1) Ryan Grant – he better get on the field soon. It’s really amazing to me that players who hold out seem to have about a 95% chance of getting injured soon after rejoining the team. It happens all the time. Grant had better get out there and get hit. I share reader Ron L’s concerns re Grant’s status. His presence on the field is very important. Now, if he can pick up where he left off (after the Seattle game anyway), I feel good about having Ryan Grant as our starting RB. He has a good attitude, he seems to understand the offensive scheme well and he runs hard – he’s an effort guy. He also has some natural RB ability and I don’t think he’s necessarily easy to bring down. Assuming he gets past these injuries and assuming the O-Line doesn’t play like it did in San Fran, I can see a 1200+ rushing season for him this year. I can also see a 50+ reception season as I do believe MM will be bringing back the screen pass.
2) Brandon Jackson – Jackson looked good in the 1st pre-season game so I won’t let his no-show performance in San Fran drop his stock too much (and I also recognize that nobody could have run behind that line on Sat). This guy does have talent, a good attitude and a hunger when he runs that we haven’t seen for a while. There are times when he refuses to go down. I prefer RBs like this, even if it means a fumble or two when struggling for a few extra yards. Jackson’s stats are hard to predict because he could get some starting action if Grant has injuries. His most significant stat this year will be yards per carry, and I’m hoping he can push 5ypc. I’m not sure re his receiving skills just yet, but if they develop and are good, he could be a valuable contributor this year.
Essential 4-Way Tie for the #3 spot right now (but here’s my tentative order if I had to make cuts today – I’d keep 4 RBs overall and 2 FBs):
Vernand Morency – Morency has some upside because he can break off some huge-gainers at any moment. He runs with some fury and he blocks fairly well. However, there are times when I wonder if he knows exactly what play to run when because he seems to get stuffed for 0 or -1 yards too much.
Noah Herron – For me, Herron has risen 2 spots at least in the RB race. I have been a Herron detractor for years now because he has very little upside. He will do solid things and solid things only, nothing spectacular or game-changing. That said, considering the state of our O-Line and the inconsistent play of the other RBs, to be safe, I would actually consider keeping Herron on the team.
Kregg Lumpkin (practice squad)- Right now, I would have a difficult time cutting this guy. For a rookie, no-name kind of guy, he has come in and run well considering he’s playing behind a makeshift 3rd team O-Line (though the 3rd string line may be better than the 1st string line from Sat night!). I haven’t been able to evaluate his blocking too well thus far, but if he is good at blocking, I would not be surprised if the team kept him possibly as a 4th RB or perhaps placed him on the practice squad.
DeShawn Wynn (possible practice squad) – After Wynn had a few nice games last year, I was excited about him. And, I remember the coaching staff being excited about him making those “we knew he could play” type statements. Wynn strikes me as one of those players who probably practices OK to poorly and does non-RB things poorly. But during games, he rises up and plays well. It’s odd, even though I have listed him #6 here on the depth chart, I’m almost more comfortable with him as the starting RB as I am anyone but Grant. This doesn’t make sense I know and I won’t attempt to explain it.
I do think a key position this year will be the 3rd down back. While the pre-season has been up and down, I have seen some nice screen plays designed by McCarthy that I think could play a pivotal role in getting first downs this year. I think the RBs who can catch out of the backfield will have a good shot at playing time and contributing a lot this year. The questions for the coaches at this point are these: can Wynn show more flashes of the talent he showed last year to help him make the team? Can Morency overcome his propensity for no-gainers to more consistently at least gain a few yards? Which RBs will emerge as the better receivers out of the backfield? Is it worth taking a gamble on Kregg Lumpkin, keeping him on the team and giving him real playing time this year or is he better off on the practice squad? Do you keep Herron because he’s solid and reliably average – especially in light of the fact that we’re already inexperienced at QB? Can Grant produce at the same level as he did last year? Can Grant also work harder to erase no-gainers (like in the Giants game)? Can Brandon Jackson continue to employ his relentless style of running later in games and later in the season?