Michael Carter Leads Jets Rookie Movement as Several Shine in Week 2

Michael Carter

Getty New York Jets running back Michael Carter carries the ball on August 14, 2021.

It hasn’t been the start that New York Jets fans have hoped for but there are still a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the future.

At least five to be exact, and they’re all rookies that aren’t named Zach Wilson.

Don’t get me wrong, even after this rough outing against the New England Patriots I’m very optimistic about the young quarterback too, but this article will focus on his supporting cast of 2021 draft picks. The Michael Carters (both of them), the Alijah Vera-Tuckers.

There’s so much to be excited about despite the butt-whooping because while Wilson had a terrible outing, the team did not.

I was in attendance with a crew of friends from Boston, so trust me, it wasn’t easy seeing the silver linings but they were certainly there. Carter and this Jets rookie movement led the way.

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Carter & AVT Tag-Team in the Run Game

Postgame 1-On-1 With Michael Carter | The New York Jets | NFLTeam reporter Ethan Greenberg speaks with running back Michael Carter after the team's home opener against the New England Patriots. Subscribe to the New York Jets YT Channel: bit.ly/2KRtBJd For more Jets NFL Action: bit.ly/2rkCbal #NewYorkJets #Jets #NFL For more Jets action: newyorkjets.com/2021-09-19T21:22:56Z

General manager Joe Douglas has received a ton of criticism for his 2020 draft class lately, and for good reason. Outside of Bryce Hall, who seems to be developing into a reliable starting cornerback, last year’s prospects have mostly been either injury-prone or unimpressive.

Mekhi Becton is sidelined again. Denzel Mims and Jabari Zuniga were both inactive for Week 2 (practice squad for the edge rusher). James Morgan is on the Carolina Panthers. If you include UDFAs Bryce Huff and Javelin Guidry, it does look a little better, but the overall results haven’t been pretty so far.

The 2021 rookie class has been a different story altogether. This group is overflowing with potential and it all starts in the run game.

The fourth-round pick known as ‘MC1’ was the Jets best running back in Week 2. Not only that, his snap count was tied with Ty Johnson for the most at the position. Veteran Tevin Coleman was phased out of the offense a bit with Carter and Johnson seeing 31 snaps a piece — the rookie didn’t disappoint.

MC1 finished with a slippery 59 rushing yards off 11 carries with two catches for 29 yards as a receiver. That’s a 5.4-yard clip with 14.5 yards per reception. His 88 scrimmage yards led all skill position players on Sunday.

Elusive is one way to describe Carter, dynamic is another. There were a handful of plays where the running back refused to be tackled, turning a mild gain into a big play with his tenacity.

If the flashy moments weren’t enough to wow you, the North Carolina product was gritty too, earning an 82.8 pass protection grade from Pro Football Focus.

Carter may end up being a draft steal, but one of the men paving the way for him was a known commodity. The Jets traded up for the rookie left guard nicknamed ‘AVT.’ Many have high expectations for the offensive lineman, including Hall of Famer Anthony Muñoz, who predicted Vera-Tucker wouldn’t play like a rookie.

He did seem like one in Week 1, but this time around AVT bullied defenders like a seasoned vet. His pass protection marks weren’t great but as a run-blocker, the USC product excelled with a 77.8.

In the first Carter run of the Twitter compilation above, Vera-Tucker moves two would-be tacklers, creating a monster hole for the young runner. If not for all the interceptions, this rushing attack was playing well enough to win this football game.

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Young Corners Proving Coaches Right

If you trusted these rookie CBs, raise your hand. I see Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich with their hands up and I’ll give myself a bit of credit on this too.

The one free-agent corner I really advocated for was Richard Sherman — before the legal drama. I was very anti-Steven Nelson and bringing back Brian Poole didn’t thrill me as much as the rest of our Heavy on Jets team.

Unless the player was a clear upgrade that brought something like leadership or teaching to the table (Sherman), I agreed with Saleh that you might as well develop the youth. The sink or swim approach works well during a season where wins aren’t the most important thing.

Long-term improvement is, and you can’t improve if you don’t play.

Two rookies have seized the opportunity in the secondary, Brandin Echols and Michael Carter II. The outside CB out of Kentucky surprised the masses when he secured the starting job over fellow rookies like Isaiah Dunn and Jason Pinnock.

Echols had a 70.0 PFF coverage grade in Week 2. Unfortunately, his run defense and tackling marks dropped his overall score to 61.3. ‘MC2’ also struggled on run D but was better as a tackler. He was credited with a coverage grade of 65.8 against the Patriots.

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Elijah Moore Outsnaps Corey Davis

Everyone expected Bill Belichick to try and shut down Corey Davis and that’s exactly what ended up happening. Although Braxton Berrios was the best receiver wearing green and white on Sunday, Elijah Moore’s snap count ranked first for the position with 52.

The rookie wide receiver had a better showing than in Week 1, with four catches for 47 yards on eight targets. His nicest play of the game was a sideline route where he burnt coverage for 27 yards.

There’s definitely still room for improvement with Moore, but he’s on the right track. Before the game, Coach Saleh noted that he would like to see some of these rookies take a jump in Week 2. AVT and Moore were the two players that inspired the comment, being that they missed the preseason games.

Wilson may have taken a step back in the home opener but the majority of the Jets rookies made positive strides. One other negative was rookie linebacker Hamsah Nasirildeen, who lost out on snaps to newcomer Quincy Williams.

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