Football often is a zero-sum game. And as quickly as RB Breece Hall has risen up, attaining and even surpassing last season's dynamic start before his knee injury, some things were destined to come back to earth in the Jets backfield. One of those things has been Dalvin Cook.
"We all thought it was going to be more than it is," Cook told reporters after Thursday's practice, referring to his 39 carries, 109 rush yards, and 95 offensive snaps, all below the averages he posted in his last four seasons of 1,100-plus rush yards for the Vikings before signing with the Jets as a free agent in August.
"Of course it's frustrating. I'm an honest person, man. I want to play. That's just anybody," he said. "It's frustrating, it's new for me. I come from getting the ball 20 times a game. Of course it's frustrating. It's something I've been adapting to."
Just as challenging to Cook is hearing his name mentioned in fan and media whispers of player comings and goings ahead of next week's NFL trade deadline.
"It's a different scenario for me," he said. "But it's something I can't control, having my name being floated around in trade rumors. ... It might be a good thing."
But as much as Cook might be open to a change of scenery, he still seems to have the desire to make things work as a member of the Jets as he and many others thought they would.
"As a player and as a man, I prepare myself, I work my tail off. I just want the situation to be best for both sides," he said, adding about conferring with general manager Joe Douglas about any scenery change is a non-starter for him. "I'm not going into JD's office and tell him I want to go somewhere. When a player gets into the business side. it kind of dictates how you go about your day. I wake up every day thinking how I can get better."
And Cook said he never was worried about how the carries would be divvied up between him and Hall.
"I didn't make my decision off of Breece," he said. "I thought teaming up with Breece would be the best thing in the world. In my mind, once he got healthy, this duo right here could be everything the world was expecting. That was my plan, not that while Breece is out I'm going to get my carries. My mindset was to come in, be the best version of myself that I could be, then put the two of us together."
Cook isn't the only one who thought and continues to think that Hall/Cook could still be something special this season.
"What you like about Dalvin is his mindset and his selflessness to prepare the right way and to encourage guys and to coach guys up," head coach Robert Saleh said. "I do think in the Philadelphia game, he looked his best running the ball. Remember, he didn't have OTAs, he didn't have training camp. And if you really look at it and you say, OK, the guy needs about four weeks of acclimation,' that puts you around Week 5 where you start seeing him hit his top speeds and his GPS numbers are improving."
In the wins at Denver and over the Eagles, Cook got only nine carries, but his yards/carry were his two best averages of the season (3.8 and 4.0). And underscoring Saleh's analysis, Next Gen Stats showed him posting his best average speed at the line of scrimmage in those two games, and his maximum speed on any rush in those games were his best since the Bills opener, when he was clocked at 18.94 mph — fourth-fastest max speed among NFL RBs this season.
"I do think he's getting better," the coach said. "I do think he's getting his legs underneath him. I do think he's running better with more violence and looking more like him. So hopefully we can continue to springboard that. It could be a good one-two punch obviously with Dalvin and Breece."
"It's something I'm adjusting to," Cook said, adding with a smile, "but how I was raised, man, I don't run from situations. I bow up and just get better. I'm sharpening my eye every day. And whenever those carries come my way, I'm going to be ready to explode and be Dalvin. When the time comes, I'm going to be me and I'm going to be ready to go."