For the past 48 hours, local media and Jaguars fans alike have pounded the table to trade for proven veteran running backs such as Le’veon Bell, Mark Ingram and Tevin Coleman, to name a few.
While this may have provided excellent fodder for debate, it was never happening. This regime is finally at the point of being a good roster that lets talent walk and accruing compensatory picks - not spending draft capital on knee-jerk panic moves. Instead of buying high on a temporary band aid, the Jaguars were wise in mining the bargain bin to find a couple of guys to carry the football, and the two players they opted for could not be more opposite of one another.
Turning 32 in December, Jamaal Charles is an experienced veteran whose 5.4 yards per carry still ranks as the highest in NFL history for running backs. Charles appeared in 14 games for the Broncos last season as a rotational role player and compiled 296 yards on 69 carries (nice) for a 4.3 yards per carry average as their RB2. In addition, Charles tacked on 23 catches on 28 targets, and his 82.1% catch rate was actually the highest in his entire NFL career spanning nine seasons with the Chiefs. A direct replacement for Corey Grant on this roster, Charles may not have the spry legs to flash the incendiary speed that Grant possessed, but his superior pass blocking ability and vision running between the tackles could actually make him a more valuable asset to this offense than Grant was.
Let’s take a look at some examples of how Charles could help from his 14 games as a Bronco last year:
Charles’ vision and patience is obvious, even at this advanced stage of his career. Unlike Grant, Charles will wait for blocks to develop and knows when to accelerate into the second level. As an added bonus, Charles is capable of running out of shotgun formations as well as behind a lead blocking fullback in I-formation and wishbone packages.
Another thing that Charles still has is elusiveness. In this example, Charles teleports despite immediate pressure in the backfield to still pick up a gain on a play that should have went for a loss. Not to pile on Grant, but he simply lacked the wiggle and lateral burst to pull off a move like this as his game was predicated more on linear foot speed.
Conversely, while Charles still has ample burst left, his foot speed has faded. He’s north of thirty years old - it happens. In the clip above, you can see Charles get chased down by a defensive end (Jerry Hughes) as he tries to race to the sideline. Substitute Grant into this situation and he likely smokes Hughes.
Whenever Charles was in the game for the Broncos last year, he wasn’t asked to pass block very often. In the passing game, he was mostly asked to run into the flats, very similar to what Yeldon is asked to do as a receiver out of the backfield. Charles is physical enough to chip a rusher when necessary and provides much more in that arena than Grant, who struggled mightily in blitz pick up. It was one of his most attractive attributes at Kansas City and as long as he is still willing, those skills shouldn’t have eroded.
Towards the end of December 2017, Charles asked for his release from the Broncos once they were eliminated from contention to give himself an opportunity to latch on with a playoff team come January. This never came intro fruition of course, but it’s clear that Charles is motivated by one thing – ring chasing. That type of motivation could be much more powerful for this Jaguars team over a guy like Le’Veon Bell, who is purely motivated by paper at this point in his career.
As experienced as Jamaal Charles is, former Razorback running back David Williams is equally inexperienced. A seventh round pick by Denver in this most recent draft, Williams was usurped on the roster by the very impressive undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay and simply became the odd man out despite showing some nice flashes in the preseason. Tipping the scales at 6’0” 224-pounds, Williams will be a potential solution as a physical power back who can pick up short yards and move the pile forward in the red zone. He might not get a ton of carries in the next week or two, but Williams has a terrific opportunity to stake a claim for a roster spot in 2019 and beyond considering T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant are both free agents after this season.
Williams had some flash plays in preseason and I wanted to go back to his tape at Arkansas to see what type of player the Jaguars are getting. When I pull clips from college tape, I always like to start with the best competition, and few defenses are better than LSU.
A power back, Williams routinely broke arm tackles and runs into contact with good pad level and forward momentum.
Not only can you break through arm tackles, Williams has the lower body strength to fight for extra yards. In this clip, you can see Williams move the pile for an extra ten yards or so after he gets bottled up. That’s the type of runner that the Jags are looking for in Williams in his limited snaps. With a healthy David Williams in the game this past week, do the Jaguars throw it twice on third and short in the red zone? We’ll never know.
While he’s strong, he’s not purely a power back and there is some elusiveness to his game. In the above play, Williams looks like he’s doomed on the pitch as very good cornerback Donte Jackson has him lined up for a big tackle for loss, and Williams jukes him out of his shoes to pick up a gain. This is an element of his game that seemingly has carried over into the preseason.
So David Williams is actually kinda flashy pic.twitter.com/Be40kGbGQT— Zach Goodall (@zach_goodall) October 9, 2018
Williams never had a 100-yard rushing game for Arkansas and never carried the football more than 15 times a game. And that’s fine, because he won’t be asked to do either of those things for the Jaguars. They just need him to bang it between the tackles, and his body is built to do so.
The Jaguars running game looks vastly different than it did this time a week ago, but these are two logical moves for a team that needs some experience and physicality at the position in a year where they can challenge for a championship.
The best part?
Neither player costs you a draft pick in a trade.
The question now becomes how quickly can they pick up the offense? We’ll get that answer this Sunday in a sink-or-swim debut game against the Dallas Cowboys.