After the rare Tuesday game and a surprise cut, we’ve finally made it to the other side of Week Five. Most teams are about 1/3 of the way through the season, which means these snap count trends are not flukes. Below are a few of the backfields that caught our eye this week and what it means going forward.
The story here isn’t so much Todd Gurley. We knew that he’d lead the team in snaps and carries after he was signed in the offseason, and so far, that’s been proven correct. He’s seen three times as many carries as backup Brian Hill and has actually performed well, averaging 4.7 yards per carry after last week. No, the thing to keep an eye on is the aforementioned Hill. He’s clearly the second option in the backfield. He’s averaging five carries per game and more than five yards per carry. The passing game is even more promising, as Hill’s 11 targets are nearly as many as Gurley’s 13.
Hill is one to watch as the immediate handcuff for Gurley, and he’s the clear choice should he ever go down with an injury. It’s also reasonable to expect Hill to see more targets if the Falcons keep playing from behind.
Week Six: Falcons at Vikings
Another week, and another wild outcome in the Ravens backfield. This time it was Gus Edwards leading the charge with 25 snaps as the Ravens blew out the Bengals. It was actually the second week in a row that Edwards has led the team in snaps, yet it was Mark Ingram who led in carries with 11. He proved to be the most effective Ravens back this week, as he ran for 57 scoreless yards compared to Edwards’ 25 yards on seven carries. More surprising was the lone carry for JK Dobbins despite the Ravens running up a 17-0 lead by halftime.
The passing game snaps were even more interesting, as both Edwards and Dobbins saw three targets with Edwards catching none of his and Dobbins catching all three. We’re nearly a third of the way through the season, and no end is in sight for this committee. Play any of them at your own risk.
Week Six: Ravens at Eagles
Los Angeles Chargers
In the Chargers’ first full game since the injury to Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson not only led the backfield in snaps and touches, but he also started to pull away from rookie Joshua Kelley. He turned 15 carries into 71 yards, including a nice 36-yard run, and, even more encouragingly, the six targets he saw were good for third on the team. He managed to catch five of those for 23 yards to compose a stat line much better than his competition. A week after Joshua Kelley led the Charges backfield in snaps, he managed to turn 11 carries into just 29 yards on the ground and saw just one target.
With Ekeler expected to be out another month, Jackson is looking like the back to roster. If you get him now, you’ll have to stash him for a week, as the Chargers are on a bye. But if Jackson keeps doing his best Austin Ekeler impression, it’ll be worth it.
Week Six: Bye
Los Angeles Rams
It may look like the Rams’ backfield is even more confusing than ever, but Week 5 was the first time when all three backs were healthy. The silver lining is getting our first glimpse of how the Rams plan to use their backfield for the rest of the season. By all accounts, second-year back Darrell Henderson is first up, as he saw the most touches and carries with 15 — six more than rookie Cam Akers and seven more than Malcom Brown. In a twist, Henderson also saw the most targets of any Rams back with four, double what Brown saw. He managed to score once on the ground and once in the air, making for a very productive fantasy day.
It’s not a guarantee that Henderson will be the lead back every week, but if he is when the Rams offense scores 30 points, it’d be odd for them to change it up. Malcolm Brown looks like Malcolm Brown always has, which means that Cam Akers is really the only threat to Henderson’s workload. Monitor it, but Henderson looks safe for now.
Week Six: Rams at 49ers
Watch out, world! We may have a new bell cow back on our hands, if only for a week. After Dalvin Cook was hobbled for most of this week’s game against the Seahawks, Alexander Mattison filled in beautifully, topping 100 yards rushing on just 20 carries. He also added three catches for good measure.
Should the Vikings hold out Dalvin Cook this week, it seems like tapping Mattison would make for a smooth transition. He handled the load just fine in Seattle, and the Vikings like to lean on one back. Mattison saw just six carries per game in his backup role up to this point. A week off would also give Cook lots of time to recover, as Minnesota has a bye after this week’s game.
Week Six: Vikings vs. Falcons
New York Giants
It’s not the sexiest offense, but touches are touches, and Devonta Freeman is getting them. Signed off the street to take the place of Saquon Barkley after his ACL injury, Freeman has led the Giants in snaps and carries over the last two weeks. He’s still rusty, but he did manage to score last week, and he ran for 60 yards. He’s also seeing some work as a pass-catcher — he got three targets while Dion Lewis led the backfield with four.
If the Giants don’t sign anyone else, this is Freeman’s job for now. He’s certainly not the Pro Bowler he was in Atlanta, but there should be weeks when the Giants offense opens up and he has productive days. Just don’t assume it’ll be every week.
Week Six: Giants vs. Football Team
New York Jets
Welp. In what would be Le’Veon Bell’s last game as a Jet, he managed to lead the team in snaps and carries but didn’t look particularly impressive. The signing of Frank Gore in the offseason was already a red flag when it happened, and that was confirmed in the first game in which both he and Bell finished the game healthy. Yes, Bell saw twice as many snaps as Gore did, but he only carried the ball four more times, 13-9. What’s worse is in a game where the Jets were down two touchdowns by halftime, Bell saw just one target the entire game. Hindsight is always 20/20, but it now seems as if Bell was never slated to last much longer.
Going forward, there really isn’t any other option but Gore. Josh Adams has been a non-factor since week two, Kalen Ballage was released, and the Jets gave rookie Lamical Perine just 10 snaps last week. At this point, you should only start Gore if you’re desperate.
Week Six: Jets at Chargers
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