That preseason finale between the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles had a little bit of everything.
There was a rain delay, no Zach Wilson surprisingly, and a hail mary to tie the game. Wait, what? In case you fell asleep early on Friday night, August 27, the Jets came back to tie the game on an incredulous last-second heave.
Although the biggest takeaways weren’t the tie or the weather, it was the emergence of a true RB1 out of the scrap heap: Ty Johnson.
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It Wasn’t Supposed to Be This Way
When the switching of guard happened at head coach this offseason and the Jets made all of their additions during free agency and the 2021 NFL draft, we thought we knew what would happen in the backfield.
Tevin Coleman was brought over from San Francisco where he was intimately familiar with the scheme. Many thought the veteran would be the lead dog for the Jets heading into the season.
Then others jumped on the Michael Carter train out of North Carolina. Gang Green was heralded for getting one of the steals of the draft and he has been the talk of the town during training camp.
Yet when push came to shove, neither of those guys were the answer to the pressing question, who the heck is RB1 on this team?
Connor Hughes of The Athletic perhaps said it best on Twitter: “A lot of people want to talk about MC1, but Ty Johnson is the Jets best running back.”
He certainly looked the part in the preseason finale toting the rock 13 times for 53 yards and a touchdown. Johnson also contributed two receptions for an additional 18 yards.
Robert Saleh Gets His Man
“The emphasis for Ty Johnson this year since we [the new coaching staff] has walked in the building has been to get those tough yards,” Saleh told reporters. “Like third-and-one lower your shoulder. It’s not about finding the crease, it’s about moving the pile. Sticking his foot in the ground and getting violent with his running. He looked great and he still has so much more in the tank.”
Well, Saleh and this coaching staff certainly got that and some Friday night from the talented running back.
Johnson said to the media after the game that his goal is to be “patient but violent” this season.
The 23-year-old was a sixth-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft and bounced from the Detroit Lions to the Jets last year. While he didn’t get many opportunities Johnson did show some chutzpah in 2020.
Now he has risen from the bottom of the roster to arguably the top dog and likely starter heading into Week 1.
Johnson was recently compared to current San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert, by NFL analyst and fantasy football guru Evan Silva.
Mostert bounced around the league for the first few years of his career until ultimately he found his footing in the bay, similar to Johnson.
Over the last two years, he has rushed for over 1,200 yards and totaled 13 touchdowns in just 24 games. During that span, he also averaged over 5.3 yards per carry.
If Johnson can have half that kind of success in this Jets scheme, they’ll be well on their way to possessing a very balanced offensive attack.
There are a lot of similarities between the two running backs and perhaps the most obvious trait is their explosiveness. That in particular certainly separates Johnson from the rest of the pack in his own backfield.
This overall group is still likely destined to be a running back by committee, but Mike LaFleur seems willing to ride the hot hand.
Folks don’t realize that this new-look offense is going to have a foundation that features running the football. This Jets team is going to run the football a lot more than people think and that’ll set up the play-action passing game for intermediate and deep vertical shots.
The other running backs on the roster all have flaws: Coleman (injury prone) and Carter (diminutive). Johnson is the perfect scheme fit for this offense and despite his humble beginnings entering the league initially, he may have found his forever home with the Jets.