RB Index, Week 4: Three NFL teams being held back by lackluster run games

We’re officially in Week 4 of the 2022 NFL season, which means we have enough information to decipher what teams are — as well as what they aren’t.

It’s not surprising that the Browns, Giants and Eagles are thriving on the ground. Those squads, which all rank in the top seven in rushing yards this season, have the personnel and scheme to dominate.

But it’s not sunshine and rainbows for every team. Some are really struggling to mount a capable run game.

Let’s look at three teams being held back by a lack of ground production, and examine what each can do to improve in this area moving forward.

Rushing yards per game: 80.0 (28th in the NFL)

As the league’s only 0-3 team, the Raiders are still trying to find their offensive groove. This is partly because Josh McDaniels has seemingly abandoned the run game, with Las Vegas logging a league-low 53 carries through Week 3 despite averaging a respectable 4.5 yards per carry (tied for 13th in the NFL). 

This is all about a lack of opportunities for Josh Jacobs, who’s had at least 50 rushing yards in all three games this season but has yet to find the end zone. Feeding Jacobs is going to help alleviate the pressure on a patchwork offensive line that has royally struggled to protect Derek Carr (45 pressures, fifth-most in the league, per Next Gen Stats). I get it if McDaniels is in his feels with the Raiders’ weapons in the passing attack, but throwing the ball 40 times per game hasn’t worked yet. It’s time to try something different.

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Rushing yards per game: 59.0 (32nd)

The Chargers entered Week 3’s contest against Jacksonville with a banged-up quarterback (Justin Herbert) who was without his top wide receiver (Keenan Allen) and starting center (Corey Linsley) — and they still chose to run the ball just 12 times for a total of 26 yards. ICK! This simply doesn’t add up, especially considering the game didn’t start to get away from Los Angeles until the second half.

Through three weeks, the Chargers boast the worst rushing attack in the league, averaging just 59 rush yards per game and 2.6 yards per carry (the only team under 3.0 this season). Furthermore, the Bolts are averaging a league-worst -0.3 yards before contact per carry, according to Next Gen Stats. It won’t help that they lost Rashawn Slater, one of the top tackles in both run and pass blocking league-wide, for the season due to a biceps injury. Regardless of who’s lining up along the O-line, blocking at the point of attack must be an area of emphasis moving forward.

With all of the injuries, the Chargers would be smart to turn to their talented backfield trio of Austin Ekeler, Sony Michel and Joshua Kelley. Ekeler is being used far more in the pass game — which I’m OK with — and leads the team in targets (22) and receptions (21), but I’m struggling to understand why Kelley, who’s averaging the most yards per carry (4.4) of this group by far, only has nine totes this season. He can be a tone-setter, helping Los Angeles move the chains and control the clock. Overall, though, the Bolts know they must be more efficient with their opportunities on the ground.

Rushing yards per game: 72.3 (30th)

The Rams’ offense we’re seeing right now is far from the unit Los Angeles trotted out in Super Bowl LVI, as it ranks 25th in total yards through three weeks. The Rams are at their best offensively when running the ball well, an area in which they’ve struggled early. Some of the lack of rushing production can be attributed to a decimated offensive line, with injuries to center Brian Allen (should return in October) and guards Tremayne Anchrum Jr. and Logan Bruss (both out for the season). 

Sean McVay must get more creative in the run game. We saw a glimpse of this in Week 3’s win over Arizona, with Cooper Kupp taking a jet sweep 20 yards to the end zone. Getting players outside of Darrell Henderson and Cam Akers involved in the ground attack will help create different blocking angles for an offensive line that’s struggling with consistency. 

I believe Akers started to turn the corner last time out, as he averaged more than 4 yards per carry in a game for the first time since before his Achilles injury. (He actually was north of 5.0 ypc, piling up 61 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.) He’s only going to get more comfortable with more touches, making him the guy who can really help turn this run game around.

Top 15 running backs

Former NFL rushing leader and NFL Network analyst Maurice Jones-Drew will survey all running backs and rank his top 15 each week of the 2022 season. His rankings are based on this season’s efforts alone. Here is MJD’s list heading into Week 4.

NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from last week’s rankings.

2022 stats: 3 games | 62 att | 341 rush yds | 5.5 ypc | 4 rush TD | 4 rec | 28 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

No change in the top spot this week, with Chubb continuing to prove his dominance on Thursday night. I mean, he amassed 113 rushing yards and a score against the division-rival Steelers. Someone better stop this man. It’s getting to be a little too easy.

2022 stats: 3 games | 53 att | 317 rush yds | 6.0 ypc | 2 rush TD | 13 rec | 91 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Barkley was a force in prime time, averaging 5.8 yards per carry against the Cowboys. The Giants’ offensive weapons have become so limited that Brian Daboll might want to think about giving Barkley the ball on every play. In fact, he should.

