The New York Jets needed to add a backup running back for Le’Veon Bell, and that’s what Joe Douglas did. Meet the power back, Lamical Perine.
They needed to add a backup option for Le’Veon Bell, and a potential starter long-term. Perine checks one of those boxes. He’s a physical runner who doesn’t really excel at any one thing. A jack-of-all-trades style running back.
That’s great to have in a backup, but not so much a starter. His lack of elite traits is certainly a cause for concern, but he does have a role on this team.
With head coach Adam Gase likely looking to move to a running back by committee approach in 2021, Perine makes sense. A powerful, versatile runner will be much more useful in a committee than as a lead back.
Perine arrived at Florida as a three-star prospect. That didn’t stop him from making an immediate impact as a true freshman. He played in all 13 games his freshman year, getting 100 touches on the ground and through the air. He had 421 rushing yards and 161 receiving yards, averaging 4.6 yards per rush and 17.9 yards per reception.
Perine then became the lead back in Florida’s running back committee his sophomore year. He led the team in rushing with 562 yards and saw his receiving numbers tank with only 81 receiving yards. He averaged 4.1 yards per carry and 8.1 yards per reception, both huge dropoffs from his freshman year.
Perine lost his starting job his senior year but still played in all 13 games. It was the best thing that could have happened to him. Revitalized in his role as a change-of-pace back Perine had the best season of his college career. He rushed for 826 yards and had 170 receiving yards, averaging 6.2 yards per rush and 13.1 yards per reception.
He was bumped back into a starting role as a senior and his numbers predictably fell. Perine started all 13 games, but he only put up 676 rushing yards and 262 receiving yards. He averaged 5.1 yards per rush and 6.6 yards per reception.
Over the course of his career, Perine had 22 rushing and eight receiving touchdowns. Five of his eight receiving scores came in his senior year. He fumbled four times in his college career, losing two.
Perine isn’t an athletic back. He ran a 4.62 40-yards dash, had a 35-inch vertical, 118-inch broad jump, 7.13 three-cone, and a 4.31 20-yard shuttle. Calling Perine an average athlete is overestimating his athletic ability compared to his peers.
The one thing Perine has going for him is his strength. His 22 bench press reps put him in the top-10 at the combine at running back.
Perine’s lack of athleticism isn’t the end of the world. A number of running backs have gone on to star in the NFL with similar numbers. The issue is that the Jets didn’t need an average-at-best athlete, they needed speed and explosive weapons. Perine isn’t that guy.
He’s the guy who would rather run through contact then get around it. He doesn’t have breakaway speed in space, and he doesn’t have dynamic agility to make people miss in the open field.
For him to be successful in the NFL, he’s likely going to need to develop as a power back. If he can add more strength and truly own up to that role he could look a lot like Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner.
Perine’s versatility is his biggest strength. He can make it as a power back, but he’s also useful in the passing game. He’s got good hands and a decent feel for route running. Florida even played him at wide receiver at times during his senior year. Perine is also a good pass blocker with the ability to get better.
Perine’s best asset as a runner is his strength and physicality. He’s got good balance and is a hard north-south runner. He’s not afraid of contact and he’s not going to go down easy. Perine’s known for dragging runners and fighting through contact.
Jets new running back giving Jamal Adams a piggy back ride pic.twitter.com/ulLOTwQzFu
— Matt (@mgnss26) April 25, 2020
Most important is that Perine is a goal-line presence. When the ball is near the end zone Perine knows what he has to do to score. He’s excellent at finding small holes to gain just enough yards. He’s also excellent at finding the soft spot in coverage as a receiver in the red zone.
Perine’s biggest weakness is his lack of natural athleticism. It’s a killer for him on the field. He runs with natural power and patience, but the lack of acceleration or breakaway speed takes away his big-play ability.
Perine has a tendency to brace for contact before it actually comes. That slows him down and makes it less likely he’ll break the tackle. It’s great that he wants to lower his head and plow through contact, but he needs to time it right. He can’t afford to give tacklers the time to see him and adjust.
Perine also lacks the ability to make men miss in the backfield. He’s rarely going to make something out of nothing if he can’t get up to speed and use his power. In a league that feasts on tackles for losses, that’s going to need to change.
If Perine doesn’t have big-play ability, he’ll need to find a way to limit the run stuffs he takes. He doesn’t have a way to do that right now.