The NY Jets know that Breece Hall is going to head into the season as their starting runing back. However, due to his injury history and Nathaniel Hackett's history with splitting workloads evenly across multiple backs, the Jets need one more big name to rise up.
The Jets haven't exactly shied away from courting Dalvin Cook in recent weeks, and the latest rumors have them connected to former Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. While bringing in a veteran would make a ton of sense, Robert Saleh is likely going to exhaust all of his internal options before making a decision.
While potential cut candidate Michael Carter has some experience, and Zonovan Knight finished the 2022 season hot after getting some snaps, fifth-round rookie Israel Abanikanda can't be ruled out after another strong showing in the preseason. The Pitt alum flexed his muscles against Bryce Young and the Carolina Panthers.
Not only did Abanikanda find the end zone for the second time in as many games during New York's 27-0 domination of Frank Reich's squad, but he amassed 87 total yards (56 rushing, 31 receiving) on just 15 carries. The veteran noise might die down if Abanikanda keeps playing like this.
NY Jets' Israel Abanikanda dominates Panthers in preseason
Abanikanda might be listed at a robust 215 pounds, but his game is all about explosive plays. He recorded 1,431 yards on the ground to go along with 20 touchdowns during his final season at Pitt. Half of those scores came against rivals Miami, Virginia Tech, and UNC.
While Carter looked like the slippery player he was during his rookie season instead of the lead-footing plowhorse we saw in 2022, Abanikanda looks like the quicker and more dynamic athlete. Knight is going to have an element of power in his game, but his speed will never match that of Izzy.
The Jets might have more financial wiggle room in the next few seasons due to Aaron Rodgers' new contract, but they might not spend that money wisely if a good chunk of their available funds is allocated to aging, declining running backs. Abanikanda's play is certainly deserving of more significant examination.
Like all preseason results, Abanikanda's stats should be taken with a grain of salt. However, quality reps should not be totally ignored, and his penchant for creating big plays out of nothing has already victimized both Cleveland and Carolina defenders in his first few games as a Jet. Watch out, Dalvin.