There are new things for the Jets fans to get excited about. And they’re so good (and new) that they should probably be feeling as suspicious as they are excited. There’s a new quarterback, in fact they’ve replaced one aloof, braggadocious signal calling for a more experienced but equally aloof and braggadocious one.
Aaron Rodgers left Green Bay partly because they refused to use a first-round draft pick on a receiver. Two of their most dynamic weapons were both running backs, which complicated matters. Hs departure was also partly because his favourite offensive coordinator left in 2022 to become the head coach in Denver (but that’s another story entirely). Rodgers said of Hackett, “I love him like a brother, and I believe in him, and I’m happy to be back working with him”. So, there’ll be no histrionics on the sideline if the offence looks a bit clunky then Aaron?
That’s one problem solved then. But the arrival of another newbie this week leads the Jets down the path that’s all too familiar for Rodgers. Dalvin Cook signing a 1-year deal worth up to $8.6 million means there are now three starting running backs on the Jets roster. Even the New York Post said Cook is probably a luxury more than a necessity.
Michael Carter was drafted in 2021. He averages 4.9 yards per touch after starting 21 games. Breece Hall looked the real deal in his rookie season in 2022 too. He averaged 6.9 yards per touch in the seven games he played before he became a victim of the MetLife turf. That turf was re-laid in the offseason, so the Jets and the Giants (and the 49ers who lost four players last time they visited New Jersey) can all breathe a sigh of relief.
King of The Mountain
Cook himself averages 5.2 yards per touch across his six-year career in Minnesota. He’s started 72 games, so you’d expect him to have a slightly lower average. The Vikings weren’t always competitive during Cook’s tenure either. Three of the six seasons ended with losing records.
Captain Crash & The Beauty Queen From Mars
But there are also four other running backs currently on the Jets roster. Zonovan Knight saw some game time as a rookie in 2022, starting four games. He averaged 4.1 yards per touch and played on 9% of the special teams’ snaps. Damarea Crockett followed Hackett from Denver where he only played 5 of the Broncos snaps on offence last year. Crockett featured on 61% on the special teams’ snaps in Colorado though. Travis Dye is also on the roster, signed as an undrafted free agent out of USC. The Jets drafted Israel Abanikanda in the fifth round this year and the 20-year-old carried 12 times for 56 yards in their preseason opener. He also caught all three of his targets for 31 yards. So, there wasn’t exactly a huge talent vacuum in the Jets backfield to begin with.
Keep The Faith
According to Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders successful rushing attacks feature “great running backs who were heavily relied on”. He also highlights four-man groups of quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and head coaches who had been together for an average of 4.9 seasons before they won a Super Bowl. Signing Cook to a one-year deal makes sense financially, but in terms of improving the team’s Super Bowl chances it doesn’t really move the needle. In no small part because in the three playoff games he played as a Viking he only averaged 3.4 yards per touch.
After a disastrous 2022 season where 13 players ended up on the Injured Reserve list it’s understandable the Jets would want to stock up on talented players, but the problem isn’t in the backfield. In a division with Matt Judon, Von Miller and Bradley Chubb that $8.6 million would be more wisely invested in some offensive line depth. After Alijah Vera-Tucker got injured in 2022 the Jets only won two games. While he was healthy, they only lost two.
Living on a Prayer
Having Dalvin Cook to mentor their young running backs may well pay off in the long term, but if he is the Jets bell cow this year it may also stall everyone’s progress on the field. And exactly how much are the youngsters going to learn from someone who is learning a new offense alongside them?