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    Chris Carson had only 10 touches in Week 1.

    Chris Carson had only 10 touches in Week 1.Harry How/Getty Images

    NFL backfield battles may start in the offseason, but many continue into and throughout the regular season. 

    Some committees have players in clear roles. For instance, James White of the New England Patriots and Theo Riddick of the Detroit Lions are the top pass-catchers in their respective backfields, but they usually don’t handle heavy workloads on the ground.

    From a fantasy football perspective, players like those are often easier to project on a weekly basis.

    It can be frustrating when teams obviously misuse running backs. Chris Carson looked great in Week 1, but the Seattle Seahawks split 14 carries evenly between him and Rashaad Penny. Carson turned his carries into 51 rushing yards, while Penny had only seven.

    Each week, we’ll monitor confusing backfields to look for changes and patterns in snaps and touches. Sometimes, matchups help to determine roles, while other situations are more about talent and skill set.

    To learn more about what’s going on in the backfields for the Tennessee Titans, Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos, check out the Week 2 B.S. Meter. This week’s Workload Watch covers eight other RB situations with the most fantasy implications.


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    Carlos Hyde is well out in front of Nick Chubb.

    Carlos Hyde is well out in front of Nick Chubb.Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Week 1 Workload Distribution

    Carlos Hyde: 52.8% snaps, 22 carries, 62 yards, 1 TD; 2 targets, 1 reception, 3 yards, 0 TD

    Duke Johnson: 46.1% snaps, 5 carries, 17 yards, 0 TD; 6 targets, 1 reception, 8 yards, 0 TD

    Nick Chubb: 4.5% snaps, 3 carries, 21 yards, 0 TD; 0 targets


    If you drafted Chubb to be a stash on your bench, you understood it could take some time for him to get involved. You also should have known he was far behind Hyde to open the season.

    Cleveland’s Week 1 contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers confirmed Chubb’s role in the offense. He’s clearly the backup to Hyde, while Johnson is the change-of-pace and passing-down back.

    Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh was within one score until Cleveland fell behind 21-7 on James Conner’s 22-yard TD run with 5:23 to go in the third quarter. The Browns cut the lead to 21-14 when Hyde scored from a yard out with 7:32 to go in regulation. By keeping the game within reach, the Browns were able to stick with Hyde and the rushing attack, which wasn’t always the case during their winless 2017 campaign.

    Johnson had a disappointing performance despite seeing his expected workload and nearly half the snaps. He was third on the team in targets behind Jarvis Landry (15) and David Njoku (6), but those targets might be in question going forward once Josh Gordon further works his way into the offense following only one target in Week 1.

    Coming out of Week 1, Hyde is in the low-to-mid-RB2 range, while Johnson is an RB3/flex option at best. Chubb is nothing more than a bench stash.

2 of 8

    The Lions would be wise to turn to Kerryon Johnson.

    The Lions would be wise to turn to Kerryon Johnson.Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

    Week 1 Workload Distribution

    Kerryon Johnson: 22.9% snaps, 5 carries, 17 yards, 0 TD; 3 targets, 3 receptions, 20 yards, 0 TD

    Theo Riddick: 58.6% snaps, 4 carries, 20 yards, 0 TD; 7 targets, 5 receptions, 15 yards, 0 TD

    LeGarrette Blount: 18.6% snaps, 4 carries, -3 yards; 0 TD, 0 targets

    Ameer Abdullah: Inactive

    Week 1 was forgettable for the entire Detroit Lions offense. Their 48-17 loss to the New York Jets was close game at the half, with the Lions trailing 17-10. After tying the game at 17 less than two minutes into the third quarter, the Lions proceeded to give up 31 unanswered points.

    Detroit’s running backs combined for only 34 yards on 13 carries, which seems a bit low since the blowout didn’t begin until the third quarter. Relying too much on the pass and showing no commitment to the run didn’t make much sense after the Lions brought in Blount and Johnson during the offseason.

    Blount left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury, but he was listed as a full participant in practice Wednesday, according to Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. Blount’s presence will be a hindrance on Johnson’s fantasy value until the Lions fully commit to the rookie. Until that happens, however, it’s tough to consider Johnson a fantasy-relevant option.

    Riddick might have the most immediate value of any Lions running back as an RB3/flex in PPR formats.

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    Don't worry about Jamaal Williams after Week 1.

    Don’t worry about Jamaal Williams after Week 1.Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Week 1 Workload Distribution

    Jamaal Williams: 61.7% snaps, 15 carries, 47 yards, 0 TD; 2 targets, 0 receptions

    Ty Montgomery: 38.3% snaps, 2 carries, 7 yards, 0 TD; 3 targets, 2 receptions, 21 yards, 0 TD

    Aaron Jones: Suspended

    With Jones suspended for the first two games of the season, Williams opened the season as Green Bay’s lead RB. If he plays well enough, he should be able to stay on top of the depth chart when Jones returns.

