Jacquizz Rodgers 1 e1359621014259 Backfield Openings

By Joe Kilroy

In last week’s article we took a look at a handful of wide receivers standing in line to make a significant jump in their 2013 production in comparison to how they performed last season.

And while it’s true wide receivers tend to have the biggest turnover ratio than any other position – for the reasons that were stated – there are a few backfields with openings as well as we head into the offseason.

With that being the case here is a look at some of the teams which may be relying upon someone new as their primary ball carrier in the year ahead and the players which may be thrust into that role.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Jacquizz Rodgers

Some owners felt Rodgers would take over as the primary back in Atlanta during the 2012 season, but things never fully materialized for him in that manner. Instead, the aging Michael Turner managed to carry on in that role, and as such a few dynasty leaguers are already writing Rodgers off.

When you look at Turner’s 2012 totals, however, he really didn’t perform all that well. He did collect 10 touchdowns, but he did so while averaging 3.6 yards per carry while finishing the year with 803 yards rushing.

Furthermore, Turner stands to make $6.9 million in 2013 if the Falcons keep him around. There is little chance of that happening however.

The Falcons may look to the draft or free agency to acquire their new lead back, but as things stand right now Rodgers is next in line to take over in that capacity. I wouldn’t get overly excited about him quite yet simply because we don’t know how the Falcons will address the position in the offseason, but Rodgers is worth keeping an eye on.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas

Even though Daniel Thomas was a second round pick in 2011 and Lamar Miller wasn’t taken until the fourth round in 2012, Miller appears to be the Miami back to own should Reggie Bush depart via free agency.

Bush may be back with the Dolphins next year, but if so it will only be because he didn’t draw much interest in the free agent market.

Thomas has two years in Miami under his belt, but he hasn’t shown much promise. Furthermore, he wasn’t a selection made by the new regime put in place by head coach Joe Philbin last season.

Needless to say it’s not surprising that Miller is a better fit within Philbin’s offensive system. Thomas is more of a “ground-n-pound” type running back with little explosion. Miller is more of an elusive runner that relies upon his speed.

If Bush walks, Miller is the back dynasty owners will want to have.

NEW YORK GIANTS

David Wilson

When it comes to the Giants and David Wilson there really isn’t much to say that isn’t already known. Wilson was the last pick of the first round in 2012 and it stands to reason the G-Men would like to get him on the field more often than he had been as a rookie.

That said, however, Ahmad Bradshaw remains a more than competent starter in the league. He will continue to stand in Wilson’s way as the team’s primary ball carrier. On the other hand, Bradshaw does tend to get banged up and forced to the sidelines quite often. If he were to miss a significant stretch of games its possible Wilson could take over and never look back.

Regardless of how Bradshaw fairs during the upcoming season, though, Wilson will likely get a significant increase in touches. He does need to show he can be relied upon to protect the football, however, because if not he’ll be right back in Tom Coughlin’s doghouse.

NEW YORK JETS

Bilal Powell, ???

I can’t say I’m all that trustworthy in Bilal Powell succeeding as a featured back in the NFL, but as things stand right now he appears to have top billing on the Jets depth chart.

Shonn Greene is set to be a free agent this offseason, and with Marty Mornhinweg brought in as the new offensive coordinator it seems doubtful the Jets will have much interest in retaining him as their featured back.

I tend to think the Jets primary back for 2013 is yet to be on the roster. Chances are they will either draft someone to fulfill that role or bring someone new in through free agency.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Jonathan Dwyer, ???

The Steelers backfield tends to mirror that of the Jets mentioned above. Their former primary back (Rashard Mendenhall) is set to be a free agent this offseason and it’s far from certain he’ll be back in Pittsburgh.

Jonathan Dwyer is the only back currently on the Steelers roster to have shown he may be able to function as a primary ball carrier. That said, however, he is a restricted free agent and isn’t guaranteed a spot with the Steelers next season.

Furthermore, there have been reports that the Steelers organization doesn’t view Dwyer or Isaac Redman as a solution to their running back dilemma. In all likelihood they will hope to retain Mendenhall on the cheap, or look to the draft to acquire their new featured back.

ST. LOUIS RAMS

Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead

Despite being selected five rounds later than Isaiah Pead in the 2012 NFL Draft, it was Daryl Richardson that saw the majority of playing time in place of Steven Jackson whenever the veteran needed a rest. And now that Jackson’s NFL future is up in the air (he may return to St. Louis, test the free agent market, or retire) many have Richardson pegged as the Rams next featured back.

While this may be true (and his rookie stats indicate it’s a reasonable expectation), it may not be wise to write Pead off quite so quickly. After all, St. Louis did invest a second round pick on the back out of Cincinnati. Chances are they would like to get him on the field at some point before labeling him a bust.

Should Jackson return with the Rams then it’s likely neither Richardson nor Pead will hold much immediate fantasy value outside of being the veteran’s handcuff. Should Jackson walk, however, then it appears one of the two rookies will handle the majority of snaps out of backfield in 2013.

At this point Richardson is clearly the front runner, but that could change drastically by the time the new season begins. It’s a situation worth keeping an eye on.