Despite this disappointing blow, all is not lost for the Jets’ run game
Update: The Jets have traded for Jacksonville Jaguars RB James Robinson in exchange for a conditional sixth-round pick.
The New York Jets’ 16-9 victory over the Denver Broncos had devastating consequences.
Breece Hall‘s knee injury is confirmed as a torn ACL, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini. Hall also sustained a minor meniscus injury. The favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year sees his rookie season conclude after just seven games in what is a crushing blow for the Jets’ offense.
Jets’ worst fear is realized: RB Breece Hall has a torn ACL, source confirms. He’s out for the season. Also has a meniscus injury. #Jets
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) October 24, 2022
Head coach Robert Saleh first informed reporters about the initial diagnosis in his postgame press conference. Saleh appeared mournful instead of his usual upbeat spirits, testifying to Hall’s importance in the Jets’ success.
Robert Saleh says Breece Hall's initial diagnosis, likely related to his ACL, is "not good": pic.twitter.com/GOCaetPd6U
— Jets Videos (@snyjets) October 23, 2022
The Jets have also lost Alijah Vera-Tucker for the season with a triceps injury, which could potentially be an even more devastating blow. Vera-Tucker has been the Swiss Army knife of the Jets’ offense, the steadying force among a storm of injuries and inconsistent-to-terrible play.
However, 5-2 is 5-2. The Jets come off their fourth consecutive victory with a record that absolutely no one predicted. They are still tied for the second-best record in the conference. They play the Patriots next week needing a victory to head into the following week with an intimidating matchup for first place in the AFC East against the Bills.
Amid Zach Wilson‘s struggles, the Jets will need to continue to rely on their run game. The Jets are currently rostering only two other RBs, Michael Carter and Ty Johnson. Let’s evaluate the options to replace Hall and examine both the effectiveness and the likelihood of each one.
Elevate Bam Knight
One of the preseason darlings of Jets fans was undrafted rookie Zonovan “Bam” Knight. He showed elusiveness as a special teamer and some power near the goal line in limited action. The Jets can roll with Carter as the starter (as many thought they would do prior to the draft) and give Knight his shot as the third back, elevating him from the practice squad.
Ty Johnson earned the ire of Jets fans with his drop issues over the last two years, but he has shown that he has NFL-level speed and elusiveness. If the Jets can capture that and mitigate the mistakes, they can still have a nice combination in the backfield.
This may be the Jets’ most likely move, largely because it won’t cost them anything. The Jets knew that Knight was the next man up in the likely event of a running back injury. They had a solid run game with Carter starting last year, albeit not with the big-play threat that Hall provides.
Sign a veteran
The pickings at running back are rather slim at the moment, but the Jets could bring back La’Mical Perine. They could also pick up Jalen Richard, Kalen Ballage, or other lackluster free-agent options.
There’s just not much to go for here. It’s probably more likely that the Jets elevate Bam Knight over signing one of these guys considering the lack of upside in the latter.
Trade for a back
This option is making the rounds on Twitter right now since Hall’s diagnosis was confirmed. There are a few backs who are either clearly available through trade, have requested one, or are underused and seemingly replaced in their respective backfields. Joe Douglas’s track record does not make it likely that the Jets will go this route; still, some options are more possible than others.
Cam Akers, Rams
This one seems the most likely because Cam Akers is clearly on the trade block. He requested a trade, the Rams aren’t using him, and he is known to be available. This year, Akers has carried the ball 51 times for just 151 yards (3.0 YPC) with one touchdown.
Akers returned from an Achilles tear late last season but did not provide much of an impact for the Rams. Still, the Jets could bet on the upside that had L.A. select him in the second round at No. 52 overall. He’s still just 23 years old and could rebound with a change of scenery. Furthermore, he has this year and next remaining on his rookie deal, making him a cheap option at around $1.5-2 million.
The Rams don’t have much leverage in a trade due to Akers’s poor production and injury history and their clear desire to move him. If the Jets could get him for a late-round pick, this is a deal that might be worth exploring.
James Robinson, Jaguars
Any talk of going after James Robinson has to do with speculation about his curious phase-out in the Jaguars’ offense rather than a legitimate chance that he’ll be traded. After all, Robinson was a 1,000-yard back in his rookie year and is still known for his solid ball skills.
Robinson’s snap count has varied this season, as he lost time with the return of Travis Etienne, the Jaguars’ late first-round pick last year. He hit a season-low eight snaps with zero carries and one receiving target against the Giants in Week 7.
One reason for the Jaguars to trade him is that he is a restricted free agent after the season. If they don’t plan on re-signing him, they might try to see if they can get some value for him on the market rather than having him count for the compensatory pick formula.
The biggest issue here is what a prospective trade would cost. Douglas is highly unlikely to give up anything more than a late-round pick for a back, and Jacksonville would probably want more than that. Would the Jaguars take Denzel Mims and a late-round pick? Probably not, though that’s typical fan speculation.
Kareem Hunt, Browns
The best of the bunch, Kareem Hunt is still a big backfield threat. He is also unhappy in Cleveland and has openly requested a trade. However, the Browns have no intention of trading their backfield complement to Nick Chubb. Hunt has 66 rushes for 263 yards (4.0 YPC) and three TDs to go along with 15 receptions for 87 yards (5.8 YPR) and a TD.
Furthermore, Hunt has a $6.25 million cap hit this season, of which a large chunk ($3.68 million) would be prorated to the Jets’ salary cap. He’s a free agent after this season, but it’s unlikely they would re-sign him with Hall’s return and Carter already present. Cleveland will probably want at least a third-round pick for Hunt, and I don’t see any way that Joe Douglas does this.
Jeff Wilson/Elijah Mitchell, 49ers
This one has everything to do with the acquisition of one Christian McCaffrey for a boatload of picks. The 49ers now have a clear RB1. They may try to trim some of the fat at RB and recoup some picks in the process, although they do still have several comp picks remaining.
Wilson’s stats are excellent this year, as he’s rushed 88 times for 454 yards (5.2 YPC) and two TDs. Since he’s from the 49ers, he could most likely slide right into the Jets’ outside-zone system (although Shanahan does use more counterplays and trap handoffs than Mike LaFleur).
However, he still had a role in the 49ers’ offense this past week. He ran for 54 yards on seven rush attempts (7.7 YPC) against the Chiefs on Sunday. With McCaffrey’s injury history, I find it unlikely that San Francisco would entertain trading their former starter.
Elijah Mitchell is currently on injured reserve for the 49ers, making him an unlikely trade target.
Jamaal Williams, Lions
Jamaal Williams’s raw stats are pretty good, as he’s rushed for 411 yards on 92 carries (4.5 YPC) and six TDs. However, there is no particular reason for the Lions to trade him other than his two fumbles in yesterday’s game. Consider this one unlikely.
Jets’ offensive outlook
Barring a trade for Hunt or Robinson, Michael Carter is the clear-cut starter in the Jets’ backfield. He racked up 964 yards from scrimmage and four TDs last year and led all backs with 0.30 missed tackles forced per touch. Carter’s role has been diminished this season due to Breece Hall’s breakout, and he has 66 rushes for 227 yards (3.4 YPC) and two TDs, also recording a fumble. He has added 20 receptions for 151 yards. Of his 379 scrimmage yards, 100 came in Week 1.
If Carter can recapture his 2021 and Week 1 form, the Jets still have a solid option in the backfield. He’s no Breece Hall, though, and the big-play ability will largely be lost. More will be placed on Zach Wilson’s shoulders as the Jets continue their stretch of facing daunting pass defenses, beginning with the Patriots (fifth in the NFL in pass DVOA) in Week 8.
It will be time for the Jets’ second-year signal-caller to step to the plate and for his other weapons to rally around him. An Elijah Moore reconciliation is more pivotal than ever if the Jets hope to continue their winning ways and push for a playoff bid.
Losing a promising young player to a devastating injury always hurts. It hurts that much more for a fan base that has been starving for playmaking and victories. But Robert Saleh has the makings of something on this team, and the Jets have eked out wins in all different ways this year.
These are the times that try teams’ souls. A revenge victory against the hated Patriots on Sunday would be a good way to start.