There’s an unusual feeling around the New York Jets community this summer. Due to an uncharacteristic amount of organizational depth, the front office will be forced to cut a good chunk of NFL talent for once, and fans are starting to take notice.
Preseason risers like tight end Lawrence Cager and wide receiver Calvin Jackson Jr. have surged onto the media radar, but there are only so many roster spots to be had. One particularly crowded position group is running back, where seven bodies still remain if you count fullback Nick Bawden.
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Fans Don’t Want to Lose Knight
There are always several training camp darlings that emerge every August and undrafted rookie ball carrier Zonovan “Bam” Knight is certainly one of them in 2022. Recently, fans have flooded the social media airwaves to show support for the 21-year-old making the 53-man roster but how realistic is it that he does?
The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt detailed his chances during a final cutdown projection this morning on August 25. After noting that Michael Carter, Breece Hall and Tevin Coleman “should be safe” at the position, he named Knight as the first player that is “in the mix” for role number four, voicing:
The undrafted rookie has been impressive, making plays with the backups throughout camp and scoring a touchdown against the Eagles. He showed he has some special teams skills too on a 38-yard kick return against the Falcons. The Jets can probably get him through to the practice squad. ‘I knew he was going to be a dog from the first interview we had together,’ running backs coach Taylor Embree said.
There’s a key factor that Rosenblatt left out, however, the Jets may only keep three halfbacks this season with their second-round draft pick stepping into more of a bell-cow role. Even if Knight leads Ty Johnson and La’Mical Perine for that potential RB4 job, it may not matter if the Jets decide to keep a player like Cager or Jackson instead.
The counterpoint is generally that Knight should make the team over Coleman, but that feels unlikely. “TeCo” is the veteran presence in the room. Sure, running back is a young man’s position but you still need someone that you know you can rely on in the gritty areas.
Coleman still runs hard with 4.2 yards per carry last year, he catches the ball well out of the backfield, he knows how to pass-protect, and he has not fumbled the ball since 2018. The seven-year pro is also a favorite of this coaching staff from both San Francisco and Atlanta — where offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur spent time with him.
He’s run the ball within this outside zone system his entire career and there’s a comfortability having him there to mentor youngsters like Carter and Hall. After all, Hall is 21 years old too and Carter has been forced into the veteran role at age 23.
Knight’s a promising talent but Rosenblatt even admits that the Jets can probably sneak him through to the practice squad, and it feels like he’s destined to end up there. For all the hype he’s received, the UDFA has only run for 2.2 yards per carry against the Eagles and 1.8 YPC against Atlanta. Is an NFL team really going to spend a waiver on that level of production?
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The Word on Johnson & Perine
Most fans have completely given up on Johnson and Perine but this coaching staff clearly hasn’t as they survive round after round of cuts. Rosenblatt provided the lowdown on each running back’s roster chances.
“[Perine] brings a different running style than anyone else in the running back room as a bruiser, short-yardage option,” the beat reporter wrote. “It still feels more likely that he gets cut — and possibly picked up by another team.”
On Johnson, Rosenblatt concluded: “He missed a chunk of time at the start of training camp with a hamstring injury. He’s had the most proven success of this group and is the better pass-catcher. Knight and Perine have both had better camps, but the coaching staff is more fond of Johnson than the fan base is.”
Is the RB room already decided and capped at three? Or can someone like Knight, Johnson or Perine shift the balance with a big-time performance against the Giants?
We’ll have to wait and see — that’s what preseason football is all about.
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