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How Should Jets Divide Up RB Carries In 2022?

  • Justin Melo
  • June 22, 2022
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The New York Jets have been impressed with rookie running back Breece Hall thus far. By all accounts, Hall is quickly establishing himself as New York’s lead ball-carrier. Jets Head Coach Robert Saleh and Offensive Coordinator Mike LaFleur must figure out a balance that includes sophomore running back Michael Carter, but the Jets appear headed toward a two-back committee that features Hall on a more consistent basis. Look for the workload between Hall and Carter to be divided 60-40 in Hall’s favor, with Hall dominating carries and Carter picking up additional work via the passing game.

Jets General Manager Joe Douglas potentially envisioned such an outcome in New York’s backfield philosophy dating back to last season. Carter’s midseason breakout coincided with a particular shift in his usage. Carter went from a run-first running back who curiously rarely ran passing routes throughout his first five appearances as a Jet to the main passing-down back in New York. Over his final 10 games in 2021, Carter hauled in 30 receptions on 44 targets. After all, the 5-foot-8 running back has always possessed a skill set that is better utilized on obvious passing downs.

The Jets’ behavior doesn’t suggest they believe Carter can be a true three-down bell-cow, or at least they don’t expect him to be in their offense. If Douglas viewed Carter as an every-down player, he wouldn’t have used a premium second-round selection on Hall just one year after drafting Carter with a fourth-round selection. Furthermore, the Jets executed a draft-day trade-up with the Giants in order to select Hall. It insinuates Carter is more of a complementary player than he is star-of-the-show, and we expect New York’s backfield usage to be treated accordingly.

Finding the correct balance is key to making such a backfield tandem work and the Jets believe they’ve discovered the ideal pairing to strike the desired chord. Hall enjoyed an illustrious collegiate career at Iowa State but thriving as a pass-catcher wasn’t his calling card. Hall secured just 82 receptions in three seasons at Iowa State, and those numbers were boosted by a clear focus to involve him more frequently throughout his ever-important senior season (Hall recorded a career-high 36 receptions in 2021 after barely crossing the 20 reception mark in back-to-back seasons in 2019-20). Tape study indicated the Cyclones often asked Hall to run simple swing routes that limited his usage to being more of a check-down option as opposed to a dynamic route-runner and pass-catcher.

Despite the nature of today’s pass-happy league, Hall’s unreliability as a pass-catcher didn’t prevent the Jets from drafting him with the No. 36 overall selection, largely because Carter is expected to retain his role as their lead backfield pass-catcher. The opposite is true as a rusher. 

Hall’s passing game deficiencies are overlooked because his explosive abilities as a runner threatens a house call on a snap-by-snap basis. Hall amassed nearly 4,000 rushing yards in three seasons and entered the draft as one of the more decorated running back prospects in recent memory. As a ball carrier, Hall possesses the vision to sift through the clutter at the line of scrimmage while knifing his way through the second level of defenses. Hall thrived in Iowa State’s zone running scheme. He’ll encounter a similar system in East Rutherford. It represents the ideal situation for Hall, who should manage to hit the ground running in LaFleur’s familiar scheme.

When paired together, Hall and Carter possess just opposite enough skill sets that should perfectly complement each other while forming a dangerous duo. The undersized Carter is ill-equipped to consistently run between the tackles on first and second down, and Hall won’t be Saleh’s first-choice third-down back. The situation should see Hall lead the Jets in backfield touches despite his rookie designation, with plenty of room for Carter to leave a noticeable impact via the passing game and third-down situational football.

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Justin Melo