Nobody can say for certain how the 2020 NFL season can play out, quite simply because nobody can say that they have played through a season quite like this one, and the conditions that hang over it. There is a viral pandemic ongoing, continuing to register 50,000-plus new cases in the country per day, and NFL teams are only just now beginning to add contact to practices.
It’s not just the threat of a Covid-19 outbreak, but also the unknown consequences of all that has already been lost in the form of offseason work that cannot be made up. No rookie minicamp. No OTAs. Not mandatory minicamp. No time spent at the team facility, up until the start of training camp a couple of weeks ago, that is.
While the running back position may but one of the simplest to execute without a lot of background work, however, it is also one of the most physically demanding, and without all of that offseason work, we don’t know what kind of effect that’s going to have on bodies. It’s something running backs coach Eddie Faulkner is thinking about.
“I’m kind of in a position where I know what a lot of the guys can do, but I also want to give them the opportunity to show me what they’ve improved on. As we get going down the road here, we’ll start to see what some of those things are. And then you can start to look at a division of labor or who does what well”, he said.
“But that’s going to be the outlying theme of the 2020 season NFL, in my opinion is people who you can depend on, who can go out and execute with missing a thousand reps from what would have been the spring and the offseason”, he added. “The guys that you can depend on and know what they do. So we’ll try to put a thumb on that pretty quickly on what their skill set is, and then let it shake from there. But as we sit here now, I’m just trying to see what everybody can do in the hole, and then where they’ve improved, maybe where some deficiencies may be”.
Considering how relatively young, or new to the team, so much of the running back group is, that is significant. Benny Snell is only going into his second year. Anthony McFarland is a rookie. Kerrith Whyte spent six games on the team as a rookie in 2019. Even Jaylen Samuels only has two years under his belt. And Faulkner only has been here for a year himself.
Even Le’Veon Bell had his fair share of struggles when he skipped the 2017 offseason and showed up just before the start of the regular season thinking he could hit the ground running, and he is a first-team All-Pro talent. Missing that offseason experience is significant. But it’s a situation every player from every position is in—yet no other position requires that you get tackled hundreds of times a year.