What does the Las Vegas Raiders ground game competition look like?
While there were a ton of transactions over the off-season which helped strengthen the AFC West, there weren’t many that helped bolster the running back rooms; In fact, the Raiders did more than their rivals in this regard. This only further helps Las Vegas, as Josh Jacobs should easily be considered the best pure runner in the division out of the backfield.
During this year’s free agency, Kansas City brought in Ronald Jones, presumably as the no.2 back behind Edwards-Helaire. While Jones is best suited in the trenches, neither he nor Edwards-Helaire are backs that thrive on shaking defenders off of them.
In 2020, Jones’ 19.2 carries per broken tackle were the worst ratio out of any of the 30 running backs with 10+ broken tackles. The following season, this number only got worse, falling to 20.2. 2021 wasn’t much more kind to Edwards-Helaire, who finished with 17 carries per each broken tackle.
Of course, Edwards-Helaire specializes in things outside of the trenches, most notably in the passing game. Being this is about running the football, though, we’re not going to touch on that much. I extend those same sentiments to a certain back in Los Angeles who will be mentioned soon enough.
In Denver, the 2021 rookie Javonte Williams quietly proved his worth in the run game. He totaled 460 yards after contact, and his 31 broken tackles were an NFL high. Williams is certainly one to keep an eye on, but as he transitions from a back that split carries right down the middle with the now free agent Melvin Gordon to likely the team’s workhorse, can he continue to shake defenders off without fresh legs?
If he can, that’s great news for Denver. However, what isn’t great news for the Broncos is the depth behind Williams. Mike Boone currently holds the title of the team’s no.2 running back, who’s rushed for 414 yards in four seasons.
With that, we move onto the team in Los Angeles who’s led by the young stud, Justin Herbert.
Recording career-highs in both rushing yards (911) and rushing touchdowns (12), Austin Ekeler is a player defenses always have to account for. He can make magic happen in the passing game and possesses the athleticism and shiftiness to make plays happen on outside runs. Inside, though? This isn’t the strongest part of his game.
Last season, Ekeler tallied a broken tackle once every 15.8 runs, netting him the third-worst percentage among the 35 running backs with double-digit broken tackles. This was with a tied career-high of 13 broken tackles on the ground.
On top of this, the Chargers elected to move on from their no.2 back, Justin Jackson. Ekeler’s second man is now Joshua Kelley, who spent time as the no.2 in 2020 behind Justin Jackson, during the time Ekeler was nursing an injury.
If we go back to the worrisome broken tackle ratio and general lack of ability to break out of tackles over Ekeler’s career, it’s worth noting Kelley has produced a worse percentage in both of his two years in the NFL. That’s something that doesn’t help Los Angeles keep up with the Raiders’ ground game, either.
Now, we wrap up the running game talk with the firepower in Las Vegas, and why it tops that of their division rivals.