When an NFL team drafts a rookie quarterback, it immediately draws attention to the weapons around him. The first two questions become who he is throwing to, and who is blocking for him. For New York Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, he has a solid group of targets and blockers.
However, one of the most important factors in a rookie quarterback’s success is the team’s ability to run the football. In order for Wilson to settle into games, the Jets needs to be able to establish a run game to open up the passing game. Without it, the Jets offense is going to have a very long season.
That being said, the New York Jets must do a better job in the ground game in order for Wilson and the rest of the team’s offense to execute.
Fixing the Ground Game is the Key to New York Jets 2021 Season
Lackluster Rushing Attack Through Two Weeks
During the Adam Gase era, the inability to rush the football was a major talking point amongst the fan base. Players like Le’Veon Bell, Frank Gore, Bilal Powell, and more all saw some of the worst numbers of their careers under Gase. Yet, compared to the 2021 group, they were better.
While it is surprising, it is true. Currently, the Jets ground game ranks 21st with 98.5 total yards per game, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Whereas last season, Gore, La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, and Josh Adams carried the unit to 105.2 rushing yards per game with a 4.1 average.
Again, by no means were the Gase backfields far and away better. Nevertheless, the limited improvement from the Jets abysmal run game a year ago is concerning. Especially considering the Jets need a good ground game more than ever.
Current Makeup of the Jets Backfield
Coming over from the San Francisco 49ers, it was known that offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur would deploy a similar committee backfield to 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan. With the committee backfield, the Jets would rotate running backs based on what is needed. Whether it be a power back, pass blocker, change of pace, or one cut rusher.
That being said, it came as no surprise when the Jets made no major additions to the position. Joining La’Mical Perine and Ty Johnson are veteran Tevin Coleman and fourth-round pick Michael Carter. Therefore, giving the Jets the four-headed committee backfield they needed.
Through two weeks, Michael Carter has been the most productive. Despite playing 36% of snaps, Carter has 108 yards from scrimmage on 18 touches, with 4.3 yards per carry. Trailing him is Ty Johnson, who on 17 touches has 76 yards from scrimmage on 49% of snaps. Then comes Tevin Coleman, who on 17% of snaps has had little work for him, averaging 3.4 yards per carry without a reception. Meanwhile, Perine has yet to appear in a game.
Clearly, the New York Jets need more production out of their running backs. Over their first two games, it has been average at best. And in order for Wilson to succeed, he needs to have a run game that can take pressure off of him. Something they sorely lack in at the moment.
Offensive Line is Not in the Clear
Listen, the loss of Mekhi Becton for the next few weeks is going to sting. That’s just what happens when a budding star 6’7” and 360-pound left tackle gets hurt. Thus, leaving all eyes on the tackle combination of Morgan Moses and George Fant.
Neither has been bad, as a matter of fact, both rank 17th and 29th respectively among the 70 qualified tackles according to Pro Football Focus. Along the interior, first-round pick Alijah Vera Tucker has an 80.4 grade on the ground, and center Connor McGovern has held his own too. Nonetheless, the Jets still find themselves with room to improve. Especially given the unknown timeline of Becton’s injury.
There are 15 weeks remaining in the New York Jets 2021 season. Meaning there is plenty of time to establish a quality run game to back Zach Wilson. Even so, should the Jets run game never pick up, it would mean the Jets did not give Wilson a proper ground game as a rookie.
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