2022 stats: 3 games | 61 att | 286 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 1 rush TD | 8 rec | 43 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Taylor hasn’t been as flashy as he was in 2021, but he’s definitely been reliable. He earned most of his production in the first half vs. Kansas City, but provided a 13-yard gain on the Colts’ go-ahead touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, helping Indy get its first win of the season. The Colts must feature Taylor if the team wants to continue winning games.

2022 stats: 3 games | 49 att | 302 rush yds | 6.2 ypc | 2 rush TD | 4 rec | 28 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Patterson deserves more recognition. Bouncing back after a mediocre Week 2 outing, he averaged an out-of-this-world 8.3 yards per carry(!) against the ‘Hawks. The former wideout continues to prove his effectiveness as the primary back in a Falcons offense that is now ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing (156.7 ypg).

2022 stats: 3 games | 51 att | 230 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 3 rush TD | 6 rec | 33 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

No Jags bias here! Robinson deserves his steady climb up these rankings over the last few weeks. The third-year back had another spectacular highlight in Sunday’s road win: a fourth-down, 50-yard TD run. He’s quietly on pace to have his best season yet.

2022 stats: 3 games | 50 att | 243 rush yds | 4.9 ypc | 1 rush TD | 10 rec | 57 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

KEEP POUNDING! And by “pounding,” I mean giving McCaffrey the rock. He’s now posted back-to-back 100-yard rushing games, and the Panthers got their first win of the season. Crazy what happens when you keep giving your main weapon the ball.

2022 stats: 3 games | 45 att | 222 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 1 rush TD | 6 rec | 13 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Sanders didn’t get much opportunity in a 24-8 win over Washington, with the Eagles’ passing game dicing up the Commanders all game long. He averaged 3.1 yards per carry, which coincidentally is same figure the Jaguars’ defense is allowing on the season season (fourth-best in NFL). Sanders has been steady so far this season.

2022 stats: 3 games | 58 att | 163 rush yds | 2.8 ypc | 0 rush TD | 13 rec | 103 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

A steady decline in production over the past two weeks has him trending downward, but this week’s opponent — undefeated Miami — is allowing 5.0 yards per carry (T-27th in the NFL). Look for Mixon to get more involved in what could be a high-scoring affair Thursday night.

2022 stats: 3 games | 57 att | 227 rush yds | 4.0 ypc | 0 rush TD | 9 rec | 54 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

All of the injuries have the Bucs’ offense looking like a shell of what we’re used to seeing in the Tom Brady era. After averaging fewer than 3 yards per carry over the last two contests, Fournette needs a bounce-back game this week against the Chiefs.

2022 stats: 3 games | 54 att | 192 rush yds | 3.6 ypc | 2 rush TD | 5 rec | 58 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Henry enjoyed his best outing of 2022 against the Raiders in Week 3, with 143 total yards and a score in Tennessee’s first win of the season. In fact, he was thisclose to having two touchdowns, if only he wasn’t shoestring-tackled at the 1-yard line at the end of an impressive 24-yard run. All in all, King Henry is back on the rise.

2022 stats: 3 games | 43 att | 203 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 1 rush TD | 7 rec | 37 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

After a dud last week in Philadelphia, Cook had his best game of the season, rushing for 96 yards and a touchdown in Minnesota’s comeback win over Detroit. He only played three quarters, though, as he left the game after fumbling and suffering a shoulder injury on the same play. The good news is the Vikings are optimistic about him playing in London this week.

2022 stats: 3 games | 37 att | 176 rush yds | 4.76 ypc | 0 rush TD | 15 rec | 77 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

The Broncos’ offense is a mystery. Outside of wide receiver Courtland Sutton, Williams was Denver’s best offensive threat in an ugly game, leading the team with 58 rush yards. I’m looking for more consistency from all parties involved.

2022 stats: 3 games | 33 att | 240 rush yds | 7.3 ypc | 3 rush TD | 4 rec | 13 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

David Montgomery exited the game early due to injury, and yet, the Bears still continued to stick to the ground attack — an ideal situation for banged-up QB Justin Herbert. The lone-wolf addition to this week’s rankings rushed for 152 yards and two TDs and was the main offensive contributor to the Bears’ success.

2022 stats: 3 games | 27 att | 231 rush yds | 8.6 ypc | 1 rush TD | 8 rec | 77 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Down but not out. Swift has been highly productive this season, so I’m not ready to drop him from this list after one blah game. The Lions will likely be without him for a few weeks while he nurses a shoulder injury.

2022 stats: 3 games | 32 att | 217 rush yds | 6.8 ypc | 1 rush TD | 9 rec | 76 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

The Packers’ offense looked to be back on track in the first half, but disappeared over the final two quarters. Jones’ production suffered the same fate: The 27-year-old popped a 10-yard run on the team’s opening drive — his longest run of the game — before vanishing for the rest of the day.

DROPPED OUT: David Montgomery, Bears (previously No. 10).

Follow Maurice Jones-Drew on Twitter.

The Ground Index presented by FedEx ranks NFL running back performances all season long. Check out the weekly FedEx Air NFL Players of the Week and cast your vote after Sunday Night Football.

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