Let's get the obvious out of the way on Toby Gerhart, shall we?
"Toby has always been a good running back in this league," said one NFC team executive. "He'll help that Jacksonville team. He'll make them better. He's always been better than some people perceived. If he were black, you f-----s (in the media) would be talking about how good he is."
So, there's that.
Gerhart's had plenty of nice things written and said about him in the media. People realize how good he can be. Yet I do believe Gerhart has been overlooked at times—by both the media and people in the league itself—because it's been assumed he's just a slow, non-evasive plodder who can't do more than batter and bruise.
Backing up a legend like Adrian Peterson understandably stunted his ability to produce and, as a result, limited his reputation with the average fan. That said, personnel men are in love with Gerhart.
I can't find a single scout who believes Jacksonville signing him to a three-year, $10.5 million deal was a bad move. The general feeling around football is that Gerhart will have a big year. Still, those same personnel men raving about him now had opportunities to perhaps trade for Gerhart but never did. So while they praise Gerhart, they could have had him but didn't make the move.
There is definitely something to the media undervaluing Gerhart overall and his speed specifically. For what it's worth, he ran a 4.50-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine. He also had a 38-inch vertical leap.
You don't see many black runners, of any size, described as having "sneaky wheels." They are seen to just have wheels.
Much of the Gerhart media talk focuses on his bulk and the size of his legs (not that there's anything wrong with that).
"He's a horse," Jaguars running backs coach Terry Richardson told The Florida Times-Union's Ryan O'Halloran. "He's a big guy, and I talked to one of his former (position) coaches, and he was saying Toby had the strongest legs he's been around in terms of his leg drive and leg power. We're excited about that."
Leg bulk. Leg power. Gerhart is more than squats. Always has been.
Gerhart was second in Heisman balloting to Mark Ingram, and in the few opportunities he's gotten to play, he's demonstrated plenty of burst.
He destroys arm tackles with both power and speed.
Not power alone. Remember: Gerhart still holds Stanford's records for most rushing yards in a season with 1,871 and most touchdowns in a season with 28. You don't get those kinds of numbers running like a chump.
No, Gerhart won't make the Jaguars a playoff team this season, but he will make them a factor in the AFC South. They won't be as easy to beat, and in a few years Gerhart could be the catalyst to a totally transformed organization that will be able to compete with Andrew Luck and the Colts. I said it.
It's not a tough division. The only dominant quarterback is Luck. There's no reason the Jaguars in short order can't be competitive.
A successful Gerhart would run antithetical to the current NFL quarterback-gasm, but so are the Seattle Seahawks. Russell Wilson doesn't throw for 400 yards a game. He's not Peyton Manning, but he makes very few mistakes, has a brilliant defense and has Marshawn Lynch. Wash, rinse and repeat with Colin Kaepernick.
The Jaguars can build that same model.
And if they do—some of you will laugh at this—the Jaguars can be a legitimate Super Bowl contender in a relatively short time.
Gerhart makes that possible because, despite being in the league for four years and being 27 years old, he's spent much of his career as a backup to Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. He has fresh legs (there we go with the damn legs again).
|Toby Gerhart college and NFL stats|
Again, to be clear, none of this is to say Gerhart will be Jim Brown. Or even Maurice Jones-Drew, the man Gerhart will replace and a player I've always believed is one of the most underrated in all of football.
No, not Brown nor Jones-Drew, but Gerhart will be good. Better than most think.
Faster than most think, too.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.
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