The Jets could utilize a running back committee, but who may the coaching staff rely on to truly lead the position group?
Zach Wilson will need assistance. As a young kid who is set to start right away for a franchise coming off a two-win season, he won’t be able to accomplish everything himself. The offensive help around him is crucial, even at a running back position that has seemingly lost value the last few years.
The Jets have made a number of offseason moves at this specific spot, drafting North Carolina’s Michael Carter and reuniting head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur with a former 49ers counterpart by inking Tevin Coleman to a one-year deal. Both guys will join a room that additionally includes 2020 fourth-round draft pick La’Mical Perine.
The coaching staff could definitely utilize a running back committee. But as far as the top guy/every-week starter is concerned, who may the Jets call on to lead the group?
La’Mical Perine could be the favorite to earn the job — he’s in his second year with the team and first in the new system but is likely more of a starting-caliber back than Tevin Coleman given the difference in age.
And unlike with rookie Michael Carter, you know what you could possibly get out of Perine at the professional level.
La’Mical rushed for 232 yards on a 3.6 yards-per-carry rate with two touchdowns last year while additionally catching 11 balls for 63 yards through the air. He carries the potential to be a multi-faceted back — the Jets and LaFleur will just need to utilize him better than former Gang Green head coach Adam Gase did.
Gase, on numerous occasions in 2020, favored veteran back Frank Gore over Perine.
The young Michael Carter possesses a high ceiling and could succeed in multiple areas of the game. However, he’ll have more ground to cover than the other two primary options for the starting running back role given his experience (or lack thereof).
Carter may start down the road, but initially, the Jets would be better off using the 2021 fourth-rounder as more of a return specialist and situational back. Through four years at North Carolina, Carter returned 29 kicks for 650 yards (22.4 yards per kick return).
He’s another back that can be multi-faceted — Carter proved successful both on the ground and through the air during his tenure as a Tar Heel. Surely LaFleur will find a way to maximize his potential in the pros.
The advantage Tevin Coleman owns over both Perine and Carter is that he carries experience in this type of system. LaFleur will surely be bringing over elements of Kyle Shanahan’s offense, which Coleman worked under while with Atlanta in 2015-16 (when Shanahan was the Falcons offensive coordinator) and San Francisco in 2019-20 (during Shanahan’s current tenure as the 49ers head coach).
Coleman could be a decent receiving back (he’s undergone seasons with 31, 27, and 32 catches) and it would be beneficial for the Jets to start someone with versatility. However, the disadvantage with Coleman is that he’s entering his age-28 season in an era in which running backs seemingly age quick (SEE: Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, etc.).
The Jets may prefer to field someone younger in this role — for what it’s worth, Perine and Carter are respectively entering their age-23 and 22 seasons.