The brutal slate of Week Two games took a toll on many backfields, but none were hit harder than the New York Giants, who lost superstar RB Saquon Barkley to a torn ACL. On Tuesday, the Giants placed Barkley on the injured reserve list and did what several teams before them failed to do this season, come to terms with veteran RB Devonta Freeman. The former Falcon inked a deal that could pay him up to $3 million this season. Freeman now joins RBs Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman, both of whom are more suited to be pass-catching backs. That makes Freeman the favorite to lead the Giants in rushing this season, though, given the overall struggles of the Giants’ offense through two games, that may not offer much upside to fantasy managers. Expect Lewis to see the bulk of the work this week as Freeman goes through COVID testing and then must learn a new offense on the fly, but the latter should take over this backfield in the near future.
The Giants aren’t the only team whose backfield situation changed as of Week Two.
While not quite as serious as Barkley’s injury, RB Christian McCaffrey is also expected to miss some time, as much as six weeks, with a high ankle sprain. McCaffrey suffered the injury late in Sunday’s game so it is somewhat unclear how the Panthers will handle the backfield in his absence, though veteran RB Mike Davis is the next man up. Davis matched career-highs with eight receptions on eight targets on Sunday and figures to be a flex-worthy option in PPR leagues. Trenton Cannon is the current RB3 but hasn’t had a carry since 2018. McCaffrey’s top backup last year was RB Reggie Bonnafon, who is currently on the Panthers’ practice squad and could be added to the active roster.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have already been hit hard with injuries as they try to defend their NFC crown and things got even worse in Week Two. In addition to QB Jimmy Garoppolo and a pair of defensive stars, Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas going down to injury, the Niners also lost a pair of running backs. Both Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman suffered injuries that sent them out of the game and has their short-term future in doubt. Both will certainly miss Week Three while Coleman is expected to be out “multiple weeks.” As they did last week, San Fran will turn to RB Jerick McKinnon, finally healthy after two missed seasons. McKinnon has already produced a pair of RB2 games in the first two weeks of the season and should see the majority of the work this week. Red-zone specialist RB Jeff Wilson should also expect his usage to increase while rookie RB JaMycal Hasty could be added from the practice squad. The team also worked out free agent RB Paul Perkins, among others.
Los Angeles Rams
Like the 49ers, the Rams also lost a pair of running backs in Week Two as rookie Cam Akers left early with a rib injury and veteran RB Malcolm Brown hurt his finger. That left RB Darrell Henderson, who the Rams coaching staff reportedly wanted on the field more, with the backfield to himself. Henderson responded with an impressive all-around performance, totaling 121 yards on 14 touches. Fortunately for the Rams, neither Brown nor Akers’ injury is considered serious and both could play this week. Henderson may have earned a larger role in the offense moving forward, even when all are fully healthy.
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We knew the Colts’ backfield would look different following the Week One loss of RB Marlon Mack, who will miss the remainder of the season. After Mack left the game, rookie RB Jonathan Taylor and RB Nyheim Hines shared the work almost equally. Taylor is clearly the more talented runner while Hines has flashed as a pass-catcher throughout his career. All of that made what happened Sunday an even bigger surprise as Hines hardly saw the field and Taylor dominated the work. The rookie had 28 touches for 110 yards and now looks like a top-five fantasy option moving forward. Hines even fell behind RB Jordan Wilkins based on snaps and touches, though he could still see a role moving forward.
New York Jets
This is hardly even fantasy football relevant, but the Jets dealt with some backfield changes in Week Two as well. Starting RB Le’Veon Bell landed on the injured reserve list with a hamstring injury. That left veteran RB Frank Gore to start and he rushed 21 times for 63 yards against the team that drafted him, San Francisco. Rookie RB Lamical Perine saw the first work of his career and RBs Josh Adams and Kalen Ballage saw minimal playing time as well. Obviously, this is a situation for fantasy players to avoid.
Washington Football Team
Washington was the one team on this list not dealing with a backfield injury. Instead, we witnessed the next step in the long-term plan. The pre-season release of veteran RB Adrian Peterson signaled that Washington was ready to roll with versatile rookie RB Antonio Gibson as their lead back. That plan didn’t go well in Week One and veteran RB Peyton Barber took over and scored a pair of touchdowns. In Week Two, Barber had just one carry while Gibson scored his first career touchdown. There is still plenty of room for Gibson to grow as he managed 52 total yards on 14 touches, but it is now clear that he will get that opportunity to play through the growing pains.