2011 NFL Predictions: 5 Backup RBs Destined To Steal Starting Gig
Competition between the starter and the backup is a great sign in the NFL.
It is often said that the best way to evaluate the true talent of your team is to look and see how much competition you have at each position, and how many starters are legitimately being challenged by their backups.
The running game in the NFL has vastly changed throughout the years, though, and now we are seeing many teams adopt a two-back system. The “thunder and lightning” philosophy or a change of pace scat-back has become a huge part of the game, so having more than one back that is capable of starting is a huge plus.
What happens when the backup running back challenges the starter to the point where they should actually be the ones getting the majority of the carries though?
Here are five backup backs that are destined to be starters.
5. Jerome Harrison: Detroit Lions
With rookie running back Mikel Leshoure going down for the year with an injury, the Lions really lost a big part of their backfield, and an even bigger part of their game plan.
Leshoure was projected to split time with speedster Jahvid Best, which would allow Best to be played in situations that cater more to his strengths.
Without Leshoure, the Lions may try to force Best into an every-down role, but frankly I don't see him thriving or staying healthy as an every-down back.
Jerome Harrison is a guy that can handle the load as a starter and will put Best back in those scat-back situations where he can work the edges and come out of the backfield.
4. Bernard Scott: Cincinnati Bengals
What makes Scott an option as the Bengals' starter is his pass-catching ability. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, which may prove to be invaluable to rookie quarterback Andy Dalton.
More often than not I feel Dalton will be looking for a consistent check-down option, and Scott can be that guy.
Cedric Benson is getting older, and questions about how much more he has left in the tank will surely arise.
The Bengals are starting to build a young core, and Scott is going to eventually replace Benson as the starter.
Might as well do it sooner than later.
3. Willis McGahee: Denver Broncos
Believe it or not, I think McGahee still has a lot left in the tank.
He's in a good situation in Denver to get a lot of carries, and I think he will make the most of them. He is good out of the backfield, but he certainly makes his living pounding it between the tackles and scoring in short-yardage situations.
If Knowshon Moreno gets hurt, or starts wearing down, new coach John Fox is going to rely on McGahee's experience.
I think all that will transpire and we eventually see McGahee as the starter in Denver.
2. Ronnie Brown: Philadelphia Eagles
Coming into the season, I was extremely high on the Eagles' LeSean McCoy.
While I still think he is going to be a great player, I didn't expect Ronnie Brown to go to Philadelphia and have this great of a preseason.
He looks like a completely new player, and I wonder if he will force Andy Reid to consider more of a duel-back system.
He looks strong going up the middle and extremely quick on the outside.
Don't forget McCoy dealt with some injuries last year, so if Brown does get the chance to start, I don't see him giving it up.
1. James Starks: Green Bay Packers
There is no doubt in my mind that James Starks is the best running back on the Packers roster, and if he's not the starter by the start of the regular season, he will eventually win it back.
Ryan Grant was the Packers' guy, but I think the season-ending injury in 2010 has really taken him back as far as his production is concerned. He looks like he is running in a haze and it takes him forever to build up any momentum.
On the other hand, every time Starks gets the ball he seems to have forward momentum. He has a knack for getting positive yardage, even if it's just falling forward. He is also a threat out of the backfield, which opens up the famous Packers screen, and adds a whole new element to an already dangerous Packers offense.