New York Daily News
Rating Gang’s running backs
With the 2021 draft approaching on April 29 and NFL free agency quieting down, here’s a look at where the Jets stand.
RUNNING BACKS: GRADE C
l WHO’S ON THE ROSTER: La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, Pete Guerriero, Tevin Coleman and Josh Adams l WHO DEPARTED: Frank Gore Even though there’s a crowd that believes running backs don’t matter, the Jets have to improve their rushing attack because it’s essential to a productive offense.
In 2020, eight of the Top 12 teams in rushing yards made the playoffs: Baltimore, Tennessee, Cleveland, New Orleans, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Los Angeles (Rams) and Seattle.
Granted, some of those teams have either a great defense or a great quarterback. Some have both, but nonetheless most playoff teams have top-tier rushing attacks.
Pro Football Focus rated the Jets’ running game 25th with a grade of 75.2.
The Jets’ running attack averaged 105.2 yards per game, which was 22nd in the NFL. That was an improvement from 2019, when it averaged an abysmal 94 yards. Gore, 37, ran for a team-high 653 yards with two touchdowns.
Statistically, there isn’t much production returning from running backs. Johnson, Adams and Perine rushed for a combined 643 yards last season.
Perine played sparingly in his rookie season out of Florida. He totaled 232 yards and two touchdowns and PFF ranked him 65th out of 70 qualifying running backs. His best game came against the Bills in Week 7, when he rushed for 40 yards and a TD on 11 carries.
Johnson notched 254 rushing yards and a touchdown. But almost half of it came against the Raiders in Week 13. He exploded for 104 yards and a touchdown. That was the most yards in a single game for a Jets running back last season.
Adams ran for 157 yards. His best game also came against the Raiders, when he rushed for 74 yards.
The addition of Coleman from the 49ers should help the running game even though injuries limited him to 53 yards last season. He’s familiar with the offensive scheme that the Jets will run.
Coleman’s best season came in 2018 with the Falcons, when he ran for 800 yards and four touchdowns. In 2019, he rushed for 544 yards as the 49ers went to the Super Bowl.
In his career, Coleman has rushed for 2,937 yards with 24 TDs to go along with 117 receptions for 1,224 yards and 12 TDs.
EARLY DRAFT OPTIONS:
The Jets must add talent to this group early in the draft.
The Jets have 10 total picks, but have five in the Top 86 of the draft — two in the first round at No. 2 and No. 23 (via Seattle), No. 34 in Round 2, No. 66 and No. 86 (via Seattle) in Round 3.
The Jets can quickly improve their offense by drafting a talented back. An improved running game would make life easier for whomever the rookie quarterback is going to be.
l Najee Harris, Alabama
Harris is the school’s all-time leading rusher with 3,843 yards (surpassing the mark set by Derrick Henry). He ran for 46 touchdowns in his four seasons and is also a receiving threat (781 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns over the past two years).
The 6-3, 229-pound athletic freak is a combination of power, agility and speed. He runs with extraordinary balance and can plow through defenders for extra yards.
l Travis Etienne, Clemson
Etienne is a stud. He is the ACC’s all-time leading rusher and was the Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019. He rushed for 4,952 yards and 70 touchdowns in four years with the Tigers. The 5-10, 215-pounder has big-play ability and can score anytime he touches the ball. l Javonte Williams, North Carolina Williams is a physical downhill and instinctive runner who has good vision and runs through tackles. In addition to his physical running style, he has elite quickness.
In 2020, the 5-10, 220-pounder rushed for 1,140 yards and 19 touchdowns. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield. He caught 25 passes for 305 yards and three TDs. lMichael Carter, North Carolina Carter, 5-8, 202 pounds, plays similar to Clyde Edwards-Helaire of the Chiefs. Even though he’s undersized, it doesn’t affect his running ability. Carter ran for 1,245 yards and scored nine touchdowns as a senior. l Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis Gainwell is a dynamic playmaker. In 2019, he excelled in his redshirt year by rushing for 1,459 yards with 13 scores. He was productive in the pass game with 51 catches for 610 yards and three TDs.
Gainwell opted out in 2020 season due to COVID-19. He lost four family members due to the virus.