From a bruiser who slayed the giants of the AFC to the best dual threat in a generation, Breakout Live reveals the breakout running backs from the 2019 NFL season.
There was a curiosity about Jones heading into his third season due to the coaching change in Green Bay. Wildly talented and grossly underutilized by former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, new front man Matt LaFleur vowed to get the ball into Jones hands more under his regime.
The quick-stepping Jones touched the ball just 159 times in 2018. In 2019, the Packers offense was wide receiver-poor and without their only legitimate threat in Davante Adams for a quarter of the season, leaving the 5th rounder out of UTEP as the offense’s only threat. Matt LaFleur delivered on his promise to get the ball into his playmaker’s hands, as Jones saw 285 touches during the season – an uptick of 126 from the previous year.
As the focal point of opposing defensive coordinators, Jones topped 1000 rushing yards (1084) for the first time during his 3-year career and became a true dual threat back with 474 yards on 49 receptions for over 1500 all-purpose yards. Jones also finished tied with Christian McCaffrey atop the NFL with 19 touchdowns. If Packers GM Brian Gutekunst can add some weapons in the passing game this offseason, Aaron Jones could find himself in the 2k all-purpose yards club in 2020.
Once considered a potential 1st overall pick in the draft out of Georgia, Chubb shredded his left knee during his sophomore season and was never quite the same back, leading NFL scouts to question if he’d be anything more than an average running back on Sundays. The Browns made him the 35th overall selection in the 2018 draft as part another rebuild effort in Cleveland, and he took the ball and ran himself 4 yards short of a 1000-yard season during his rookie campaign.
Kareem Hunt was added during the offseason, which called into question whether Chubb was going to be the man for the Browns in 2019 once Hunt’s 8-game suspension was over. Chubb left no doubt as to who the top dawg was in Cleveland, as the former SEC phenom powered his way to a 1494-yard season. The 2nd year ascending player would top 100 yards in seven contests during a severely dysfunctional season for the Browns despite lofty expectations. Another coaching change has taken place in Cleveland, but it shouldn’t slow Chubb, who’ll be playing for his fourth head coach in just three seasons.
The Raiders used part of their bounty from the Khalil Mack trade to make Alabama running back, Josh Jacobs, the 24th overall pick in the draft. There’s been a stigma with Crimson Tide running backs that they play with an NFL roster in college and aren’t quite the same when they get to the actual NFL. Trent Richardson would be the poster boy who flamed out as a 3rd overall pick with the Browns. Jacobs had a lot to overcome with that stigma, and being drafted by the Silver and Black seemingly set him up for a similar disappointing professional fate.
Jacobs not only overcame the perception of former Tide running backs, he may have redefined them with his 1150-yard rookie season and 4.8 YPC, all while playing through a significant shoulder injury suffered during Week 7. His ability to play through pain for much of his rookie season conjured images of Emmitt Smith, who was legendary for his willingness to play through pain and still produce at a high level. The injury would eventually limit him to just one appearance over the last four weeks of 2019, as the Raiders had to shut him down for his own protection. Jacobs and the Raiders move to Las Vegas for their inaugural 2020 season, where the expectation of big things from the 2nd year running back sounds like a winning proposition.
Is there a tougher man to tackle in the game of football today than King Henry? Like with Josh Jacobs, Henry has been able to overcome the stigma of Alabama running backs after a poor rookie season that didn’t see the former 45th overall selection top 500 yards on the ground. Henry couldn’t even break 750 yards in his second season, leading many to think he was just another Alabama running back drafted too high. But during Week 14 of his third season, everything changed. Derrick Henry had a 4-touchdown performance, including a 99-yard run for the ages vs. the Jags on national TV and finished with 238 yards versus one of the league’s stingiest defenses. The King had an encore performance the following week with 170 yards versus the Giants to set the stage for his 2019 breakout season.
Giving many sleepless nights to would-be opposing tacklers, Henry averaged over 100 yards per game in 15 appearances in 2019, finishing with 1540 yards and 16 touchdowns during the regular season. In the postseason, Henry literally ran the Titans to the AFC Championship Game. His 182 yards versus the vaunted Patriots defense may have put an end to New England’s dynasty, and his 195 yards versus the top-seeded Ravens had the Titans on the doorstep of their second ever Super Bowl appearance while becoming the first player in postseason history to run for consecutive 170-yard games. His 561 rushing yards over his first 4 playoff games was also an NFL postseason record. Henry must’ve been worn out when he posted just 69 yards at Kansas City, ending his historic postseason run. King Henry already has his crown and looks to run for a ring in 2020.
There’s no denying “Run CMC” broke out in 2018, but he had a much more impressive secondary breakout in 2019 which should require an update to his “Run CMC” moniker. “Run and Catch CMC”? In just his third season, McCaffrey became just the third player in NFL history to have 1000 yards rushing and 1000 yards receiving in the same season, joining Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk in one of the NFL’s most exclusive clubs.
In a season that saw the Panthers possibly lose Cam Newton to a career-ending injury, and an underwhelming 5-11 record that led to the firing of longtime Panthers head coach, Riverboat Ron Rivera, it’s remarkable McCaffrey thrived in an offense helmed by a backup quarterback. As the Panthers look to 2020, they’ll be without star LB Luke Kuechly, who retired at just 28, as well as TE Greg Olsen. They have a new head coach in Matt Rhule, and they may have a new quarterback, making a repeat of 2019’s historic season much more difficult for the run-and-pass mismatch out of the Panthers backfield.