Michael Carter is making a legitimate case that he’s already a star running back
Just about any NFL running back can pick up what’s blocked for them. It’s not overly difficult to grab the football and plow downhill through a gaping B-gap for four yards after the right guard and right tackle create a big hole.
What running backs get paid to do is pick up yardage beyond what is blocked for them.
To figure out whether a particular running back is a star, a solid player, or a JAG (Just A Guy), all we have to do is ask this simple question: how much production does he create on his own?
Carter has been credited by Pro Football Focus with forcing 21 missed tackles on 86 carries this season. To boot, he has forced 11 missed tackles on 27 receptions.
In total, Carter has forced 32 missed tackles on 113 touches. That is an average of 0.283 missed tackles forced per touch, which stands as the second-best average in the NFL among the 52 running backs with at least 50 touches.
It’s not too early to call this kid “great.” Let’s give it some time before we call him “elite,” but at the pace he’s on, he will be there in no time.
Funnily enough, the No. 1 running back in that category is Carter’s collegiate partner-in-crime at North Carolina, Denver’s Javonte Williams. The second-round pick has forced 33 missed tackles on 100 touches (0.330).
Here are the top-10 running backs when it comes to missed tackles forced per touch:
- Javonte Williams (DEN): 0.330 – 33 on 100
- Michael Carter (NYJ): 0.283 – 32 on 113
- Mike Davis (ATL): 0.276 – 27 on 98
- Kareem Hunt (CLE): 0.270 – 24 on 89
- Nick Chubb (CLE): 0.268 – 30 on 112
- Chris Carson (SEA): 0.267 – 16 on 60
- Devin Singletary (BUF): 0.259 – 21 on 81
- Ty Johnson (NYJ): 0.259 – 15 on 58
- Tony Pollard (DAL): 0.250 – 21 on 84
- Christian McCaffrey (CAR): 0.250 – 17 on 68
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Carter’s teammate, Ty Johnson, also cracks the top-10.
Johnson has kicked up his elusiveness after a mediocre start. From Weeks 8-9, Johnson forced eight missed tackles on 15 touches for a marvelous average of 0.533. Over six prior games, Johnson had forced only seven missed tackles on 43 touches (0.163). The positional average in the category is 0.187 this season.
It is in the passing game where Johnson has become dynamic. Johnson forced five missed tackles on seven receptions from Weeks 8-9. His elusiveness after the catch is the sole reason for his incredible receiving production over that span: seven catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns.
Shifting back to Carter, the most impressive aspect of the Tar Heel’s elusiveness is how consistent he has been in that facet of the game on a weekly basis. Unlike Johnson, who racked up most of his evaded tackles in a two-week span over a small volume of touches, Carter has been elusive on a large volume throughout the entire season.
Quickly progressing after a quiet debut in Week 1, Carter has forced multiple missed tackles in seven consecutive games. In five of those seven games, he averaged more missed tackles forced per touch than the 2021 positional average (0.187).
Since putting himself on the map with seven missed tackles forced in Week 2, Carter’s season average for missed tackles forced per touch has gone no lower than 0.267 at any point of the season – a mark that would still rank top-6 at this point of the year.
Carter has been able to maintain his high level of per-play efficiency as a tackle-breaker even while taking on an impressive volume of 15.4 touches per game since Week 2.
Breaking tackles is arguably the most important aspect of the running back position, and Michael Carter is as good as anyone in that department.