NY Jets, Aaron Rodgers, Zonovan Knight, Bam Knight
Aaron Rodgers, Zonovan Knight, New York Jets, Getty Images

Despite all of the rumors surrounding the position, the New York Jets’ RB room may be effective enough as it is

Throughout the offseason, and specifically the past few weeks, there has been speculation about the New York Jets adding a running back to the roster. The main candidate for the Jets has been former Vikings running back Dalvin Cook.

Cook, who ran for 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns last season, has been stirring up the Jets’ fanbase by liking Jets-related tweets and following Jets fans on Twitter. He also visited the Jets facility recently during a practice, being seen talking with the Jets’ coaching staff and having fans chant his name.

Outside of Cook, other names such as Ezekiel Elliott and Kareem Hunt have been floated as additions to the Jets’ running back room.

Hunt, who played with the Cleveland Browns last season, would be seen as a depth option that could spell the other options in the backfield. Elliott, a long-time member of the Cowboys, would most likely be used as a short-yardage and pass-protecting option.

Despite what players like Cook, Elliott, and Hunt could bring to the Jets’ roster, the team’s current running backs may enable them to go into the season without any meaningful additions.

Breece Hall, who is far and away the Jets’ best running back on the roster, does not factor into this conversation. He is effective and talented in every aspect of playing running back, whether it’s running the ball, catching the ball, or pass-protecting.

The Jets know that Hall is their lead back and will treat him as such once he is back from injury. The conversation about adding a running back comes down to the other running backs behind Hall.

Behind Hall is a group of three running backs that bring different talents to the Jets’ offense. The most senior out of this group is Michael Carter, who may have the most questions among the Jets’ RBs. The other two are second-year man Zonovan Knight and rookie Israel Abanikanda.

Carter, though undersized, is a shifty runner and has shown signs he can be effective as a receiver. In his rookie year, Carter amassed 964 yards from scrimmage (639 rushing, 325 receiving) in only 14 games, looking like he could be a focal point of the Jets’ offense for years.

And while his production did fall off considerably last season, dropping from 934 total scrimmage yards in 14 games (66.7 per game) to 690 in 16 games (43.1 per game), Carter has shown he does have the potential to be a very solid back in the NFL. Whether he can find that potential again is the question.

Knight, an undrafted free agent out of NC State in 2022, is a strong downhill runner with skill in the receiving game. When on the field in the back half of last season, Knight attacked holes without hesitation and was able to accelerate very quickly after catching the ball as a receiver.

Knight amassed 400 yards from scrimmage in seven games for the Jets last season (57.1 per game). The rookie RB experienced a fall-off in production over his final four games, but the flashes he showed, combined with the poor offensive line and quarterback play, is enough reason to have some optimism about the RB.

The most interesting player out of the three is Abanikanda, who was a fifth-round draft selection in this year’s draft.

Abanikanda has home run speed that does not exist in this unit outside of Hall. He can beat most defenders to the edge, allowing him to turn losses for other running backs into gains. This trait allowed him to dominate as a runner in college, highlighted by a 322-yard, six-touchdown game against Virginia Tech in 2022. Overall, Abanikanda ran for 1,431 yards and 20 touchdowns in 11 games last season.

Even with some development needed in pass protection and adjusting to the NFL as a 20-year-old, Abanikanda brings an element of excitement to the Jets’ backfield.

Up to this point in the preseason, there have been enough flashes and production from the running backs where an addition should not be necessary.

Knight has been the biggest standout at the position. He has looked decisive running downhill and is showing the ability to run through contact. More importantly, Knight has looked effective as a receiver. The former NC State running back is showing soft hands and burst after the catch when working with Aaron Rodgers and the first offense.

Carter has struggled at times but has been shifty and elusive when catching the ball in the passing game. There is still a chance he could tap back into the promise he showed in 2021.

Abanikanda, while still developing, has shown intriguing flashes too. He is becoming increasingly willing to run between the tackles and embrace contact; showcasing this in the upcoming preseason games will be key for the rookie. Abanikanda has also shown off his lethal speed as a runner, beating the entire Cleveland defense to the edge for a touchdown in the Hall of Fame Game.

With more pressing needs across the roster, running back should be far from the Jets’ first priority. The linebacker and safety positions, in particular, are two spots where the Jets are in greater need of depth than running back.

But if the Jets see an issue with their running game, they should look toward their offensive line before trying to add a luxury at the running back position. If the team adds depth or improves at the tackle or guard positions, the running game will see a bump in production regardless of who is running the ball.

The prospect of adding a Dalvin Cook or an Ezekiel Elliott is a very fun one. But considering the state of the current running backs and the other needs the Jets still have, it is reasonable to feel that the Jets should hold firm with the group they have.

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Graduated Summa Cum Laude from Fairleigh Dickinson University in May 2023 with a Communications Degree, a concentration in Multimedia Journalism, and a minor in Broadcasting. Wrote for JetsInsider.com for two years. Hosts a Knicks podcast for Let's Talk Knicks and contributes for Inside the Iggles and Shea Hello Media.
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1 month ago

It’s not the RBs it’s the OL I worry about. The further we’ve gotten through training camp, the more it seems we are becoming absolutely dependent on Becton and Brown. That is just downright scary.