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The NY Jets will look to upgrade the running back position in the offseason.
The NY Jets will be in the running back market yet again this offseason. Just two years ago, New York gave out a megadeal to free agent Le’Veon Bell.
It was a four-year deal worth $52 million, with $35 million guaranteed that seemed destined to give the Jets their most talented offensive playmaker in years. However, things never seemed to work out in New York for either Bell or the Jets.
Adam Gase will be gone so that means Frank Gore will likely follow him out the door. The 37-year old Gore leads the Jets in carries and rushing yards this season. Having a 37-year old running back as your lead back is far from ideal, especially for a two-win team.
The Jets used a fourth-round draft pick on La’Mical Perine this past offseason. The rookie running back hasn’t been given much of an opportunity as Gase’s infatuation with Gore has taken away meaningful reps from Perine.
Even in limited time, Perine hasn’t shown many flashes of being the go-to guy in the Jets backfield. The New Jets should dip into free agency or the 2021 NFL Draft to find their lead back for next season.
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1. The NY Jets could sign Jamaal Williams
There are some viable options in free agency. The Jets shouldn’t have to break the bank for these free-agent running backs nor should they have to target someone like Aaron Jones.
Jamaal Williams is a running back that the Jets should consider targeting. The Green Bay Packers will have the 25-year old Williams hitting the free-agent market, but so too will the aforementioned Aaron Jones.
Jones is a top-10 running back in the league and it seems more and more probable that Green Bay opts to bring him back. As for Williams, the odds are not as likely.
The Packers also drafted running back A.J. Dillon in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Williams is likely to walk in free agency and the Jets should take a hard look in his direction.
Williams has shown the ability to catch the ball and be a legitimate weapon out of the backfield. He is also very solid in pass protection which should help him carve out a role in the offense.
The former BYU running back hasn’t fumbled in 495 carries, evidence of his sure hands out of the backfield. In each of the past four seasons, Williams has caught at least 25 passes and rushed for at least 450 yards.
Even though he lacks breakaway speed, he has taken advantage of his limited opportunities and deserves more of a featured role going forward. He has the potential to be a 1,000-yard rusher with 50+ catches if given a full-time starting role.
Next: 2. Marlon Mack
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2. The NY Jets could sign Marlon Mack
Marlon Mack is another interesting option at running back. Mack’s 2020 season was cut short when he tore his Achilles in Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he promises to be one of the most intriguing options on the free-agent market.
Mack had a very solid 2018 campaign when he rushed for a team-leading 908 yards and nine touchdowns. He came back in 2019 and improved his numbers rushing for 1,091 yards and eight scores.
Mack has shown the quickness to outrun anyone chasing him. He also has the ability to break arm tackles with ease. The former fourth-round pick is a patient runner who allows running lanes to open up before shooting through them with explosiveness.
Mack can also hold up in pass protection, much like Williams, but he does have a lengthy injury history that will cause concern.
Particularly, a torn Achilles is one of the most difficult injuries to recover from. Mack has missed at least two games in each season since entering the league in 2017.
The 24-year running back likely won’t return to Indianapolis as rookie running back Jonathan Taylor has taken advantage of Mack missing time. Taylor has rushed for 916 yards with nine touchdowns and appears to be the guy the Colts plan to build around.
Joe Douglas should look into bringing him on board. Mack will be looking for an opportunity to bounce back from his devastating injury and New York could be the perfect spot.
Next: 3. The 2021 NFL Draft
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3. The NY Jets could draft a running back
The Jets can use a draft pick to upgrade the running back room as opposed to dipping into the free-agent market. If they’re going to look into drafting a mid-round running back, they should take a look at North Carolina’s Javonte Williams.
He has the size to make an easy transition to the NFL, at 5-foot-10, 225 pounds. Williams had a great 2020 campaign where he rushed for 1,140 yards with 19 touchdowns.
He has amazing hands out of the backfield that allow him to snag the football out of the air with ease. Williams can consistently break tackles and is a tough runner who has tremendous balance and power.
Another player the Jets could target if they look to address the position in the earlier rounds is Alabama running back Najee Harris.
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Harris is a freakish athlete who, at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, Harris is extremely difficult to bring down. He wears defenses down with his physicality and looks to punish defenders with his runs. At his size, he has rare elusiveness.
His feet are consistently moving which allows him to gain positive yards on a frequent basis. Harris has natural hands coming out of the backfield as well.
Over the past two seasons, Harris has 10 receiving touchdowns on 59 receptions. He has all the tools to be an immediate three-down starter in the NFL.
Joe Douglas definitely needs to upgrade the running back position in the offseason. Fortunately, there are multiple ways he will be able to approach this situation.