When the NY Jets released former fourth-round pick Michael Carter last month, the belief was that it was done in an effort to give rookie running back Israel Abanikanda some playing time.
In fact, it wasn't just a belief. The Jets outright told reporters that Carter's departure made room for Abanikanda and that he was expected to receive an increased role (or any role, for that matter) on offense moving forward.
That hasn't been the case, however. Abanikanda has played in just one game since Carter's release, and he didn't see the field until garbage time. The rookie running back has touched the ball just two times on offense.
So, what gives? Why isn't Abanikanda playing? Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett spoke to reporters on Thursday and did his best to justify Abanikanda's lack of playing time.
Hackett told reporters that Abanikanda has "a long way to go" as a pass protector. That seems to be the thing that's keeping Abanikanda off the field. Unfortunately, that logic isn't really consistent.
The NY Jets continue to make bogus excuses for Israel Abanikanda's absence
It's totally reasonable to suggest that Abanikanda isn't exactly a strong pass blocker at this stage. The rookie fifth-round pick wasn't asked to do a ton of pass-blocking in college, so it's reasonable to assume that it's still a work in progress for him.
The issue here is the lack of consistency.
Carter ranked as one of the worst pass-blocking running backs in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus, prior to his release. Hackett explained that Abanikanda isn't ready to take over Carter's role as a pass-blocking third-down back — only it's almost impossible to be a worse third-down back than Carter was for the Jets.
It's also worth noting that neither Breece Hall nor Dalvin Cook have been particularly impressive in pass protection this season, either. Cook has especially been an issue, and that much was on display this past Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
It was a strip sack allowed by Cook that ultimately put the nail in the coffin and solidified a fifth consecutive Jets loss. The Jets forced Carter into a third-down role he was terrible at, and now they're doing the same with Cook.
How can Abanikanda be any worse?
The Jets need to find ways to shake up their running game. With their postseason hopes all but nonexistent at this stage, the Jets should prioritize playing their young guys — players who might actually be here next year.
If you don't trust Abanikanda in pass protection, that's fine. There's no excuse for him receiving a whopping zero snaps in all but one game this season. Hackett's excuses are tiresome and illogical.
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