    Either way, it’s hard to take away much from the Packers’ Week 1 win over the Chicago Bears.

    Aaron Rodgers left the game with 9:22 remaining in the first half due to a knee injury. At the time, the Packers trailed 10-0. Two drives later, Khalil Mack picked off DeShone Kizer and took it back 27 yards for a score to put the Packers down 17-0 with 39 seconds remaining in the half. At that point, Williams had only eight carries for 27 yards. 

    Rogers was able to return for the second half to lead the Packers to 24 points on four straight possessions. Of Williams final seven carries, three came on the final drive with the Packers attempting to milk the clock in the final minute. His numbers weren’t good by the end of the comeback victory, but it wasn’t a typical game.

    The Packers trailed for nearly the entire game and had to play with their backup quarterback for almost a full quarter. Plus, Rodgers had to throw them back into a game in which they trailed 20-0 in the third quarter. None of that was helpful to Williams’ cause, which explains his lack of production. 

    Despite the score, the Packers didn’t use Montgomery much at all, as he’s a liability in pass protection. Williams is far superior in that regard, which was important with Rodgers playing through his knee injury in the second half.

    That pass protection could be a major key in keeping Williams on the field all season. He should remain a solid RB3 with RB2 upside, although that would take a hit if Rodgers can’t play.

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    Jordan Wilkins led the way for the Colts in Week 1.

    Jordan Wilkins led the way for the Colts in Week 1.AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Week 1 Workload Distribution

    Jordan Wilkins: 56.1% snaps, 14 carries, 40 yards, 0 TD; 3 targets, 3 receptions, 21 yards, 0 TD

    Nyheim Hines: 45.1% snaps, 5 carries, 19 yards, 0 TD; 9 targets, 7 receptions, 33 yards, 0 TD

    Christine Michael: 3.7% snaps, 2 carries, 9 yards, 0 TD; 0 targets

    Marlon Mack: Inactive

    Mack missed the opener due to a hamstring injury he suffered during the preseason, which left a pair of rookies to lead the way for the Colts in Week 1. 

    Not surprisingly, Wilkins led the way on the ground and in the snap count. However, he wasn’t particularly impressive other than a 12-yard run, his longest of the day. Wilkins helped his cause with his role in the passing game, but he still wound up with only 9.1 fantasy points in total.

    Hines, who had issues with ball security throughout August, was an active part of the passing attack, although his average of 4.7 yards per catch was a disappointment. Considering his fumbling problems, Hines winding up with five carries was somewhat of an upset. He didn’t put the ball on the ground, but he also wasn’t particularly effective. 

    According to Kevin Bowen of 1070 The Fan, Mack remained limited in practice Wednesday, so his status remains up in the air heading into the team’s Week 2 game against the Washington Redskins. This is a backfield to avoid, and it could remain that way for a while. It isn’t imperative to roster any of the Colts running backs.

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    Isaiah Crowell was the model of efficiency against the Lions.

    Isaiah Crowell was the model of efficiency against the Lions.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Week 1 Workload Distribution

    Isaiah Crowell: 40% snaps, 10 carries, 102 yards, 2 TDs, 0 targets

    Bilal Powell: 40% snaps, 12 carries, 60 yards, 0 TD; 2 targets, 1 reception, 5 yards, 0 TD

    Trenton Cannon: 20% snaps, 6 carries, 15 yards, 0 TD; 1 target, 1 reception, 6 yards, 0 TD

    A 31-point victory would typically including a healthy dose of the rushing attack to salt the clock away in the second half. However, the Jets scored 31 of their 48 points in the second half, including only two offensive TDs, so the backfield wasn’t that busy.

    Crowell made the most of his 10 touches by finding the end zone on runs of six and 62 yards, the latter of which came with 54 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Outside of his long TD run, Crowell averaged 4.4 yards per carry on his other nine carries, so he was performing well even before his big score.

    Powell has been an unsung hero for the Jets in recent years, but he always seems to come into the season as a complementary piece of the offense. It was encouraging to see him lead the team in carries and split snaps with Crowell. That could give both players RB3/flex value on a regular basis. All of Cannon’s touches came on the final drive of the game, so he wasn’t a factor. 

    We should get a better idea of how this backfield will shake out under normal circumstances when the Jets host the Miami Dolphins this weekend.

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    James White remains the top receiver in New England's backfield.

    James White remains the top receiver in New England’s backfield.Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Week 1 Workload Distribution

    Rex Burkhead: 50.7% snaps, 18 carries, 64 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 1 reception, 5 yards, 0 TD

    James White: 48.0% snaps, 5 carries, 18 yards, 0 TD, 9 targets, 4 receptions, 38 yards, 1 TD

    Jeremy Hill: 16.0% snaps, 4 carries, 25 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 6 yards, 0 TD

    Sony Michel: Inactive

    Before the beginning of training camp, New England’s backfield was crowded but healthy. As we enter Week 2, it is neither. 

