Dalvin Cook, NY Jets, Stats, Contract
Dalvin Cook, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets have given Dalvin Cook enough chances

Despite the obvious red flags that suggested it would be a bad idea to sign Dalvin Cook, the New York Jets went out and did it anyway. Not only that, but they paid him rather handsomely. With a one-year, $7 million deal, Cook owns the 11th-highest cap hit among running backs this season.

We’re five weeks in. And those five weeks are all we need to reach a fairly strong conclusion on the result of this signing.

The verdict: New York screwed up by ignoring the red flags.

There is a lot of time left in the season for Cook to turn things around, but so far, he has been so poor that it is difficult to envision that happening. Cook has been one of the worst running backs in football.

Let’s start with the basic stats. Cook is averaging 2.7 yards per carry, which ranks second-worst out of 57 qualified running backs (min. 30 carries) ahead of only Cam Akers. That is bad enough by itself, but the picture gets worse when you dig into the advanced stats.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Cook is averaging -1.5 RYOE (Rushing Yards Over Expected) per carry, which also ranks second-worst ahead of only Akers. This tells us that Cook is consistently leaving yards on the field by underperforming relative to the blocking. Per NGS, Cook is expected to average 4.2 yards per carry based on the quality of the blocking he has received on each play. He’s costing the Jets nearly two yards per carry.

On top of that, Cook is averaging -0.45 EPA (Expected Points Added) per carry, which ranks last out of 57 qualified running backs. EPA measures the impact of each play when accounting for down, distance, and field position.

Cook’s struggles in the EPA department tell us that he is hurting the Jets by coming up small in key situations. For instance, Cook has only converted 3-of-6 carries with one yard to go, including 0-of-2 on third down. The league-average conversion rate on rushing attempts with one yard to go is 71%. Those short-yardage misses are surely crushing his EPA. Cook’s lost fumble against the Cowboys was also an EPA crusher.

The consistency of Cook’s ineptitude is the most concerning part of his performance. There haven’t even been flashes of potential. He’s played badly on a routine basis.

Cook’s longest run of the season went for 10 yards. He is the only running back with at least 35 carries who has not recorded a run of more than 10 yards.

Cook has struggled in every game this season. His season-high for yards per carry was the 3.8 he posted against Denver this past week. He is one of just five running backs in the NFL who have averaged under 4.0 yards per carry in five games this season (minimum of four carries in each game).

Considering all of this, it would be foolish for the Jets to continue feeding Cook in hopes that he will turn it around at some point. Nothing he has done this season suggests that will happen. Every snap he plays is a waste.

In fairness to the Jets, they have been slowly removing Cook from the picture. His snap count has decreased on a weekly basis throughout the season. He started at 50% in the season opener before going down to 36%, 25%, 25%, and 17% in the next four games, respectively.

While the Jets have been cutting into Cook’s snap count, they’ve still been giving him the football too much. Against Denver, Cook only played 11 snaps, but he got six carries. That’s a lot of carries for such a small snap count. Michael Carter played 20 snaps in the game and had four total touches (three receptions, one carry).

It’s time for the Jets to face reality and make Cook a healthy scratch. The pipe dream is over. He is one of the worst players in the league at his position and should be treated as such. The Jets are not maximizing their chances of winning if they give Cook special treatment because of his recognizable name, large contract, and past accomplishments.

Refusing to bench Cook would be a perfect example of the sunk-cost fallacy: “the phenomenon whereby a person is reluctant to abandon a strategy or course of action because they have invested heavily in it, even when it is clear that abandonment would be more beneficial.”

The Jets have promising alternatives to Cook and must use them.

Despite a rough season in 2022, Michael Carter has earned the right to get another chance as the Jets’ RB2 with his performance this year. Carter has provided value as the Jets’ third-down back, showing tremendous grit as a blocker throughout the season. He’s shown a lot of improvement in this area after struggling as a blocker in the past. In addition, Carter ran well in the preseason, looking more like his 2021 self than the 2022 version. It’s a small sample, but Carter has run for 31 yards on five carries (6.2 YPC) in the regular season.

Waiting in the wings is rookie fifth-round pick Israel Abanikanda, who flashed a ton of promise in the preseason.

Just 21 years old, boasting elite top-end speed, and having a relatively modest total of 428 college touches under his belt, Abanikanda is the prototype late-round-steal running back who comes out of nowhere to thrive as a young player. The NFL is built upon young running backs with breakaway speed and low mileage.

Cook is the epitome of why NFL teams do not pay running backs anymore. Players at this position tend to hit their peak early and decline quickly. The right way to manage running backs in this league is to run the rookie-contract players into the ground and then let them walk before they turn into the next Cook.

In Carter and Abanikanda, the Jets have two fresh young backs with plenty of tread left on their tires. Cook is a fancy antique who draws eyeballs but he simply can’t get you from Point A to Point B. Put him back in the garage and pull out the shiny new 2021 and 2023 models that have hardly been touched.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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mlesko73
1 month ago

Great article, absolutely agree