LEADER OF THE PACK: Doug Martin
He is the most complete back on the depth chart by far. Martin has great burst, good hands, runs well between the tackles, and is difficult to bring down. He can bounce off tacklers and drag them if they don’t wrap up. Martin’s production dropped significantly in 2013 from his standout rookie season. Granted he played just 6 games before suffering a torn labrum, but his yards per carry dropped a full yard, and his receiving yards per catch dropped over 4 yards. Martin will have to establish himself again on his quest to return to his rookie form. He won’t get all the work, but he should certainly get the majority.
ALL EYES ON: Charles Sims
The competition behind Doug Martin will be fierce. Many of the backs have a claim to it, including Mike James and Bobby Rainey who had good moments at times last year. But you can wipe the slate clean, especially with Charles Sims now in the mix. The redshirt senior from West Virginia and Houston was a playmaker in college. He has a big frame for a runner, and is exceptional in the passing game. He is an ideal for what offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford wants. One that can excel at every aspect of the running back position run, catch and block. Charles Sims is a potential training camp stud.
Both James and Rainey did very well at times last season in the absence of Doug Martin. James ran roughshod on the eventual Super Bowl champion Seahawks, and was off to a great start on Monday Night Football against Miami until he suffered a broken ankle. Rainey then took over and had a couple 100+ yard performances, along with five total touchdowns. These two along with speedster Jeff Demps are competing for playing time and to stay on the roster. They could be key difference makers, especially if one of them gets injured.
CAMP OBJECTIVE: Multi-taskers
Jeff Tedford believes in today’s NFL, teams need 2-3 running backs in order to be effective on offense. The question becomes how each back’s skill set is utilized in Tedford’s offense. He isn’t looking for one quality that separates them from the back, he’s looking for the complete backs that can do it all. Running hard between tackles, having speed in space, take on blocks in the backfield, and catching out of the backfield and in the slot are all part of that formula. The running backs will be all over the field, and will have a lot to digest.