Drafting Breece Hall could become a potential turning point in Jets history
With minicamp activities concluded, the New York Jets‘ 2022 offseason is officially closed. By the time the Jets take the field again, they’ll be prepping for preseason contests and the regular season that follows.
To commemorate the offseason that was, Jets X-Factor takes a positon-by-position look to answer the almighty question…did the Jets get better?
The second segment centers on the running back spot…
Michael Carter secured his first 100-yard rushing game of his career. 16 car 118 yds!
He showcased foot quickness, patience, & vision from his days at UNC. I’d continue feeding him to close the season! pic.twitter.com/ixmkIimtnA
— Full-Time Dame 💰 (@DP_NFL) December 27, 2021
How It Started
At running back, the Jets continued to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the Le’Veon Bell blockbuster bomb. They eschewed the concept of using any big capital on rushers (echoing the approach taken on by some of the NFL’s more elite groups) and worked with a hodgepodge of third-day draft picks and affordable veterans.
Originally slated at the top of the 2021 depth chart was Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur‘s Bay Area comrade Tevin Coleman, who inked a cheap one-year deal after losing most of his final San Francisco season in an injury.
Signing Coleman, an accomplished two-time Super Bowl participant, carried the right intentions, but further injuries at the start of the season prevented him from developing any sustainable momentum. Coleman found a groove in the latter stages of the season, notably averaging over 4.7 yards on 49 carries in his four penultimate appearances before a listless finale in Buffalo.
Coleman’s injuries led to the rise of fourth-round rookie Michael Carter, a dual-threat out of North Carolina who quickly established himself as New York’s best weapon out of the backfield. Even with a visit from the same injury bug that bit Coleman, Carter had an accomplished freshman campaign, tallying 639 rushing yards and 964 yards from scrimmage over 14 games (each mark good for fourth-best amongst rookie rushers).
In Jets history, Carter’s rookie scrimmage yardage total ranks fourth-best, eclipsed only by a Super Bowl-winning MetLife Stadium Ring of Honor representative (Matt Snell in 1964), another Super Bowl III champion who is in the Hall of Fame (John Riggins in 1971), and a fixture of the late-1970s Jets offense (Clark Gaines in 1976).
Ty Johnson and La’Mical Perine each returned for a second year in green. Johnson became a relatively potent threat in the aerial attack (372 yards and two scores on 34 receptions) while Perine, known for his north-south tendencies, struggled to escape the inactive list when confronted with the more free-spirited attack preferred in LaFleur’s systems. He wound up losing snaps to Austin Walter, a Monmouth product who previously worked in the 49ers’ system.
Over their final few games, the Jets also made the decision to employ a pure fullback in Nick Bawden, pulling the plug on the idea of using tight end Trevon Wesco in the role. Five of the Jets’ six games where they earned 100-plus rushing yards were accomplished with Bawden in the lineup.
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) November 21, 2020
How It’s Going
Less than 24 hours after a game of draft day musical chairs netted them one of the most valuable opening round hauls, the Jets made a bigger splash on day two.
Not only did Breece Hall become the first running back selected in the 2022 draft class but the Jets also traded up with their MetLife Stadium roommates to bestow such an honor.
Hall faced a tall task in succeeding David Montgomery in Iowa State’s offense but was up for the challenge and then some: his 56 touchdowns are by far the most in Cyclones history (46 alone coming over the past two seasons) and he also departed Ames as its second-leading rusher (3,941 yards).
With his arrival in the 36th overall slot, Hall is the earliest running back chosen by the Jets since the infamous arrival of Blair Thomas at No. 2 in 1990.
Injury woes aside, the Jets were satisfied enough with Coleman to bring him back on another short deal. With Carter likely secure, Johnson and Perine are destined to battle undrafted rookie Zonovan Knight for the fourth spot on the roster should the Jets opt to keep it.
I really liked Tevin Coleman last year, more than I thought I would
Reminds me a lot of Bilal Powell, very downhill and tough – but with a burst
— NYJ MIKE (@NyjMike) March 15, 2022
Are They Better Off?
Drafting Hall, at first glance, spits in the face of the prudent path the Jets have set for themselves in the post-Bell era. Trading up two spots seemed a tad desperate and one would think that the Jets could’ve used that choice to shore up their defense.
Defenders, in fact, made up the immediate four picks after Hall’s selection. Engaging in the draft option of “best player available” and eschewing needs is a luxury often afforded only to teams that are the proverbial “one move away” from the Super Bowl, not ones nursing the longest active playoff drought in the NFL.
But after a period of playing it relatively safe, the Jets – anchored by an offseason where they did everything “right” – opted for an intriguing approach of “if not now, when?”. Through Hall, they saw an opportunity and they took it.
It was fair to raise questions about the selection when it happened, and it will continue to be fair until Hall makes a difference on the Jets’ beleaguered offense. But the Jets made an offseason promise to help their franchise quarterback; what better way to do so than adding the top rusher in the class, especially for a team that hasn’t had one reach four digits since Chris Ivory in 2015?
The entire purpose of this ongoing exercise is to ponder whether the Jets got better. Because Hall is a rookie, one obtained through a significant price, it can’t be called perfect from a sense of offseason analysis immediately. But, particularly when it comes to the running back position, the team fulfilled its promise to Zach Wilson while working within the parameters it was dealt.
Again, it’s fair to ask questions about the Hall selection. When you emerge with the incoming class’ top rusher and retain one of the most promising dual-threat sophomores and a reliable veteran leader, however, it’s almost impossible to say there was no improvement amongst the group.
Final Offseason Grade: B+
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags