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The many enigmas of the NY Jets’ 2023 running game

NY Jets RB, Breece Hall, ACL, Stats
Breece Hall, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets’ running game is loaded with enigmas heading into 2023

For a team that intended to be built on the running game in 2022, the New York Jets‘ plan was nothing short of an abysmal failure. Toward the end of the season, the running backs struggled just to get back to the line of scrimmage.

Despite acquiring Aaron Rodgers, Robert Saleh and Nathaniel Hackett are still seemingly committed to the run-first approach. They are products of the Shanahan system and adhere to many of its principles (even though those have changed since they left).

How that approach will play out in 2023 is one of the Jets’ bigger mysteries for many reasons. Their running game has the potential to be both elite and abysmal. Why that is has to do with the question marks surrounding not only each of the backs in the room but also the offensive line.

How can this Jets running game perform in 2023? More importantly, how will they?

2022 failures

Other than a dynamic three-game stretch from Breece Hall and one quarter against the Bills, the Jets’ running game was abysmal in 2022. Here are the Jets’ ranks in per-rush attempts outside of Hall’s numbers:

  • 3.80 yards per attempt (31st)
  • 1.05 yards before contact per attempt (30th)
  • 2.74 yards after contact per attempt (27th)
  • -0.237 rush yards over expected per attempt (25th)
  • 1.475% fumble rate (29th)
  • 59.6% first down rate on rush attempts with two or fewer yards to go (31st)

The numbers speak for themselves.

2023 running backs

As of now, the Jets will presumably return their top three rushers from last season in Hall, Carter, and Knight. Israel Abanikanda joins the Jets’ backfield as a fifth-round pick. Here were Abanikanda’s 2022 percentile ranks compared to 146 FBS backs with at least 100 rushing attempts.

  • 5.9 yards per attempt (82nd percentile)
  • 2.67 yards after contact per attempt (18th percentile)
  • 1.245% fumble rate (19th percentile)
  • 44.2% breakaway yardage rate (79th percentile)

Although Abanikanda had a very high yards-per-attempt average, very little of it came after contact, and almost half of it came on breakaways (runs of 15 or more yards). He does have the ability to break it into the open, but he’s not going to grit out the tough yards that the Jets so mightily struggled with last season.

Then comes the biggest wild card of them all in Hall. Although we remember Hall as elite, it’s important to bear in mind that there is some recency bias involved; in truth, the rookie had two elite games and one more explosive run prior to going down for the season with an ACL tear. In his first four games played, Hall had 38 rushes for 178 yards (4.7 yards per carry), including two games in which he averaged fewer than four yards per carry.

In the year following an ACL tear, the results from previous running backs are mixed. According to sports surgeon Deepak Chona, the odds of a successful comeback are in Hall’s favor. Still, the likelihood that Hall will lead the league in rush yards over expected per attempt, yards after contact per attempt, and several other categories is slim.

Offensive line questions

The question is if the Jets’ rushing struggles last season were due to the backs or the offensive line. The fact that the entire unit tanked as a whole at the end of the season would suggest the latter. However, Carter struggled pretty much from the get-go, which may imply that he simply had a down year regardless of blocking. That Knight had some success in his first three games (5.1 yards per attempt) before falling off is particularly indicative of an offensive line decline.

In fact, as a run-blocking unit when weighting for snaps played, the Jets ranked 30th in the NFL with a cumulative 55.7 Pro Football Focus run-blocking grade. That could certainly explain a large chunk of their 2022 problems.

However, with concerns at four of the five offensive line positions, can the Jets truly rely on better run-blocking in 2023 than the year prior?

Vera-Tucker: Game-changer

Despite the offensive line questions mentioned above, the return of Alijah Vera-Tucker cannot be understated. Here were the differences in the Jets’ statistics and leaguewide running back ranks from when Vera-Tucker was on the field vs. when he was not in 2022.

  • With Vera-Tucker: 133 rushes, 664 yards, 4.99 yards per attempt (1st), 8.27% explosive run rate (2nd), 0.0820 EPA per rush (1st), 40.6% success rate (15th)
  • Without Vera-Tucker: 205 rushes, 746 yards, 3.64 yards per attempt (31st), 4.88% explosive run rate (13th), -0.211 EPA per rush (32nd), 31.2% success rate (32nd)

The argument could be made that these numbers are attributable to Hall rather than the offensive line, as Hall and Vera-Tucker both departed the Broncos game with season-ending injuries in the second quarter of the game. Here are the rushing numbers from the other Jets running backs when Vera-Tucker was on the field.

  • Non-Hall rushers with Vera-Tucker: 54 rushes, 203 yards, 3.76 yards per attempt (31st), 5.56% explosive run rate (11th), -0.0632 EPA per rush (20th), 38.9% success rate (19th)

Those numbers are far closer to the ones that the team had without Vera-Tucker, which would lead to the belief that maybe it really was Hall. However, the team was still far more efficient and successful with Vera-Tucker, even with backs other than Hall.

Additionally, Carter, despite the difficult year he had, posted -0.0684 EPA per rush with Vera-Tucker compared to -0.313 without him. Although both numbers are not good, the bottom fell out on Carter after Vera-Tucker’s injury.

The return of Vera-Tucker should, at the very least, prevent the Jets’ running game from bottoming out.

Run-blocking ceiling

Michael Nania already did an analysis of the ceiling, floor, and mid-range prediction of the Jets’ offensive line. Let’s follow through with that analysis to the run-blocking, specifically.

Offensive line

  • Duane Brown is an average run-blocking tackle.
  • Laken Tomlinson returns to his 2021 form from San Francisco.
  • Joe Tippmann is a top-10 run-blocking center.
  • Alijah Vera-Tucker reprises his dominant guard form from 2022.
  • Mekhi Becton is back and better than ever as a mauling tackle.

Duane Brown played the entire 2022 season with a torn rotator cuff. His offseason surgery leaves his status for training camp in doubt, per Saleh, but let’s assume that he’s healthy in time for the start of the regular season. Brown posted a 69.6 PFF run-blocking grade when he was last healthy in 2021. Let’s assume he falls off from there to 64.5, which would have ranked 35th out of 70 tackles in 2022.

In 2020-21 with San Francisco, Laken Tomlinson posted PFF run-blocking grades of 80.9 and 75.0, which ranked in the 92nd and 82nd percentile among guards, respectively. With the Jets, that plummeted all the way to 46.9, which was in the 11th percentile. At his best, Tomlinson can return to his 2021 grade of 75.0, which would have ranked sixth out of 70 qualified guards.

At center, I assume that Joe Tippmann will win the starting role. Tippmann is a better pass-blocker than a run-blocker coming into the league, per Joe Blewett. Let’s put him at a top-10 run-blocking center for his best-case scenario, though; that would be a 69.7 PFF run-blocking grade.

Vera-Tucker returns to anchor the Jets’ offensive line in the running game. He posted a 76.5 run-blocking grade in seven games in 2022, but four of those came at tackle. In the first three weeks of the season, Vera-Tucker’s run-blocking grade was at 85.6, which led all guards. I think that a best-case scenario for Vera-Tucker is a reprisal of that 85.6 grade in the run game. That would have ranked second among guards for the entire 2022 season.

Mekhi Becton will likely be the Jets’ right tackle heading into training camp. Becton’s strength coming out of college was his run-blocking, and he posted a 73.9 PFF grade in that area as a rookie. If Becton can build on his raw strength and refine his technique, he can easily be a top-10 run-blocking tackle. Let’s place him at an 80.0 run-blocking grade, which would have ranked eighth out of 70 tackles in 2022.

Overall, the average grade of those five players would be 75.0. Assuming 90% health and a 57.5 grade from backups, that would give the Jets’ offensive line a cumulative 73.2 PFF run-blocking grade in 2023.

Tight ends

Eleven personnel (one running back, one tight end, three receivers) is the most common package that NFL offenses use. However, truly evaluating a run game will involve the team’s top two tight ends, which is what we will use for this analysis.

Tyler Conklin saw far more overall snaps than C.J. Uzomah in 2022, but they had a similar number of run-blocking snaps (Conklin 287, Uzomah 261). However, I believe that Jeremy Ruckert will overtake Uzomah as the second tight end and see the majority of the blocking assignments in 12 personnel.

Michael did not agree with Conklin’s 51.1 PFF run-blocking grade. He charted Conklin as an above-average run-blocker with a 2.5-to-1 positive-to-negative ratio and 4.0 blocks above average. To try to adjust for Conklin’s actual performance as a run-blocker, I’m going to give him a boost to a best-case scenario 62.7. That was Uzomah’s PFF run-blocking grade in 2022 and ranked 17th among tight ends. Michael charted Conklin as far better than Uzomah (1.16 ratio, 14.0 blocks below average), so it’s only fair to reverse their grades, at the very least.

Ruckert does not have many statistics regarding his run-blocking, as he barely played in his rookie season. In the final game of the season against Miami, he had an 87.9 run-blocking grade. In 2021, he posted a 71.0 run-blocking grade at Ohio State, which ranked in the 74th percentile among tight ends. Let’s put Ruckert at a 65.0 ceiling in 2023, which would have ranked 11th.

Run-blocking best-case scenario

I’m going to count the tight ends as 30% of the run-blocking and the offensive line as 70% simply because the tight ends not always on the field. If you add these tight end numbers to the offensive line, assuming 90% health and a 50.0 run-blocking grade from backups, the cumulative run-blocking grade adjusts to 70.5. That would have ranked second among all run-blocking units in 2022.

  1. Falcons – 73.6
  2. Projected Jets 2023 best-case scenario – 70.5
  3. Vikings – 69.4
  4. Eagles – 69.3
  5. Chiefs – 69.2

Run-blocking floor

Offensive line

  • Brown’s health and/or age make him a bottom-10 run-blocking tackle.
  • Tomlinson is just as bad as he was in 2022.
  • Tippmann struggles as a rookie and is a below-average center.
  • Vera-Tucker plays the same as his cumulative tackle and guard performance in 2022.
  • Becton falls off a bit from his rookie year due to two years away.

Let’s say Brown is either unhealthy or has simply declined at age 38. His 44.4 run-blocking grade ranked in the sixth percentile among tackles in 2022. Assuming his rotator cuff is not actually torn, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll be that bad again. Still, a 50.0 run-blocking grade is not out of the realm of possibility. That would have ranked 59th out of 70 tackles in 2022.

Tomlinson’s terrible 2022 run-blocking season could simply repeat itself. That would be a grade of 46.9. I don’t think it’s all that likely, but it has to be accounted for as his floor. That ranked in the 10th percentile among guards.

Assuming Tippmann becomes the starting center and falters, his floor could be quite low as a rookie run-blocker. The biggest issue could be penalties, of which Tippmann had six in 2022. Let’s say he is a below-average run-blocker as a rookie, placing 23rd out of 35. That would give him a 60.0 grade.

Vera-Tucker’s floor is quite high as a run-blocker. However, let’s assume that he sticks with his overall 76.5 run-blocking grade and does not improve. That would have ranked sixth out of 68 guards.

If Becton manages to stay healthy, even without technique improvements, it’s hard to envision too far of a decline as a run-blocker. He simply overpowers defenders. Let’s go with a worst-case scenario where he falls from 23rd to 35th, which would place him at a 64.5 run-blocking grade.

The average of these five grades is 59.6. Assuming 70% health and a 52.5 backup grade, the offensive line’s run-blocking grade adjusts to 57.5.

Tight ends

Conklin’s 51.1 PFF grade in 2022 was his career low. Since Michael disagreed with it so emphatically, I’m going to give a slight boost to Conklin’s floor as a run-blocker. Let’s say he’s below average but not horrible, which would be a 55.3 grade, ranked 40th out of 69 tight ends.

Ruckert, in his first real season in the league, could bottom out as a below-average blocker. Let’s give him the same 55.3 grade as Conklin’s. If Ruckert doesn’t stand out, Uzomah will likely remain the TE2. Uzomah’s career-low run-blocking grade was 47.4 in 2019, but I think that’s a low baseline to use.

Run-blocking worst-case scenario

If you add these tight end numbers to the offensive line, assuming 70% health and a 47.5 run-blocking grade from backups, the cumulative run-blocking grade adjusts to 56.2. That was exactly the Jets’ grade in 2022 and tied for 26th among run-blocking units.

  • 32. Jaguars – 53.1
  • 31. Chargers – 53.9
  • 30. Texans – 54.9
  • 29. Bills – 55.6
  • 28. Cardinals – 56.0
  • T-26. Projected Jets 2023 worst-case scenario – 56.2
  • T-26. Saints – 56.2

Most likely run-blocking scenario

The Jets’ best- and worst-case scenarios are at either extreme. Let’s go with the average of their ceiling and floor to get a realistic sense of where their run-blocking will most likely be in 2023.

  • Brown: 64.5 ceiling + 50.0 floor = 57.3 run-blocking grade (T-47th out of 70 OT in 2022)
  • Tomlinson: 75.0 ceiling + 46.9 floor = 61.0 run-blocking grade (37th out of 68 OG in 2022)
  • Tippmann: 69.7 ceiling + 60.0 floor = 64.9 run-blocking grade (19th out of 35 C in 2022)
  • Vera-Tucker: 85.6 ceiling + 76.5 floor = 81.1 run-blocking grade (4th out of 68 OG in 2022)
  • Becton: 80.0 ceiling + 64.5 floor = 72.3 run-blocking grade (22nd out of 70 OT in 2022)
  • Conklin: 62.7 ceiling + 55.3 floor = 59.0 run-blocking grade (31st out of 69 TE in 2022)
  • Ruckert: 65.0 ceiling + 55.3 floor = 60.2 run-blocking grade (27th out of 69 TE in 2022)

Going with the 70% offensive line-30% tight end split, let’s assume 80% health, an average backup offensive lineman run-blocking grade of 55.0, and an average backup tight end grade of 52.5. The offensive line raw average is 67.3 with an injury adjustment to 64.8. The tight end raw average is 59.6 with an injury adjustment to 58.2.

Overall, the Jets’ predicted run-blocking grade is 62.8, which would have been the 11th-best unit in 2022.

  • 8. 49ers – 66.6
  • 9. Dolphins – 66.0
  • 10. Browns – 65.6
  • 11. Projected Jets 2023 run-blocking grade – 62.8
  • 12. Cowboys – 62.6
  • 13. Colts – 62.0

The Jets would likely take this offensive line total, although Brown could potentially be a liability in this scenario. Vera-Tucker raises the average of this line with his dominance. Still, it was noticeable in 2022 that his presence made running the ball far easier, especially when it came to chunk plays. This kind of run-blocking is set up for players like Hall and Abanikanda who can often take that one great block and spring it for a huge gain.

Rushing projections

Breaking down the running game into the parts reserved for the offensive line and the running back is difficult. Additionally, with quarterbacks rushing more than ever and the jet sweep game involved, isolating running game statistics is more difficult than ever.

Because quarterback runs are often isolated from the offensive line’s capabilities, I am going to exclude those from my analysis. Additionally, jet sweeps and reverses muddy the waters of the regular running game, so I’m going to omit those, too. That leaves us with just the running back numbers.

Three statistics give us the best chance of isolating run-blocking vs. running back impact. The yards before contact (YBC/A) that a running back incurs are largely based on his blocking rather than his own capabilities. There is some crossover of the back’s vision and quick burst, but that’s likely the best stand-in for offensive line impact.

The yards after contact per attempt (YCO/A), on the other hand, are more reliant on the back’s abilities. Obviously, he can continue to utilize his blocking after breaking tackles, but the overall production is more attributable to the back himself.

A third number involved is rush yards over expected per attempt (RYOE/A). Although it is an imperfect metric, its purpose is to isolate the yardage that the running back gained on his own vs. that which was schemed up for him by his blocking.

Here were the medians in each of these categories by team in 2022. (I am using the medians to try to eliminate outliers since they skew the data significantly in some areas.)

  • 1.40 YBC/A (per PFF)
  • 2.97 YCO/A (per PFF)
  • 0.150 RYOE/A (per Next Gen Stats)
  • 4.5 yards per carry (per PFF)

Adding the median YBC, YCO, and RYOE per attempt yields almost exactly the yards-per-carry median (4.52). Therefore, let’s take a look at these three numbers to project rushing numbers.

Based on the run-blocking scenarios presented above, the Jets have three different possibilities for YBC/A depending on the best-case (1.82), worst-case (1.22), and most likely (1.52) scenarios. Let’s look at the running back possibilities depending on each of these scenarios.

RB best-case scenario

Running back averages

  • Hall is a top-10 back upon his return from an ACL tear.
  • Knight’s performance is closer to his highs from his first three games than his lows from his last four.
  • Carter rebounds to his 2021 form.
  • Abanikanda has a high explosive play rate that boosts his yards-per-carry average.

In 2022, Hall led 52 qualified backs with 4.13 YCO/A and 1.37 RYOE/A. Those are both outrageous numbers that were likely somewhat inflated by a smaller sample size (80 carries compared to backs who took 150+). With Hall coming off an ACL tear, it is likely unrealistic to expect him to reprise those numbers, even in a best-case scenario. Still, let’s assume that he is the 10th-best back in the NFL in his return from injury; that would give him 3.40 YCO/A and 0.652 RYOE/A.

Knight is hard to figure out due to the dichotomy between his first three games and his next four. From Weeks 12-14, he averaged 3.72 YCO/A; from Weeks 15-18, that reduced all the way to 1.97 YCO/A. His cumulative number on the season was 2.74, which was below average.

Taking a three-game sample size and extrapolating it as Knight’s best-case scenario is somewhat unrealistic; still, assuming that he can be a bit better than average in this area makes sense given that he was third among backs with a 97.9 elusiveness rating. Therefore, let’s give Knight 3.05 YCO/A, which would have ranked 20th out of 52 backs in 2022. His RYOE was very low at -0.241 in 2022, which ranked 45th, but let’s bump him up slightly to 35th as his best-case scenario. That would mean -0.0656 RYOE/A.

Carter’s 2021 highs compared to his 2022 lows are hard to figure out. He had 3.37 YCO/A in 2021 but just 2.70 in 2022. We have to assume that his ceiling is still that 3.37 YCO/A because he showed it just one year before his downfall. He also had 0.6 RYOE/A, which he could conceivably reach once more.

Abanikanda averaged just 2.67 YCO/A in college, so it’s hard to imagine that he would be better than that in his rookie season. Let’s say he stays exactly the same at 2.67 YCO/A, which would have ranked 45th out of 52 backs. Because has the tendency to occasionally break a big run, his best-case scenario is likely a positive RYOE/A. Let’s give him 0.0150 RYOE/A, which would have ranked 33rd out of 52 backs.

Running back statistics

Let’s assume that the Jets run the ball more often in 2023 due to some more leads. In 2022, they ran just 37.1% of the time due to constantly playing from behind, as well as an inability to run the ball at the end of the season. From 2019-21, when Rodgers played under Nathaniel Hackett and won 13 games per season, the Packers had many leads. They ran the ball 41.1% of the time and averaged 413 rush attempts per season.

Therefore, let’s assume the Jets will run the ball 40% of the time and have 400 rush attempts. We will divide up the rushes accordingly. Here are the best-case scenario attempt totals assuming 90% health:

  • Hall 43% – 172 attempts
  • Knight 23% – 92 attempts
  • Carter 22% – 88 attempts
  • Abanikanda 12% – 48 attempts

We’re going to take into account each possibility for YBC/A based on whether the Jets’ run-blocking reaches its ceiling, floor, or median. When calculating yards per attempt (YPA), I’ll present the median of 1.52 with the other two outcomes in parentheses as (best-case scenario/worst-case scenario).

  • Hall: 261.44 YBC + 584.8 YCO + 112.14 RYOE = 172 att, 958 yards, 5.57 YPA (5.87/5.27)
  • Knight: 139.84 YBC + 280.6 YCO – 6.035 RYOE = 92 att, 414 yards, 4.5 YPA (4.8/4.2)
  • Carter: 133.76 YBC + 296.56 YCO + 52.8 RYOE = 88 att, 483 yards, 5.5 YPA (5.8/5.2)
  • Abanikanda: 72.96 YBC + 128.16 YCO + 0.72 RYOE = 48 att, 202 yards, 4.21 YPA (4.51/3.91)

This would equal 400 rushes for 2,057 yards at 5.14 yards per attempt (5.44/4.87). That would certainly be an ideal scenario for the Jets.

RB worst-case scenario

Running back averages

  • Hall has a Saquon Barkley-style comeback and is one of the poorer backs in the league.
  • Knight is who he was cumulatively from last season.
  • Carter is who he was in 2022.
  • Abanikanda’s lack of patience and inability to break tackles make him one of the worst backs in the league.

In 2021, Barkley’s YCO/A plummeted from 3.23 prior to his injury to 2.69. Hall was better than Barkley in this area to begin with, but some of that may have also been a small sample size. Barkley suffered a 16.7% decline in YCO/A in his first year post-ACL tear; if Hall’s best-case scenario is 3.40 and he loses a further 16.7% from there, that would be 2.80 YCO/A, which would have ranked 34th out of 52 backs. Barkley also had -0.3 RYOE/A, so let’s go with that for Hall.

Knight’s floor is his 2022 total. Perhaps we can go as far as to say it’s closer to his numbers from the last four games, but because I believe that was the offensive line bottoming out, I’m not going to go that far. Knight ranked 36th with 2.74 YCO/A and 45th with -0.241 RYOE/A.

Carter’s floor is also his 2022 total. He had 2.70 YCO/A (43rd) and -0.585 RYOE/A (50th).

Abanikanda has unfortunate bust potential if he retains his college profile. Save for one dominant game with five touchdowns, his boom-or-bust tendency can lead to an awful lot of busts. He has inconsistent vision and often lacks patience in reading holes. He also doesn’t break many tackles and gets tripped up by defensive backs too often. Therefore, let’s say his floor is 2.50 YCO/A (50th) and -0.223 RYOE (43rd).

Running back statistics

We’re still going to assume the same 400 rushing attempts for this scenario. Here is the attempt division assuming 70% health.

  • Hall 30% – 120
  • Knight 25% – 100
  • Carter 25% – 100
  • Abanikanda 20% – 80

In the worst-case scenario, Hall is either not healthy to start the season or simply cannot get back up to speed. As a result, Knight and Carter take almost as many snaps as Hall, and if they’re not perfectly healthy, Abanikanda ends up with many more snaps than he should get. Due to Abanikanda’s shortcomings as a pass protector and receiver, having him on the field too often would either telegraph a run play or force Rodgers to get the ball out even more quickly than he already does.

In this running back worst-case scenario, here are the rushing totals. I am still assuming the median run-blocking scenario with the best- and worst-case listed in parentheses.

  • Hall: 182.4 YBC + 336 YCO – 36 RYOE = 120 att, 482 yards, 4.02 YPA (4.32/3.72)
  • Knight: 152 YBC + 274 YCO – 24.1 RYOE = 100 att, 402 yards, 4.02 YPA (4.32/3.72)
  • Carter: 152 YBC + 270 YCO – 58.5 RYOE = 100 att, 364 yards, 3.64 YPA (3.94/3.34)
  • Abanikanda: 121.6 YBC + 200 YCO – 17.84 RYOE = 304 yards, 3.8 YPA (4.1/3.5)

This is a pretty bad scenario, but it could happen. The total numbers are 400 rushes for 1,552 yards at 3.88 YPA.

Even though it’s easy to assume that Knight and Carter will improve with better blocking, it’s possible that they just had a hard time finding the holes (that was almost certainly the case for Carter). Maybe that’s just who they are. While fifth-round rookie running backs can have success, there is no guarantee that they will. Hall’s injury causes mixed results and could substantially limit him.

In a total disaster scenario, the run-blocking bottoms out along with the backs, as it did at the end of 2022.

RB most likely scenario

RB averages

  • Hall is still a good back but is not near his 2022 heights yet.
  • Knight is below average but not terrible.
  • Carter reverts close enough to his 2021 form with a better offensive line.
  • Abanikanda is a poor back.

Here are the averages of the backs’ best- and worst-case scenarios. This is most likely where they’ll hit.

  • Hall: 3.40 ceiling + 2.80 floor = 3.1 YCO/A (16th out of 52 RB in 2022), 0.652 ceiling + -0.0415 floor = 0.305 RYOE/A (25th)
  • Knight: 3.05 ceiling + 2.74 floor = 2.90 YCO/A (T-29th), -0.0656 ceiling + -0.241 floor = -0.153 RYOE/A (40th)
  • Carter: 3.37 ceiling + 2.70 floor = 3.04 YCO/A (T-21st), 0.6 ceiling + -0.585 floor = 0.015 RYOE/A (33rd)
  • Abanikanda: 2.67 ceiling + 2.50 floor = 2.59 YCO/A (47th), 0.0150 ceiling + -0.223 floor = -0.104 RYOE/A (40th)

RB statistics

With 80% health, here are the running back attempt totals.

  • Hall 36.5% – 146 attempts
  • Knight 24% – 96 attempts
  • Carter 23.5% – 94 attempts
  • Abanikanda 16% – 64 attempts

Here are the statistics assuming a 1.52 YBC with the best- and worst-case scenarios for YPA in parentheses.

  • Hall: 221.92 YBC + 452.6 YCO + 44.53 RYOE = 146 att, 719 yards, 4.92 YPA (5.22/4.62)
  • Knight: 145.92 YBC + 278.4 YCO – 14.688 RYOE = 96 att, 410 yards, 4.27 YPA (4.57/3.97)
  • Carter: 142.88 YBC + 285.76 YCO + 1.41 RYOE = 94 att, 430 yards, 4.57 YPA (4.77/4.37)
  • Abanikanda: 97 YBC + 165.76 YCO – 6.656 RYOE = 64 att, 256 yards, 4.0 YPC (4.3/3.7)

This would add to a total of 400 attempts for 1,815 yards at 4.54 yards per carry.

Conclusions

If you stuck through this whole article with its manifold calculations and terms, then you are a true Jet X reader.

Obviously, even the most detailed prediction will not account for what actually occurs during the season. Additionally, past performance does not always predict future outcomes, particularly when multiple injuries are present.

Finally, doing such an analysis at this juncture may not be wise due to unknowns. It’s not certain at this point whether the Jets will carry four halfbacks on the roster (as opposed to three, as they did for most of 2022, or four total running backs with a fullback), who will start at several offensive line positions (Brown’s health and McGovern vs. Tippmann are the key questions), and whether Ruckert or Uzomah will be the second tight end.

Still, it’s the down part of the offseason, making the nitty-gritty calculations a more intriguing prospect than they might otherwise be. Therefore, we do our best to be realistic and figure out what we can expect from the Jets, even knowing that it is such a nebulous endeavor.

The Jets’ offensive line has a wide range of outcomes, but their run-blocking possibilities may be even wider. Three of the five offensive linemen (Vera-Tucker, Tomlinson, and Becton) have very high ceilings as run-blockers, which could make this a potential top unit in the entire NFL. Ruckert also flashed some intriguing potential in the final game of 2022, and he was drafted as a block-first tight end.

However, on the flip side, what the Jets put on film after Vera-Tucker went down last season was abysmal. The final four games of the season featured a game in which the Jets had one rushing yard at halftime (Jacksonville) and several where they averaged fewer than 2.0 yards per carry. That was with Brown, Tomlinson, and McGovern (if he wins the center job) on the field, so it’s hard to blame the atrocious play purely on missing personnel.

There are also questions in the running back room, between Hall’s injury, Carter’s fall-off in 2022, Knight’s split between his first few and last few games, and Abanikanda’s boom-or-bust style. Can at least one of these backs be fully healthy and step up? The top three have all had flashes of success as starting backs for the team, so it’s possible that getting a positive result from just one could catapult the entire running game.

The middle-of-the-road scenario for the Jets is eminently realistic. It lists 4.54 yards per carry, headlined by Hall still close to 5.0 YPA. Carter, Knight, and Abanikanda are all decent but unspectacular, but Carter is the best of the three. This should be able to complement a good season from Rodgers to lead them to the playoffs.

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Jim G
1 year ago

Great article. You had my head spinning at times, but I stuck with it. It is amazing the difference a small improvement in play by a RB or the O line can make in a team’s season.

When Joe Flacco & Zach Wilson played, opposing defenses did not have to be overly concerned about the pass. That will change with Rodgers at QB, a massive upgrade. I’m also hoping for a big comeback season for Mekhi Becton. If Rodgers and Becton play well, and the O Line gels, the sky is the limit for the Jets. When was the last time we could say that!

Jets71
Jets71
1 year ago

I do believe no team would be successful if their OL was as decimated as the Jets’ last season. The guys they signed in camp were getting hurt. Clearly, it wasn’t the only problem, but add in the experienced QB, the new players on the OL, Ruckert, and experienced OC and their is the opportunity for success. Time will tell but I think if you look at the “group” of players on the OL compared to the “group” last year this bunch is better.

Jash55
Jash55
1 year ago

Great article, but it leaves out the fact that Rodgers at QB means opposing defenses will no longer be able to stack the box against our offense.

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