The New York Jets have done an admirable job the past two offseasons rebuilding their roster and changing their culture. The 2022 season is shaping up to be a very intriguing and important one.
Zach Wilson is the unquestioned No. 1 quarterback. There are more playmakers on both sides of the ball. The offensive line is much improved. The secondary has undergone a complete makeover. If healthy, the defensive line could be one of the better units in the league.
Each position group is better now than 2020, when the Jets were 2-14 and Adam Gase was fired as coach.
Improvement was incremental last season, however. The Jets won four games under coach Robert Saleh and had the lowest-rated defense and 26th-ranked offense in the NFL. Injuries and growing pains by Wilson, among others, slowed the progress. Baby steps.
But the Jets are optimistic. And while each position group will need to improve, there’s one that should be most important to their success this season: running back.
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Jets Key Position Group For 2022 NFL Season
The Jets No. 1 goal is to put Zach Wilson in the best possible position to succeed. He is their most important player and his development into a star quarterback is paramount, especially after Sam Darnold’s failure to fill that role before Wilson was selected second overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.
To that end, they beefed up their offensive line by selecting guard Alijah Vera-Tucker with the 14th overall pick last season and signing All-Pro guard Laken Tomlinson this winter.
No more are they barren at tight end. Veterans C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin were signed this offseason. Ohio State stud Jeremy Ruckert was selected in the third round of the 2022 draft.
And the wide receiver room boasts home run threats Garrett Wilson, the No. 10 pick in the first round this offseason, and Elijah Moore, a second-rounder in 2021. They will pair with veteran Corey Davis. Braxton Berrios was re-signed to be Wilson’s safety blanket. And who knows, maybe this is the year Denzel Mims finally breaks out.
"You can see every single day, we're getting better."
— New York Jets (@nyjets) June 27, 2022
But nothing will help Wilson succeed more than a strong running game. Should the Jets be able to establish the run consistently, it will take so much pressure off their young QB, who too often faced second-and-long, third-and-long situations as a rookie.
Second down and five, for example, puts the defense on its heels and makes it difficult to sub in specific packages. Will the Jets run again here? Will Wilson throw an intermediate pass? Will the Jets play action and look downfield?
It’s a much different mindset than sitting at second-and-nine or third-and-long when the defense pins its ears back to get after Wilson.
RB Michael Carter reached out to Breece Hall as soon as Hall was drafted. Talk about an unselfish attitude.
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) June 1, 2022
The West Coast offense the Jets deploy is quarterback friendly. One of its key components is a strong running game behind a zone-blocking scheme. The rookie Hall, in particular, should thrive in this system, one similar to what he played in at Iowa State.
Carter was solid last season as a rookie, leading the Jets with 639 yards in 14 games. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry and scored four touchdowns.
But the addition of Hall is key. Hall is a more explosive back than Carter and was considered by many to be a first-round talent in the draft. He rushed for more than 3,000 yards and 41 touchdowns the past two seasons, when he was a consensus All-American and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year in 2020 and 2021.
He's got the bloodlines, too. Hall's cousin is former San Francisco 49ers running back Roger Craig.
There goes Breece Hall pic.twitter.com/QxWS16Kbgg
— Unnecessary Roughness (@UnnecRoughness) October 16, 2021
The Jets wisely plan to rotate their two backs. This should keep each fresher through the 17-game grind of the season and maximize the team’s rushing attack.
The depth behind Hall and Carter is solid, too. Veteran Tevin Coleman was injured for a stretch last season, his first in New York after productive years with the Atlanta Falcons and 49ers. Yet he still rushed for 356 yards on 84 carries, meeting his career average of 4.2 yards per attempt. Ty Johnson has shown flashes in two seasons with the Jets, too. He’s averaged 4.3 yards per carry and gained 492 yards for them in 27 games.
Last season the Jets averaged 98.1 yards rushing per game, good for just 25th in the NFL. If they can improve that total by 20 yards per game — which is not unlikely if they commit to running the ball more consistently behind an improved line and with a strong running back tandem — the Jets could be closer to a top-10 rushing team per last year’s standards.
That, in turn, would benefit Wilson, who completed 55.6 percent of his passes and averaged 179.5 passing yards per game last season, substandard numbers for a starting NFL quarterback.
It’s a blueprint for success and the Jets running back position group should be able to hold up its end of the bargain.