The major focus of this New York Jets’ 2021 season has been on developing the youth.
Head coach Robert Saleh stated this during training camp and he’s remained pretty consistent on it outside of the decision to start Joe Flacco in Week 11. Otherwise, first and second-year players have been asked to make major contributions in all three facets of the game.
That’s why this news is especially hard to stomach.
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Michael Carter Injury Update
Rookie running back Michael Carter had just started to get hot the past few weeks, leading the offense in scrimmage yards this season. So much so, he was even approaching a rookie franchise record.
That’s why it’s only fitting that the North Carolina product left Week 11 with an ankle injury. Just one day after the game on November 22, NFL insider Adam Schefter announced that “Jets’ rookie RB Michael Carter suffered a low-grade high ankle sprain that is expected to sideline him 2-3 weeks.”
Now, this sort of timeline may not seem like the end of the world and it’s not, but it’s certainly disappointing either way. Carter has been one of the Jets’ best and brightest players this season.
With Zach Wilson nearing a return, the timing is pretty poor. Ever since Mike LaFleur made his offensive adjustments after the bye, fans have been waiting to see this system operate behind the rookie quarterback.
It would have been nice to have all four promising first-year prospects on the field at the same time in Week 12 — Wilson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore and Carter — but it appears we’ll all have to wait a bit longer to see that combination once again.
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Carter Absence Sets Stage for 2022 Audition
Coach Saleh spoke on the injury during his press conference on November 22. He called it a “mild high ankle sprain,” adding that it was a “very low-grade sprain.”
The Jets HC continued later: “Him missing this time where he can get better [is] obviously a blow for him, hopefully, we can get him back before the end of the season to get him some more playing time so he can continue to rack up those reps and hit the ground running this offseason.”
With seven games left on the schedule, Carter should return barring a setback, but how many of the remaining games he’ll end up missing is still unclear. That presents an opportunity for backups Ty Johnson, Tevin Coleman and La’Mical Perine.
Carter was the clear lead back heading into Week 11, so without him, there should be plenty of carries to go around. Here’s how the running back snaps have shaken out so far in 2021.
- Carter: 10 games, 111 carries for 430 yards (3.9 per), 32 receptions for 308 yards.
- Johnson: 10 games, 42 carries for 144 yards (3.4 per), 25 receptions for 271 yards.
- Coleman: 6 games, 30 carries for 118 yards (3.9 per), 5 receptions for 23 yards.
- Perine: 3 games, 1 carry for 3 yards (3.0 per), zero catches.
In many ways, this could be an audition for 2022. The Jets aren’t going anywhere this season but they are shaping this roster as they plan for the future.
Coleman is currently playing on a one-year deal, will he return to New York in 2022? How about Johnson, whose contract expires in 2023. He and Perine should be here but can the franchise trust them as viable backups? Or do they need to add to this room?
For the record, I like this group but if there’s one thing Saleh always states about GM Joe Douglas, it’s that he’s constantly evaluating each and every player in this organization. Until Carter returns, the spotlight will be on these three backs.
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