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McGuire impresses with effort
Every day after Elijah McGuire finishes his work at the Jets’ Florham Park facility — meetings, practice, lifting, more meetings — the rookie running back heads home. He settles in, pulls out his team-issued tablet and, for at least two more hours, watches film of opposing defenses.
McGuire is 23 and only has 13 career carries through three games. But he’s nonetheless fully aware of the thin line between employment and unemployment in the modern NFL. And the 2017 sixth-round pick is putting in the extra effort to make sure he keeps his spot on the roster.
“It’s hard making it here, and it’s even harder to stay on the team,” McGuire told the News in the Jets locker room Friday. “It’s just the little things that get guys out the league. I’m not trying to be one of those guys.”
So far, McGuire’s commitment to his craft is impressing teammates and coaches alike. And this Sunday, when the Jags come to MetLife Stadium to take on Gang Green, McGuire should see more action with Matt Forte sitting out because of turf toe in his left foot.
The additional hours spent watching film are helping McGuire acclimate to the pro game as a pass blocker — a skill Bilal Powell said most rookies struggle to grasp because they aren’t asked to do as much protecting out of the backfield in college.
“He’s got a great approach to the game like he’s a three or four-year vet. I think it’s his preparation, everyone helping, the coaches, and it’s him wanting to do it,” offensive coordinator John Morton said of McGuire this week. “It’s hard for a rookie to come in and play right away in this league. I think he’s done a really good job and that’s because he prepares.”
Todd Bowles is pleased with how McGuire doesn’t panic in pass protection.
“It’s great for a young player because you don’t see half of the things in preseason that you see in regular season,” Bowles said. “So for him to still do his job and understand where he needed to be is pretty good.”
“He’s turning into a pro real quick,” added Powell, who will start in place of Forte Sunday. “He’s a guy that’s a sponge, he soaks up everything, all the knowledge that’s around him. He takes coaching and goes out and puts what he’s coached (to do) on the field.”
McGuire didn’t play in the Jets’ seasonopening loss to the Bills, but he’s taken advantage of his opportunities in the past two contests, rushing for 63 yards on 13 carries — a 4.84 yards-per-carry average that leads the team. The 5-10, 214-pound back has displayed breakaway speed when bouncing runs to the outside. His only hiccup came on a lost fumble late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win over the Dolphins.
It’s McGuire’s development as a pass blocker, though, that is earning him playing time and the trust of coaches, as well as quarterback Josh McCown.
“It’s just that motivation,” McGuire said of the key to pass protection. “A couple times when I picked up pass blitzes when Josh is in the game, he’ll tell me good job. But most importantly, when we get to the sideline, he’s like, ‘Man, you’re doing a very good job of picking up the blitz, and that’ll keep running backs in the league for a long time, knowing the protections.’ So I just try to take protections very seriously.”
McGuire thanks his position coach at Louisiana-Lafeyette, Marquase Lovings, for stressing pass protection in college. And he’s maintained that focus as a pro, leaning on Forte and Powell for advice in practice.
“It’s been that little-brother talk,” McGuire said. The extra studying doesn’t hurt, either.
“I’m just watching film and just think all the possible ways of what they might bring,” McGuire said. “Whatever they bring, I’ll be ready for it.”