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Michael Carter is becoming the New York Jets’ most consistent offensive weapon

As this supposedly hopeful iteration of the New York Jets‘ perpetual rebuild struggles with expectations, the team can apparently work with the fact that one of its long-term projects appears to be ahead of schedule.

Though the Jets (1-4) continue to push the idea that their rushing set-up is a fluid, by-committee situation, there’s no denying the separation Michael Carter was able to create in Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

Though Carter’s compatriots Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson each continue to contribute, the rookie led New York skill players with 58 yards on a dozen touches in the 27-20 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.

In an afternoon of universal green struggles – the stalwart defense failed to contain Atlanta’s Calvin Ridley-free attack and Zach Wilson couldn’t build on the momentum established from the win over Tennessee – Carter was perhaps the Jets’ most consistent and reliable overseas contributor. His difference-making was especially clear on first down.

The Jets’ offensive struggles were brought upon by failing to generate traction on first down. As Atlanta built a 17-point lead, the Jets tried to force Wilson heroics, leading to three-and-outs and his ninth interception of the young season over the first three drives. Carter was the only one to provide any semblance of early hope, taking the opening carry five yards.

Over the first three drives, the Jets faced only a single second or third down where they needed less than five yards to earn a fresh set.

After that stretch, Carter began setting the Jets up in manageable situations on the latter downs.

It started on the first drive after a C.J. Mosley forced fumble, when Carter’s rushes set the Jets up to covert on three third downs, two of which were less than five yards.

Carter became a relied-upon force to open new sets downs for the rest of the game: 52 of his 58 total yards came on first down and the Jets went 5-of-10 on third down thanks to the affordable situations Carter’s carries created.

A goal-to-go first down also yielded Carter’s second touchdown of his rookie season.

Despite his continued collaboration with Coleman and Johnson (who scored the Jets’ other touchdown), Carter is making an impact on the rookie rushing rankings. To date, he’s one of three rookie running backs to visit the end zone twice (joining Najee Harris and Kenneth Gainwell) and ranks fourth in scrimmage yards among rookie backs (229).

From the moment the Jets made him their first pick of the NFL draft’s third day, many have envisioned Carter taking over the Jets’ primary rushing duties. While the addition of Coleman and a desire to get Wilson into a groove (171 attempts through five games) have appeared to at least delay such proceedings, Carter’s takeover appears to be on a faster pace, as he had more than 10 touches in each of the last four games.

Of course, Carter’s rushing prowess is of little consolation to a New York landscape that saw the Jets throw away a winnable game overseas as they entered their bye week.

Carter believes getting off to better starts – something, as his first down success proves, he’s put in good work towards – will help the Jets improve in the most important metric: the win column.

“We’re trying to figure out how can we start fast, (because over) the two weeks we’ve really put some good drives together. If we can do that early, we won’t be playing from behind. In general football, it’s a different game when you’re playing from behind,” Carter told the team’s official website. “We believe in every play that we can get it done and that we can win the game. It’s just a matter of going back and watching film.”

The Jets will return to action on Oct. 24 against the New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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Geoff Magliocchetti is a veteran football writer with years of credentialed experience with the Jets and Giants. Email: geoffmags90@gmail.com

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