Jets Shift in Strategy Could Put 2021 Letdown on Chopping Block

Ty Johnson

Getty New York Jets running back Ty Johnson on November 4, 2021.

When the New York Jets brought in offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur from San Francisco, the theory was that the franchise would have a large rotation of running backs making up the backfield from that point on.

That was certainly the case in year one, as four different rushers spelled rookie fourth-rounder Michael Carter throughout the campaign with five total ball carriers earning touches on the season. Then, to the surprise of some, general manager Joe Douglas traded up to spend a premium second-round draft pick on a new starting running back this April.

Enter Breece Hall, and according to one long-time Jets analyst, a potential shift in strategy altogether.

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From Stable to 1-2 Punch?

After selecting an RB in each of the past two drafts, the Green & White now flaunt a one-two punch reminiscent of Batman and Robin. The Athletic’s Connor Hughes called Hall the “lead dog” during a mailbag column on July 8, projecting that he’d expect the rookie to get “60 to 65 percent of the snaps” with Carter receiving the other 35 or so percent.

Having said that, she would anticipate the end of the four or five-man stable in 2022?

Jets X-Factor co-founder and media member Robby Sabo believes that could be the case, at least to start the new season. He stated:

Carrying just three running backs is a tricky proposition, but Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas may just have to go this route early in the season… Mike LaFleur has two solid backs he can now rely upon. Slide the unreliable Tevin Coleman into the No. 3 spot while trying to sneak undrafted free agent Zonovan Knight onto the practice squad for insurance.

You might have noticed that one key member of the 2021 backfield is missing from this explanation. That would be journeyman Ty Johnson — who some fans and analysts hyped as a potential breakout star in this outside-zone system last summer — and he’s missing because Sabo predicted he’ll be cut.

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Johnson’s up & Down Journey With Jets

Although Johnson’s overall production has remained relatively consistent since entering the NFL in 2019 — about 250 rushing yards per season and a career average of 4.3 yards per carry — his time with Gang Green has been all over the map.

The Maryland product was a pleasant surprise in 2020, outperforming a draft pick like La’Mical Perine and a former superstar like Le’Veon Bell among others. That fueled the high expectations last year, which ended up falling well short after an encouraging preseason.

Johnson did start the campaign as Carter’s main alternative but quickly lost ground to Coleman in the early stages. As time went on, the running back’s critical drops and errors ended up getting him benched as a healthy scratch in December.

If Johnson does still have a future with the Jets, he’ll have to fight for it in August. This roster is more crowded than ever and cuts will be hard to come by this summer.

The coaching staff appears to like Coleman as the veteran sage of the room, and Sabo might be right about a potential downsizing at running back in order to keep an extra wide receiver like Denzel Mims, or tight end like Kenny Yeboah.

As always, that final spot will come down to special teams impact, and running backs don’t generally offer as much of an overall contribution in that area. Johnson could help as a returner, but Braxton Berrios and Coleman seem to have those roles locked up for the Jets in 2022.

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