    Sony Michel missed the entire preseason with a knee injury and sat out Week 1. After a solid start against the Houston Texans, Jeremy Hill left the game with what turned out to be a torn ACL, so his season is already over. Burkhead appeared to come out of Week 1 unscathed, but he was in the concussion protocol as of Wednesday, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. Michael remained limited in practice. 

    That leaves White as the only healthy Patriots RB who touched the ball in Week 1.

    New England could add Kenneth Farrow or use special-teamer Kenjon Barner if Burkhead and/or Michel is unavailable. Either way, White’s role as a receiver could be massive in Week 2, especially if the Jacksonville Jaguars secondary slows down the Patriots WRs and Rob Gronkowski.

    This backfield has already become a week-to-week situation. When Michel is ready, he should have a significant role, but it’s up to the coaching staff to decide when that will happen. Burkhead is usually on the RB2/RB3 borderline when healthy. White is a reliable RB3/flex with RB2 potential in any given week, especially this weekend in Jacksonville.

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    Jay AJayi's slow start turned into a productive night.

    Jay AJayi’s slow start turned into a productive night.Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Week 1 Workload Distribution

    Jay Ajayi: 40.3% snaps, 15 carries, 62 yards, 2 TDs; 0 targets

    Corey Clement: 18.1% snaps, 5 carries, 26 yards, 0 TD; 0 targets

    Darren Sproles: 40.3% snaps, 5 carries, 10 yards, 0 TD; 7 targets, 4 receptions, 22 yards, 0 TD

    Wendell Smallwood: 1.4% snaps, 0 carries, 0 targets

    If Ajayi was in your lineup in Week 1, his role likely produced a roller coaster of emotions. 

    Ajayi came into the game with a foot injury, but the Eagles removed him from the final injury report after a full week of practice. Based on that move, it was fair to expect a healthy workload for him in the opener. 

    The Eagles tried to play it safe early with Ajayi, as he logged one snap in the first two series. He got on the field for 28 more snaps the rest of the way, so he didn’t have a big touch or snap count on the night. However, Ajayi looked great when he got his chances, and a pair of scores counteracted his somewhat diminished opportunities.

    “Jay was nursing a little bit of a lower-body [foot] injury for a couple weeks, and I just wanted to make sure he as good and get him into the flow of the game,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said afterward, according to Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com. “… He was the featured back in the second half. He did a nice job. It was encouraging to see not only going forward, but his health coming off the game was good. Moving forward, we’ll see him more.” 

    Those comments from Pederson were encouraging for those wondering why Ajayi wasn’t featured more. The Eagles already have enough injuries to deal with, so playing it safe early in the season with Ajayi makes sense so long as the team actually commits to giving him a bigger workload down the line. 

    Sproles showed no ill effects from the torn ACL he suffered three games into the 2017 season, although it was somewhat surprising to see him play a significantly bigger role than Clement. For the time being, that makes it tough to use anyone but Ajayi from this backfield. He’s a solid RB2.

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    Chris Carson deserves a bigger workload.

    Chris Carson deserves a bigger workload.Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Week 1 Workload Distribution

    Chris Carson: 43.9% snaps, 7 carries, 51 yards, 0 TD; 5 targets, 3 receptions, 28 yards, 0 TD

    Rashaad Penny: 43.9% snaps, 7 carries, 8 yards, 0 TD; 5 targets, 4 receptions, 35 yards, 0 TD

    When Penny missed the preseason with a broken finger, Carson tightened his grip on the starting role for the Seattle Seahawks entering the regular season. If you expected Penny to be eased into the offense following his time on the sideline, you weren’t alone, but the Seahawks coaching staff didn’t share that strategy.

    In a major surprise, Penny split snaps, carries and targets evenly with Carson in the opener even though the latter clearly looked like the better back before, during and after Week 1. Penny may have been productive as a receiver, but he wasn’t close to Carson as a runner.

    If the Seahawks want to keep Penny involved in the passing game with Doug Baldwin (knee) sidelined, it makes some sense. Then again, Carson has proved he can handle any role the Seahawks throw at him. 

    Head coach Pete Carroll isn’t exactly forthright when it comes to discussing his players’ injuries and roles, but he confirmed what we all saw when he said Carson “really took the lead at the position” in Week 1, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. He also said Penny “looked a little rusty,” which was obvious. 

    The Seahawks need to get more out of their rushing attack, and Carson needs to be the one leading the way, with Penny in more of a complementary role. Until the Seahawks follow through with Carson as the clear lead back, he’s an RB3/flex, while Penny is only a bench player.

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