Forgotten Jets Prospect, Cut Candidate ‘Has Dropped Weight’ in 2022: Report

La'Mical Perine, Austin Walter

Getty New York Jets running back La'Mical Perine (left) beat out Austin Walter (right) in the first round of cuts but can he survive the summer?

When New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas traded up to select Breece Hall in 2022, it marked the third straight draft that the franchise selected a running back.

Under the direction of head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, the Jets would like their rushing attack to turn into the lifeblood of the offense and they have plenty of capable horses to carry that sort of workload.

Hall and 2021 draft pick Michael Carter should lead the way, and veteran Tevin Coleman is likely to claim a role after impressing a season ago — assuming health — but who will earn that final running back spot if four make the roster? One forgotten name to watch is 2020 fourth-rounder La’Mical Perine — the first in Douglas’ trio of running back selections — who’s clearly on the bubble this summer.

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Next Few Months Are ‘Absolutely Vital’ for Perine

In his weekly roundup on ESPN, long-time beat reporter Rich Cimini discussed the 2020 draft class and Perine came up alongside another member of his class who might as well have joined the witness protection program. He wrote:

These next few months are absolutely vital for them and other bubble players such as defensive end Jabari Zuniga and running back La’Mical Perine, who has dropped weight. It speaks volumes that the Jets have already made higher draft picks at the same positions as four players from the ’20 class: wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore over [Denzel] Mims; defensive end Jermaine Johnson over Zuniga; running backs Breece Hall and Michael Carter over Perine; and cornerback Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner over Bryce Hall, who leads the draft class with 24 starts.

An interesting note that Cimini threw in was that Perine has “dropped weight” heading into camp. The Florida product was always known as more of a power rusher with a nose for the end zone. He also displayed decent ability out of the backfield as a receiver during his rookie campaign with a 73.3% catch rate.

His yards per carry and explosiveness have always felt lacking, however, and perhaps this physical transition could help with that. At the same time, will it hurt his ability to break tackles?

Cimini didn’t provide much information on the exact figures but Perine has been listed at 216 pounds since his draft year.

He fell out of favor with the new coaching staff early on but managed to stick on the roster as an inactive player for the majority of the season. In the end, Perine dressed for four games with 20 total snaps on special teams and a measly eight attempts as a runner — seven of which came Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints, where he ran for 4.0 yards per carry.

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Stiff Competition in the Running Back Room

The running back room has quickly gone from somewhat pathetic to stacked under Douglas’ regime. The Athletic’s Connor Hughes recently ranked it as the Jets’ “most stable” position group on the offensive side and for good reason.

“No position on the Jets’ roster has fewer questions right now than running back,” touted Hughes. “The Jets already deploy a back-friendly scheme. Now, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur has legit, game-changing potential with his top two backs… Having Coleman and [Ty] Johnson as insurance is a major factor, too.”

Not including fullback Nick Bawden, the only other ballcarriers on the roster are Perine and undrafted prospect Zonovan “Bam” Knight. After getting beat out by ex-49er Austin Walter for playing time in 2021, it was a bit of a surprise when the Jets chose to cut Walter over Perine this spring — but the latter’s draft status may have provided one final opportunity.

Now, there’s no more wiggle room. Perine’s back is pressed firmly against the wall as roster spots should be harder to come by this summer. Can he beat out someone like Johnson? — who made rounds in LaFleur’s doghouse last season after some untimely dropped passes.

Is the rookie scheme fit, Knight, a player that could surprise and steal a job?

It feels like Perine’s running out of chances with the organization. Cimini said it best: It’s “crunch time” for the Florida product and his draft year and “cutdown day might not be kind to the Class of ’20.”

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