Cash In Carries 2021 – New York Jets edition
The second of the Cash in Carries series moves to the green side of New York – we’re looking at the Jets.
EJECTING THE RUNNERS
After a miserable season, the AFC East team said goodbye to Adam Gase. In turn, they brought in Robert Saleh as their new head coach. And a new boss normally means big changes.
The overhaul began rather quickly. Quarterback Sam Darnold was traded to the Carolina Panthers. Contracts were allowed to expire in many positions. And, much like their city’s blue counterparts, the Jets released most of their Running Back committee after the 2020 season.
This included 2019’s RB1 Le’Veon Bell. After seeing 245 carries in 2019, it was expected that Bell would be the rushing offense’s workhorse. Nevertheless, the Running Back saw a huge drop in carries, seeing only 19 carries in 2020. After such a disappointing year, the cut came as no surprise.
NO MORE GORE
The cuts also included long-standing rush behemoth Frank Gore. Gore usurped Bell as the team’s RB1 for 2020. His 187 carries was enough for 46% of the team’s total that year. Many fans were surprised that Gore was given the nod, but it helped the veteran add to his ever-expanding rushing yards total.
However, Frank will have to find another team to strengthen that position as the third all-time rushing yards leader.
Previously mentioned Sam Darnold also takes 37 carries (9.11%) with him – although 26 of them were actually classed as scrambles by PFF.com.
Other departing players include journeyman Kalen Ballage (3 carries – 0.74%), Breshaad Perriman (1 carry – 0.25%) and Joe Flacco (6 carries – 1.48%)
Altogether, players responsible for 62.32% of the Jets’ carries no longer play for the team.
WHO GETS THE JETS BOOST?
A huge personnel changeover means somebody needs to step up. But is there anybody left from last year’s roster who can do that?
In cutting Frank Gore, the Jets bid farewell to last year’s primary ball carrier. But how many people know that the players with the second and third-highest 2020 rush attempts are still on-roster?
La’Mical Perine (who saw 64 carries – 15.76%) and Ty Johnson (54 carries – 13.3%) were used alongside Gore last year. Perine was a fourth-round draft pick that year, while Johnson signed in October after his waiver by the Lions. Both saw decent carry amounts, but the circumstances make Johnson stand out more than Perine.
In games where Johnson saw a significant amount of carries, it was at the expense of Gore. One key example of this was the 31-28 defeat against the Raiders. There, Johnson picked up 104 yards and a touchdown off 22 carries. This was a game that the Jets tried their hardest not to win, culminating in that fabled ‘Cover 0’ call.
He was also efficient in games where opportunities were few. He made over 5 YPC against strong Rams and Browns defences.
His pass catching availability, where he has seen low but consistent involvement, could also help here. Having Johnson on the field could signal a passing play, with defences setting up to suit. This in turn could present opportunity for Johnson to get carries on those expected passing plays.
Furthermore, the other players in the Running Back room do not present as iron-clad starters. So this lack of clarity could give Robert Salah and his team a chance to try combinations of players. And this could give Johnson an early-season chance to get a key role.
You are forgiven for forgetting Josh Adams when listing Jets Running Backs. After all, his 2020 involvement came primarily in the last few games of the season. Before December, his stats accounted for just two targets, four carries…and a touchdown.
But 74 yards against the Raiders was a turning point. And decent output against the the Seahawks and Patriots helped Adams end the season on a high. It was a far more productive season than his 2019 stat-line: 8 attempts for 12 yards.
But it was nowhere near his 2018 production.
That season, Adams was an UDFA playing for the Eagles. Injuries to the majority of Philly’s Running Back room thrust Adams into an important offensive role. The Notre Dame rookie ended the season with 120 carries for 510 yards and three touchdowns. Sprinkled into the stat-line were some impressive numbers. Several carries of over 20 yards. 7.6YPC and a touchdown against a normally sturdy Saints defence.
That 2020 end-of-season form harked back to Adams’ rookie season. Could that be the springboard that Adams needs to re-establish himself as an offensive piece?
