The New York Jets had another round of OTAs on June 2, 2021, and many of the franchise’s young stars were on full display for the media.
One rookie that turned heads was Jets’ running back Michael Carter. The former North Carolina Tar Heel is projected to start the season as the number two back on the depth chart behind veteran Tevin Coleman, but Jets beat reporter for The Athletic Connor Hughes says “it won’t be long” before he’s the starter.
It’s true that Coleman knows the system better, and he might still get the nod in Week 1 when all is said and done, but Carter (No. 32 in the tweet above) is the more explosive runner and he should have no trouble overtaking the 28-year old six-year pro.
Carter’s Performance at OTAs
It was only one day of non-contact football, but Carter had a couple of highlight-reel plays come out of it. The best part about his showing was that the rookie impressed both on the ground and through the air. Here was X-Factor Robby Sabo’s opinion on Carter as a runner.
Of course, the talented dual-threat was also involved in one of the most notable connections of the day, a wheel-route touch-pass from Zach Wilson downfield. Hughes had the call.
Although Coleman had an “acrobatic” touchdown reception from Mike White as well, it was a great day all-around for the UNC product.
How Carter Fits the Mike LaFleur Scheme
As we mentioned, Coleman might know the system, but Carter personifies it. The shifty, elusive back can rev up the engine at any moment with scary cut-back agility and absolute burner speed in the open field once he breaks loose.
These traits are perfect for Mike LaFleur’s outside zone run-scheme. The same scheme that saw speedy backs like Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert break out with the San Francisco 49ers.
If we’re talking quickness, Carter has it. At his pro day, Carter ran a 4.50-second 40-yard dash, but his most promising results came in the 20-yard short shuttle (3.98 seconds) and the three-cone agility drill (6.87 seconds).
You see, this offense isn’t just about north-south speed, it involves lateral pace and change of direction, something that’s rarer around the league. For all of Coleman’s time and success in this west coast system, which spans back to LaFleur and Kyle Shanahan’s days in Atlanta, he’s never once reached 1,000 yards rushing or elevated to more than a rotational runner.
It was against college defenses, but Carter totaled over 1,000 yards his past two campaigns, and those numbers came while sharing the North Carolina running back role with fellow NFL rookie Javonte Williams.
Crowded Running Back Room in Florham Park
Many fans were enticed by the play of pick-up Ty Johnson in 2020. The former Detroit Lions sixth-round pick ran for 4.7 yards per attempt in his first season as a Jet but was only allowed 4.9 attempts per game in 11 appearances and one start. There could be some untapped potential there.
Speaking of untapped potential, Josh Adams has never gotten the chance to uncover his. The former Philadelphia Eagles undrafted prospect followed Douglas over from Philly. He’s only 25 years of age, and in 29 rushing attempts last season, Adams ran for a 5.4-yard clip with two touchdowns.
Perine could actually be the odd man out in the Jets running back room if he doesn’t turn his game around. The masher out of Florida fit the Adam Gase “HB dive” system better than he fits LaFleur’s edge-attacking run scheme.
At just 3.6 yards per carry in 2020, Perine has been a rare misfire from Douglas in the draft. Assuming his production doesn’t improve, it’ll be interesting to see how the general manager decides to handle his mistakes. If this situation goes anything like the Robby Anderson free agency blunder, Douglas won’t be afraid to attack it head-on, which could mean Perine’s days with the Jets are numbered.