Thursday, June 7, 2012
Chat wrap: Running backs on the mind
By Mike Sando
NFC West fans had running backs in mind during our chat Thursday.
We had Joe C. from Fort Worth asking for projected carry breakdowns in Arizona if the Cardinals' Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams are both healthy. k1joyce from Massachusetts, fearful over what would happen if Seattle lost Marshawn Lynch to injury, pointed to the "seldom-talked-about lack of depth" at the position for the Seahawks. Jim from California wondered which running backs the San Francisco 49ers would keep.
I didn't get to all those questions, but in an attempt to size up the position for each NFC West team, I've put together potential depth charts for running backs in the division. Every team has six halfbacks, so the chart balances. The order will shake out during training camp, of course. I've got an eraser handy.
Every team in the division but Seattle has used a second-round choice for a running back in the past two drafts. Arizona did so with Williams in 2011. San Francisco (LaMichael James) and St. Louis (Isaiah Pead) used second-rounders for runners this year.
Seattle used a 2012 fourth-round choice for Robert Turbin. The team also added Kregg Lumpkin in free agency. Both are bigger than former backup Justin Forsett. That was by design. The Seahawks now have multiple backs with the size to carry the ball on early downs, but it's too early to know whether the team could maintain its physical approach on offense without Lynch. It wasn't possible last season. Now, it's possible, but no sure thing.
Wells will probably get more carries than Williams this season even though Williams, when healthy, excites the Cardinals at least as much. Both backs are coming off knee surgeries. Wells figures to be healthier first. He will presumably get most of the carries early in the season. We still don't know when Williams will resume full participation or how well he'll perform upon returning. The injury he suffered (torn patella) was serious. The Cardinals are optimistic, but there's still uncertainty.
The situation behind Frank Gore in San Francisco is more confusing. The 49ers wanted to upgrade their backups while preparing for life after Gore. Anthony Dixon faces an uphill fight for a roster spot, it appears. He played five percent of the snaps last season. Kendall Hunter played 28 percent, a figure that also appears likely to fall.
The Rams finally have some youth behind Steven Jackson. I could see them using another relatively early pick on a back in 2013. Jackson is scheduled to earn $7 million in each of the next two seasons. He turns 29 next month and will be looking to reach 1,000 yards for an eighth consecutive season.