Five games into the season, and last year’s rookie stud runner Najee Harris, who’s fresh off a 1,200-yard franchise rookie record campaign, is off to a slow start, averaging only 3.2 yards per carry, which is down even from last year’s substandard 3.9. Whether that can be attributed to a lingering Lisfranc injury he suffered in training camp or the continued woes of the offensive line remains to be seen. However, the performance of his backup, undrafted rookie Jaylen Warren, has been a talking point as of late.
Warren, who coming out in the draft was described as a “wrecking ball on wheels” by NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein, has in the opinions of many, actually looked to be the more explosive back of the two, as evidenced by Warren’s 19 carries for 94 yards, and a substantially higher YPC of 4.9. The arrow is clearly pointing up for him to have an increased role in the offense, and last season at Oklahoma State, he proved he could handle a heavy workload, carrying the rock 256 times for 1,216 yards and 11 scores. Earlier today, offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who’s been under fire recently for his stagnant offensive schemes, was asked about Warren.
“I don’t want to get too much into Jaylen versus Najee, but the positive of all this is he’s playing very, very well and certainly has been a real bright spot for us, and we will continue to use him in those roles,” Canada said earlier via an official team transcript.
Canada then shifted into more of a defensive mode, stating that some of the defenses Warren has faced is when the team is down big, and doesn’t have eight or more defenders in the box. He then shifted back to Najee, and how the team really needs to get him going, and why shouldn’t he? After all, Warren is undrafted while Harris was the team’s first-round investment from the 2021 Draft.
The fact of the matter is, Harris is struggling, be it by injury or something else. This was the team brain trust’s plan all offseason, to minimize the workload of Harris, so if he indeed is hurt, they need to let him get healthy in a season that’s quickly slipping away.
“Last year, he had so many touches and so many plays. It was certainly a thoughtful plan that coach and us all got together and have. Jaylen has come in and filled that role in an unbelievably positive way, in our opinion.”
The 5-foot-8, 215-pounder personally gives me Maurice Jones-Drew vibes, and when his name has been called, looks as if he was shot out of a cannon when hitting the hole. Whether or not he gets more involved remains to be seen, but the sledding won’t get any easier come Sunday, when Tampa Bay and arguably the top defense in the league come into the Steel City.