Heading into the 2019 NFL season, the New York Jets have completely revamped their backfield, and the unit seems poised to significantly outperform last year’s group.
It’s no secret that the New York Jets offense was downright abysmal in 2018 and that can be attributed to multiple factors. Those include the ups and downs experienced by rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, the lack of playmakers he was surrounded with, and the inconsistency of a weak offensive line.
In addition to those key factors, however, it’s also evident that the team’s backfield was wildly unsuccessful throughout the 2018 campaign as well.
Prior to the start of the season, for example, the Jets inked a three-year deal with former Cleveland Brown Isaiah Crowell in hopes that he would add a much-needed spark to the team’s rushing attack. That, however, didn’t turn out to be the case.
On the season, Crowell appeared in 13 games, totaling 685 yards on 143 attempts for an average of 4.8 yards per carry with six touchdowns. Those stats are a bit inflated though as much of Crowell’s success came in one game: a week 5 matchup against the Denver Broncos in which he racked up 219 rushing yards.
Ultimately, the 26-year-old was far too inconsistent and his time as a Jet will likely be remembered most for an inappropriate touchdown celebration in week 3 that earned him a fine. He was subsequently released by the team last month.
Longtime veteran Bilal Powell also had a down year last season, totaling just 343 yards on 80 attempts. And then in week 7, Powell suffered a season-ending neck injury that likely put an end to his time playing for the green and white.
Entering the 2019 offseason, it was clear that the Jets had a wide variety of holes and needs to address, but as one can see, the backfield was clearly at the top of the list. And with the 2019 NFL Draft now just days away, fans can be pleased that the situation has actually already been addressed.
Last month, the Jets made waves when they signed former Pittsburgh Steeler Le’Veon Bell, a player considered by many to be the best on the market, to a four-year $52.5 million deal. Upon the signing, Bell instantly became the most electrifying playmaker the Jets have had in years.
Despite sitting out for the entirety of the 2018 season due to contract disputes with the Steelers, Bell remains in the prime of his career at just 27-years-old. As a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time First-Team All-Pro selection, Bell’s abilities as a dual-threat back are undeniable.
Aside from being the first player in league history to total 4,000 rushing yards and 2,000 receiving yards through his first 50 games, Bell picked up 1,291 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 321 attempts in 2017. He also brought in 85 receptions for 655 yards and two touchdowns during that year.
And while signing Bell represented a big splash that needed to be made by the Jets, the team didn’t stop there in regards to improving the running game. Just a few weeks ago, the team agreed to terms on a deal with 26-year-old Ty Montgomery to serve as Bell’s backup.
To be clear, Montgomery isn’t a natural running back and he is coming off a bit of a rough year in 2018, but he remains a versatile player and he could be used creatively by new head coach Adam Gase given that he, like Bell, has the ability to both run the ball and catch passes out of the backfield.
In addition, 2017 sixth-round draft pick Elijah McGuire remains under contract with the Jets. After suffering a foot injury, the 24-year-old returned near the tail end of the season and showed a bit of promise. With Bell and Montgomery ahead of him, McGuire could be used as a situational back by Gase and perhaps add a bit of spark when needed.
Heading into the draft, the Jets still have work to do and it’s unlikely that they’re a playoff team at the moment. However, it’s a good sign to see that the team has been nothing but active through the offseason thus far and that’s certainly been seen with the additions to the running game.
With that being said, the team is set to enter the 2019 season with a completely revamped backfield, something that should help the production of Darnold and the offense as a whole.