Toby Gerhart played behind a workhorse running back in Minnesota.
His name? Adrian Peterson.
As a backup, the Stanford grad had a hard time getting on the field. When Peterson was injured, Gerhart showed that tough, gritty style that made him a Heisman runner-up and a second-round draft pick.
Now, as a newly-acquired free agent by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Gerhart replaces a workhorse running back in Maurice Jones-Drew. As a player who knows what it is like to play behind an NFL rushing champion, ironically, he will replace one as well. This is Gerhart’s time to shine – in a place where a superstar and face of the franchise is needed.
Gerhart, who follows Tommy Vardell – a tough, hard-nosed runner from the Cardinal past, into an NFL starting lineup with a potential small chip on his shoulder, must lead by example. The fact is, not only are there questions on whether Gerhart can shoulder the load as a lead runner, but was he the best possible pick for a team that needs an offense to match the potential juggernaut of a defense?
Now, the running back has signed with the Jaguars and is in line for heavy use. Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley said that he thinks 18 carries a game is “feasible” for Gerhart and Gerhart thinks he’s in perfect position to capitalize on that workload after such sparing use with the Vikings.
“I had the skill set to be a starter from the onset, but I was playing behind one of the best in the game,” Gerhart said, via the Florida Times-Union. “I’ve gotten comfortable with the speed of the game, but don’t have the wear and tear on my body of someone carrying it 250 times a year. I think I’m in a unique situation. Even though it’s my fifth year in the league, I can come in and be a dominant guy. I’m ready for my shot now.”
Gerhart will be used in Jedd Fisch’s offense not only as a runner between the tackles, but as a receiver as well. While the thought of “MJD” and his 8,000-plus yard are going west to play in Oakland to finish off his career, the seldom used Gerhart is fresh and ready to lead.
The Jaguars have not had a 1,000-yard rusher on the team since Jones-Drew led the NFL in rushing with 1,606 yards in 2011.
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