.
If not, Murray might find himself in the same position that Chris Johnson did a few years ago. A talented back, whose peak of their career unfortunately lasted only one season.
Melvin Gordon- San Diego
The rookie year of San Diego’s first round draft choice out of Wisconsin didn’t quite go as planned. Before the start of the 2015 NFL Draft, there was a lot of debate about who would be the first running back taken off the board, Todd Gurley, or Melvin Gordon?
While Gurley won the race and flourished with over 1,000 yards rushing for the Rams, Gordon seemed to plateau at a level just barely above mediocre (641 yds, 3.5 avg, 0 TD), before being placed on injured reserve for the remaining two games of the season. Now, with his rehab on schedule and a year of experience under his belt, Gordon has go to prove his pedigree this year, or at the very least that he can get into the end zone.
Phillip Rivers has a shiny new deep threat in Travis Benjamin this year, but that won’t mean he’ll be able to keep the offense alive on his own by throwing it 30-40 times a game, especially as he gets on in age. If Gordon doesn’t break at least 800 mark by the end of this season, expect the ‘bust’ label to get thrown around.
Matt Jones- Washington
With the departure of Alfred Morris into free agency, Matt Jones is left as the de facto starter on the depth chart. In his rookie year, the Florida product rushed for a total of 490 yards with three touchdowns.
Morris didn’t exactly leave big shoes to fill, having only rushed for 751 yards in 2015 himself. However, what that does mean is that the team will be looking for some stability at the position. And they could find that by either having Jones stepping up into the role of a lead back, or by picking up a veteran or draftee before the start of training camp.
Essentially, the job is Jones’s to lose. After being compared to the likes of Demarco Murray last year, the pressure to produce in only his second year will be on.
All of our featured players on this week’s list have flashed tons of potential in the past. What each has to worry about, is showing the consistency that teams look for when it comes to the game changing plays. Which means more visits to the end zone, and a higher average rate per attempt.
Check back next week when we take a look at Wide Receivers.
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