Matt Forte is now 32 years of age and deprived of the run power he had earlier in his career. Look no further than Jeremy Hill as the guy to fill his shoes.
The New York Jets and ex-offensive coordinator John Morton made something out of nothing in 2017. Gang Green was projected by a number of experts and analysts to finish winless after an enormous offseason roster purge. Five wins and competitiveness in a majority of games certainly exceeded expectations, but it still wasn’t a campaign to be proud of.
An evident struggle to convert in short-yardage situations doomed the Jets in some of their losses. Drives couldn’t stay alive which wore down the defense. The offensive line deserves blame, although Morton didn’t have power personnel in the backfield.
Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire don’t have the short-yardage skill set while Matt Forte lost that ability when he turned 30. Assuming general manager Mike Maccagnan parts ways with the veteran to save $3 million (Over The Cap), he’ll need to either sign or draft a back to replace him. Jeremy Hill is the man for the job.
Hill is slated to hit the market in March after four years with Cincinnati. In his first three seasons, the LSU product racked up 2,757 yards and 29 touchdowns on 667 carries in 47 games. Despite not being known as a pass catcher, he additionally hauled in 63 of 78 footballs thrown his way for 468 yards and a touchdown. He played in a mere seven games in 2017 as an ankle injury ended his season in November.
The 25-year-old’s postseason experience makes his résumé even more appealing. Hill has 25 attempts for 97 yards and two touchdowns in two contests. Six of those runs went for first downs, however, one ended in a fumble that Bengals fans will never forget. He has fumbled once since.
The stat that sticks out most is his short-yardage production. In third or fourth down scenarios of three yards or less, he has a career 48 carries for 30 first downs, a 62.5 percent conversion rate. Touchdowns in the NFL are considered first downs as well, so his five touchdowns in those situations don’t boost the stat.
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To provide context on where Hill matches up with some of the best short-yardage backs of all-time, Adrian Peterson‘s is 69.6 percent and LaDainian Tomlinson‘s is 66.3. To be even close to those two in that department is incredibly impressive. It also trumps the rates the Jets currently have. Forte holds a 60.7 and Powell has a 55.8. McGuire has just four carries in those spots.
As sad as it is, Josh McCown was actually New York’s best short-yardage option. He was a perfect five for five in third/fourth and three or less situations. This is the main roadblock in New York’s rushing attack. If Hill is added to the mix, the backfield instantly becomes more efficient.
The only way he fails to succeed in the ‘Big Apple’ is if he’s unhealthy repetitively or the offensive line remains inept. Hill has a history of limping off the field and of course the recent ankle injury, but it shouldn’t steer Maccagnan away from targeting him. There’s too much gas in his tank and mileage on his legs for him to fall off the map at such a young age.