The New York Giants backfield:
The G-Men have a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback in Eli Manning, a top-five receiver in Odell Beckham Jr., and a lot of money and draft picks invested on the defensive side of the ball, but the success, or failure, of the Giants this season will be determined by its run game. Starter Rashad Jennings finished 2015 strong rushing for 432 yards in the final four games of the season, but what happened during the first 12? Back-up Andre Williams is the typical “looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane” athlete as he has the physical makeup to be successful but has yet to produce on the field and depth guys Shane Vareen and Bobby Rainey are both one-dimensional and add only minimal value. As a team the Giants rushed for a combined 1,609 yards but only had five total touchdowns; In order for new head coach Bob McAdoo to be successful, that number needs to be closer to 2,000 yards and 12+ touchdowns in 2016.
Ronnie Hillman/CJ Anderson- Denver Broncos:
Until the Broncos can find stability at quarterback, the burden will be on every other unit to pick up the slack – specifically the running backs. The duo of Hillman and Anderson combined for 1,583 yards in 2015 which allowed for head coach Gary Kubiak to not have to put all the pressure on his aging quarterback to win games… and it worked. Peyton is gone but the expectations remain for this combo as there is uncertainty on whether new quarterback Mark Sanchez can keep the Broncos in the upper-tier of the NFL. Hillman led the team in yards, carries, and touchdowns and is the big-play threat but Anderson could see an uptick in his carries as the Broncos may need to grind out more games.They will also have help in rookie Devontae Booker of Utah, who is already stealing first-team reps from Hillman
Le’Veon Bell- Pittsburgh Steelers:
When he is on the field Bell is the entire package as a running back. Unfortunately, in 2015 he was not there as much due to a marijuana suspension and an MCL injury. Fully healed, Steelers fans were excited to see what Bell could do in a full season, but this off-season he was once again suspended for violating the NFL Substance Abuse policy. He is currently appealing the suspension and even if the suspension is overturned, or reduced, this is a key year for Bell. The Steelers are a different team with him on the field and while backup D’Angelo Williams stepped in admirably last season if Pittsburgh wants to make the AFC Championship in 2016, Bell needs to regain his 2014 production of 1,361 rushing yards and 83 receptions. Time to heal up and grow up Mr. Bell.
Ezekiel Elliott- Dallas Cowboys:
The former Ohio State running back was very productive — 1,821 yards, 23 touchdowns — his last season in Columbus but he still has a lot of questions to answer as a rookie? Can he run out of the I-formation? How much did he benefit from having a mobile quarterback? Is he another read-option running back that struggles on the next level? Can he break enough tackles to be effective? He could very well finish the year with 1,000 yards rushing and eight touchdowns but for a team that has a fragile quarterback and a questionable defense, he has to have the right answers to those questions or it could be a long season in Jerry World.