With the Jets backfield devoid of a locked-in starter, there may be chance for him to stake a claim.
Naturally, there is always hype about the rookies jetting onto the roster. So which ones are likely to enter the carries conversation?
First on this list has to be the marquee signing for the Jets. Zach Wilson enters this team with the potential to revitalise this offense. His dramatically improved 2020 BYU passing stats pushed him into the first-round picks. Coupled with the steady offensive line investment, the circumstances likely make Wilson an instant impact player.
But this 2020 production surge didn’t stop at just the passing. Wilson’s rushing saw a burst of potency in his final college season. This included 10 redzone rushing touchdowns – three of which came from further than 10 yards out. In addition, severe upticks in carries, yards and YPC entered the rookie into the dual-threat conversation.
This kind of rushing production is something that the Jets need from its Quarterback. According to PFF.com, designed runs for Sam Darnold in 2020 (11 carries) accumulated in…8 yards. On the flip side, his 26 scrambles led to 209 additional yards and two touchdowns.
2018 is more of the same. Darnold’s total from designed runs the year before? -3 YARDS. Clearly there was a void that needed filling here. And Wilson is the ideal player to do just that.
If the Jets craft some designed plays for the rookie, they could prove to be very effective. Especially when it comes to scoring touches in the redzone.
You see, rushing production is not just an issue for the Jets at Quarterback, but across the board. The Jets ended up only 9 rushing touchdowns in the 2020 season – joint-last with the Jaguars.
Wilson is offering a potential fix at Quarterback. And he’s sitting at QB25 in many SF rankings. So it’s likely he could offer huge upside as a team’s QB3.
And another rookie could give the answers in the Running Back room…
You knew it was coming. I filmed a Youtube video about Carter’s college production. And it was clear that this man possessed qualities that would fit in at the NFL.
The former Tar Heel formed a fantastic partnership with Javonte Williams during the 2020 season. The duo were the one-two punch that propelled North Carolina to the playoffs for the first time in many years. Both ended up with a similar amount of carries, but other stats varied. Carter got 9 touchdowns compared to 19 for Williams, but he saw more yards and a better YPC.
The circumstances of their touchdowns also differed. Williams scored 14 of his 19 touchdowns from within the opponents’ 10 yard line. On the other hand, only one of Carter’s 9 touchdowns came from that same area. The other 8 came from varying distances. The longest was 65 yards, and the shortest was 12 yards. Their average length? 29 yards.
Certainly, touchdown runs of that average length were lacking at the Jets last season, let alone those of 65 yards. When measuring those 9 Jets rushing touchdowns, 8 of them came from within the 5 yard line. 4 of them were scored from the 1 yard line. That leaves only Sam Darnold’s 46 yard scramble outside of that range.
Drafting Carter means that the Jets have a player who can offer a viable rushing threat from a greater distance. This showed in his college tape, where his elusiveness allowed him to evade and outpace oncoming defenders. He was also able to use blocking defenders to get those extra yards and first downs.
Plus, with Zach Wilson offering another rushing option, this could help Carter lose coverage to make these big runs. It could be particularly effective in redzone areas, where Wilson presents an even greater scoring threat.
Carter is currently an RB4 in many league formats at the moment. Which is understandable considering how murky this backfield is. And he may not be the tallest or heaviest player in the position.
But neither is Austin Ekeler.
Almost identical to height and weight to Carter, Ekeler has used his skill set to fill a void left behind by Melvin Gordon. That agility is what makes him highly-thought of. It helped him break the committee approach, defy a weak offensive line, and become the lead back at the Chargers.
This could mirror Carter’s situation at the Jets. Could an agile and elusive player fill the void left by Frank Gore? Could he break the committee situation, and defy a weaker offensive line to become the lead back? With training camps just around the corner, we could get answers very soon.
Join me next time for the final Cash in Carries.
There, we visit a team who are in the middle of a lot of changes.