The NFC South division are shaping up their rosters for 2023, especially on the offensive end. Each team in the division will be trotting out new quarterbacks, but what about their backfields?
In this article, the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back tandems are evaluated.
4. Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allegier (Atlanta Falcons)
The Atlanta Falcons drafted former Texas star running back Bijan Robinson with the eighth pick in the 2023 NFL draft. Robinson, a two-time All-Big 12 selection (’21-’22), is known for his ability to be an all-around halfback. Robinson is solid as a pass catcher and a powerback as he stands 6-foot 220 pounds.
In 2022 (junior season), Robinson garnered 1,580 rush yards(ranked sixth in nation)and scored 18 rushing touchdowns while averaging 6.1 yards per rush. Through the air, Robinson collected 314 receiving yards along with two touchdowns.
Alongside Robinson is former BYU Cougar and 2022 fifth-round pick running back Tyler Allegier. Allegier produced 1,035 yards (ranked 15th) on the ground in 2022 while averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Atlanta last year ranked 16th in total rushing yards with the tandem of veteran running back Cordarrelle Patterson and Allegier.
Patterson, who produced 695 yards on the ground in 2022, will have to take a backseat to Allegier and and Robinson as the pairing will be essential for Atlanta’s new offense with second year quarterback Desmond Ridder under center.
Allegier is known as a yards-after-contact running back as he stands at 5-foot-11 220 pounds. Allegier will be essential in 3rd and short or goal line situations. Robinson can block, rush in between the tackles, and stretch the field to catch passes.The young duo of Robinson and Allegier have the potential to be one of the more productive backfields in the division.
Atlanta will have a very strong backfield for the foreseeable future with Robinson and Allegier behind Ridder.
3. Rachaad White and Chase Edmonds (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette is no longer in the backfield for Todd Bowles offense, which means second year running back Rachaad White’s role just got bigger.
White, a 2022 third-round pick from Arizona State, garnered 481 rush yards with an average of 3.7 yards per carry in 2022. Alongside White is former Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds. Edmonds, a fourth round pick from Fordham, was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals where he spent four seasons(’18-’21).
Edmonds signed with the Miami Dolphins prior to the 2022 season and signed a multi-year contract worth $12.6 million. The former Fordham Ram was traded during the season to the Denver Broncos, where he suffered a high ankle sprain in week 11 and was placed on injured reserve. He was released during the offseason and signed with the Buccaneers.
Edmonds has a career average of 4.5 yards per carry which is parallel to running backs such as Ezekiel Elliot (4.4), Josh Jacobs (4.4), Christian McCaffrey (4.6) and Saquon Barkley (4.5). Edmonds has to prove that he can not only stay healthy, but garner production as the Buccaneers are aiming to be competitive with their new-look offense.
Tampa Bay ranked last in the NFL in rushing yards last season, mainly due to a depleted offensive line that suffered from injuries. But with the return of pro-bowl center Ryan Jensen as the anchor of the offensive line, their rushing game should improve with a more experienced White and Edmonds that has a chip on his shoulder.
2. Miles Sanders and Chuba Hubbard (Carolina Panthers)
The Carolina Panthers signed former Philadelphia Eagles halfback Miles Sanders during the offseason.
Sanders had a highly productive season with the current NFC champions. In 2022, Sanders compiled 1,269 rush yards (ranked fifth) along with 12 rushing touchdowns. Sanders averaged 4.9 yards per carry (ranked fifth) and was essential in helping the Eagles reach Super Bowl 57 despite a losing effort.
Sanders will be sharing carries with running back Chuba Hubbard, a fourth round pick from Oklahoma State in the 2021 NFL draft. In 2022, Hubbard collected 466 rushing yards along with 14 catches and 171 receiving yards.
Hubbard was the backup to current San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey for one and a half seasons in Carolina, and since the departure of McCaffrey in 2022 due to a trade, Hubbard split carries with former Carolina Panthers running back and current Chicago Bears halfback D’Onta Foreman.
Sanders will get the bulk of the carries, as he is known to be impactful in all aspects in the backfield. In 2022, Sanders was responsible for 13 carries within the five-yard line and seven of them were touchdowns.
Carolina is making sure to surround their 2023 number one overall pick quarterback Bryce Young with as much talent as possible, which in this case, the backfield.
1. Alvin Kamara and Jamaal Williams (New Orleans Saints)
The New Orleans Saints added former Detroit Lions running back Jamaal Williams in free agency to pair with five-time pro-bowl halfback Alvin Kamara.
Williams led the NFL in rushing touchdowns in 2022 (17) along with 1,066 yards on the ground. The former Green Bay Packer (’17’-’20) will be featured as the lead back depending on how many games Kamara will be suspended for due to off the field issues.
The duo of Kamara and Williams is similar to the pairing of Kamara and former Saints running back Mark Ingram. Ingram had the role of a powerback and was essential in short yardage situations. Kamara has the ability to stretch the field and garner yards through the air.
Williams in this case would be the powerback, as his rushing touchdown attempts in 2022 were from an average distance of 0.24 yards.
Alongside Williams and Kamara is rookie running back Kendre Miller from TCU. Miller is a halfback that not only can run in between the tackles but also go out in the flat. This three-headed trio is vital for the success of the Saints offense with new quarterback Derek Carr handing off the ball.