Michael Carter broke triple digits in yardage for the second straight weekend
Over 10 years ago, visitors to East Rutherford’s Meadowlands Sports Complex were routinely wowed by the athletic antics of a University of North Carolina alum with the surname of Carter.
Some things never change.
A three-pointer away from Meadowlands Arena, Vince Carter’s former stomping grounds as a New Jersey Net, the unrelated Michael Carter is making a name for himself in the Garden State.
The New York Jets‘ rookie running back was one of the headliners of a 34-31 upset win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, serving as both the team’s leading rusher and receiver in the improbable triumph. Carter, chosen in the fourth round of last spring’s draft, put up 77 yards on 15 rushing attempts and added 95 more on nine receptions.
The total output of 172 yards from scrimmage is the fourth-best tally for a rookie rusher in Jets history and the best since Joe McKnight had 173 in a January 2011 win over Buffalo.
At 22 years and 177 days old, Carter became the youngest running back in Jets history to post over 170 scrimmage yards in a game.
Carter is also the first New York freshman back to earn at least 100 yards from scrimmage in consecutive games since Freeman McNeil did so in November 1981. He previously tallied 104 in last weekend’s visit to New England.
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From the moment the Jets (2-5) welcomed Carter in as the second pick of the draft’s final day, amateur and professional observers alike theorized that he would assume the team’s primary rushing duties in the post-Adam Gase era sooner rather than later.
Carter’s takeover has been granted a chance to build a foundation in the medical absence of veteran addition Tevin Coleman, who has dealt with a hamstring issue.
When franchise quarterback Zach Wilson was forced to leave the prior week’s aforementioned tilt against the Patriots, Carter became a safety blanket of sorts for incoming backup thrower Mike White. Of his 20 touches in Foxboro (including a futile two-point conversion), 15 came after Wilson’s departure.
Carter reprised that role on Sunday, as he had a target or touch on 29 of his 59 offensive snaps. It was an identity established right from the get-go, as Carter touched the ball on five of the Jets’ ten plays on their opening drive. That affair ended with an eight-yard scoring run for the rookie, accounting for the Jets’ first points in the opening quarter this season.
Michael Carter touchdown!!
I hope you picked him up in your fantasy leagues, because he’s 📈📈📈pic.twitter.com/Xjt1JW8kwd
— UNC Humor (@UNC_Humor) October 31, 2021
With Wilson out and a quarterback making his first NFL start in front of him, Carter knew he had to enter Sunday’s game with a mentality of “any ball can come to me.” He made sure to make the most of it when it did.
“When the ball came to me, I just tried to make the play,” Carter said of his showing, per notes from the Jets. “You can’t force anything in this league or you tense up and you won’t be yourself.”
Carter chalked up his infantile career-best numbers to a team effort, with specific game balls bestowed to White and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, saying the latter did a “really good job … putting us in a position to win.” Further, Carter’s compliments went to the offensive line’s protection and the receivers for “running the right routes.”
But the victorious Jets made sure that Carter’s historic efforts did not go unnoticed.
Head coach Robert Saleh said that Carter was “hard to tackle” while White credited part of his jaw-dropping 405-yard aerial tally to the freshman’s ability to make gains after the catch.
The most inspiring words came from Carter’s primary competition for carries in running back Ty Johnson, who was pleased to see that Carter’s “study habits, his practice habits, his habits after practice, and everything” were finally exposed to a mainstream audience.
“He’s a rookie, but he’s taken it as a vet,” Johnson, who accumulated 86 yards and a receiving touchdown of his own on Sunday, said. “I told him today, I was like, ‘Man, he was playing a lot. I was like, ‘Hey man, I appreciate you. You took every single rep you had and you were on your P’s and Q’s, you were on your alignments, your assignments, and your execution.’ So, I was like, ‘Get your body right, let’s do it again on Thursday.’”
Johnson continued, “He’s a rookie, but he’s proven that he’s built for this and he’s a vet in a rookie body.”
Carter will look to build on his momentum when the Jets immediately return to action on Thursday night in Indianapolis (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network). No Jets rookie running back has earned at least 100 yards in three straight games since Clark Gaines embarked on a seven-game streak in 1976.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
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