Depth Chart Debate: AFC South RBs

With the third-leading rusher in the NFL returning for a second season in Indianapolis, how does Jonathan Taylor and the loaded Colts' running backs depth chart line up with the rest of the AFC South?
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No position group in the AFC South may be as deep as the running backs across the division in 2021.

Indianapolis is absolutely loaded in the backfield with guys like Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines expected to carry the load. Add in the surprise return of Marlon Mack in free agency, and a guy like Jordan Wilkins penciled in at No. 4 and it's hard to find a better group. 

However, Houston loaded up at running back this offseason, signing veterans Mark Ingram and Phillip Lindsay to pair with David Johnson and Duke Johnson, while Jacksonville selected Travis Etienne in the first round to pair with undrafted stud James Robinson in the Jaguars' revamped offense. 

Then, the be-all, end-all of backs in Tennessee's Derrick Henry is the clear headliner, though it appears rather lite behind him for the Titans. 

Overall, there's plenty of big names at the position, but how do they shake out ranked No. 1-4 in the AFC South? 

Glad you asked. Let's dive in.

1. Indianapolis Colts

This shouldn't be a surprise whatsoever. 

With Taylor back for a second season and expectations sky-high, the Colts should once again possess one of the best — if not the best — rushing attack in football. Taylor really got going down the stretch last year and helped the offense transform. 

Add in guys like Hines and Wilkins — and Mack when he's healthy — and that's a formidable foursome that is unmatched in the division, let alone the league. 

Though the Colts are replacing Anthony Castonzo at left tackle and Phillip Rivers at quarterback, Indianapolis' offense as a whole should take a step forward with Carson Wentz in the mix, especially with him being able to lean heavily on a rushing attack featuring Taylor, Hines, Mack and Wilkins. 

Intriguing names like Deon Jackson and Darius Anderson could find themselves battling Wilkins for the No. 4 job, which will make the group even deep than expected. 

2. Houston Texans

This could really come as a surprise to many, but think about this: David Johnson, Duke Johnson, Mark Ingram and Phillip Lindsay is pretty ridiculous on paper. 

That doesn't even mention Rex Burkhead, who could push Duke Johnson off the roster as the receiving threat that can also run between the tackles. 

On paper, this group looks pretty darn strong. The issue is health, as every single name on the roster at this position has had significant injury issues in the past. 

David Johnson continues to make the big bucks of this group and should be the lead back in head coach David Culley's new system, but I'd keep my eyes on Lindsay, who rushed for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons to start his career as an undrafted free agent in Denver. He has a giant chip on his shoulder and has the most talent in the backfield. 

Behind the five names listed above, Houston has some back-end of the roster guys to monitor in Dontrell Hilliard, Buddy Howell, and Scottie Phillips. I would not be shocked to see a couple of teams pluck roster cuts from Houston at the position. 

3. Tennessee Titans

Yes, the Titans still employ one Derrick Henry, who is arguably the best running back in football. However, this is about depth charts and not single running backs. If it were, Henry and the Titans would be No. 1. 

That said, it's pretty slim pickings behind Henry, who has more than 1,200 touches in five seasons, which is a significant workload for a running back in today's NFL. 

Should Henry go down, the Titans would be in major trouble as second-year back Darrynton Evans is the No. 2 behind Henry and is focusing more on a receiving role ahead of the 2021 season. 

The Titans did a nice job bringing in veteran Brian Hill to compete as the No. 3, but he showed in extended action in Atlanta the last two seasons that he's not capable of carrying the load in case of injuries. 

It's a great group up top with Henry overall, after that it's concerning overall. That's why I have them at No. 3.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars

James Robinson had an awesome rookie season as an undrafted free agent, rushing for more than 1,000 yards as the Jaguars cycled through a number of QBs, eventually tanking their way to Trevor Lawrence.

He should be able to retain the No. 1 role again this season, but the Jaguars added some veteran talent around him, bringing in Carlos Hyde, drafting Travis Etienne, and seeing names like Devine Ozigbo and Dare Ogunbowale return. 

Etienne's role is up in the air and has received some receiving work in OTAs and minicamp, so keep an eye on that. As for Ogunbowale, he's more of a special teams player and should be able to keep his roster spot, while Ozigbo needs to show he can stay healthy this late into his career. 

Have thoughts on how the RBs rooms shake out in the AFC South? Drop a line in the comments section below! 


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