A lot of people look back on past seasons of their favorite team and remember it by who the quarterback was. "I grew up watching the Steelers when Terry Bradshaw was the guy." or "When I was a kid, there was no one who could touch Steve Young."
Not me... at least, not as much as most. Sure, Mark Brunell will always hold a special place in my heart (even if he's woefully ignorant of the team's current stake in the city of Jacksonville) but it's actually been the running backs who were the guideposts along my last 20 years as a Jaguars fan. James Stewart, along with Natrone Means, was the early guy. Fred Taylor took us to the next level. Maurice Jones-Drew, along with his "How the hell did he do that?" plays and trolling of opponents, ushered in the latest new era of Jaguars fandom.
But 2014 is different. We're turning a new page. Blake Bortles is the unquestioned quarterback for the future. But for a guy like me, who's always looked at running backs, what does that situation look like? We've got a stable of guys who have shown they can succeed, but if last season is any indication, there are only four or five spots available on the final roster.
Who will those guys be and who's most likely to make it to Opening Day?
Lock to make the roster: Toby Gerhart
Gerhart is currently penciled in as the starter and I don't see that changing anytime soon. He was a priority during free agency and Gus Bradley has expressed that he sees Gerhart as a "bell-cow" running back.
Gerhart, who just turned 27, had less than 300 carries in four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, largely due to the fact he was Adrian Peterson's backup. But the former second-round draft pick always impressed when he got the chance, and holds a 4.7 yards-per-carry average, despite his limited playing time.
Probably going to make the roster: Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson
A sixth-round draft pick out of Connecticut, Todman bounced around the San Diego Chargers and Minnesota Vikings his rookie year before landing in Jacksonville in 2012. He had a solid training camp in 2013 and went on to contribute in Maurice Jones-Drew's absence, totaling 372 yards and three touchdowns.
He's only 24 years old, which means he's still got a lot of tread on his tires, as well as a lot of room to grow, so I can't see Gus or Dave Caldwell getting rid of Todman. Also, after the Jaguars drafted Storm Johnson in the seventh-round of last week's draft, Dave and Gus talked about the team's stable of running backs and Todman in a way that made me believe they have a specific role for him in 2014 and that he'll be a significant part of this year. Besides, who else is going to catch passes from Ace Sanders on Thursday Night Football?
As far as Denard Robinson, he's still learning a new position and Gus and Dave both sound very optimistic regarding how good he can be in the league. Unless Denard just blows it in training camp, he'll stay with the Jaguars through the 2014 season.
I don't know: Storm Johnson and Delone Carter
Yes, the Jaguars have brought in UDFA RB Terrance Cobb out of the University of Cumberlands -- but I think he, along with any other UDFAs they sign before training camp, are a long shot to make the roster.
That means that if the Jaguars keep four running backs for their final roster, one of the above guys will be gone. At first glance, Delone Carter looks to be the odd man out. But if Carter impresses in training camp and Storm Johnson is underwhelming, then we could see Storm on the practice squad. However, if Delone doesn't impress, or if Storm has (at the very least) a decent training camp, I think Carter will be hard-pressed to make it to the final 53.