First, the scheme: Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur will run an outside-zone scheme. Then the players: General Manager Joe Douglas signed Tevin Coleman in free agency and drafted Michael Carter in the fourth round out of North Carolina to go with La'Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, Josh Adams and Austin Walter.
Coleman has been with LaFleur in Atlanta (2015-16) and San Francisco (2019-20), and in those four seasons had 370 carries for 1,509 yards (4.1 yards/carry), 15 TDs, 58 receptions for 649 yards and 4 TDs. He has the most experience of the bunch and has played six seasons -- four with the Falcons and two with the 49ers. He has 693 carries, 2,937 yards and 24 TDs to go with 117 rec, 1,224 yards and 12 receiving TDs.
Carter, who said he's been in a similar system since high school, was extremely productive for the Tar Heels and had 156 carries, 1,245 yards and 9 rushing TDs in 2020 while averaging 8.0 yards per carry. He averaged 113.2 scrimmage yards/game last year and was first-team All-ACC. He played in 44 games for UNC and had 514 carries, 3,404 yards (6.6 yds/carry) and 22 TDs, and caught 82 passes for 656 yards and 6 TDs. He left Chapel Hill with the school record for most rush yards/carry in a game (12.8), season (8.0) and career (6.6).
"Michael's got tremendous vision," Head Coach Robert Saleh said. "He's got tremendous speed, burst. He's got the ability to make people miss. He's good on third down, coming out of the backfield in the pass game, and he's pretty stout in protection. For him to be where he was at 107 was a major surprise to all of us, including Joe [Douglas] and his staff."
Players to Watch
There's a case to be made for all the backs on the roster, but let's start with Coleman and Perine. Coleman played eight games in 2020 and had 23 rushes, 53 yards (1.9 avg) and 0 TDs, all career lows. If he can rebound, he'd project to average 489 yards and 4 TDs while averaging 4.2 yards per carry based on his career numbers.
Perine had one of the best training camps on the team last year, let alone among rookies. He never found a rhythm in the regular season after a pair of ankle injuries, one late in training camp and one in Week 11. He was set to be the primary ballcarrier in the season finale but contracted Covid and wasn't able to play. With a season under his belt, could Perine, who was drafted in the fourth round in 2020, take a sophomore leap?
Johnson is also a player to watch because of his speed and his late-season performance. Johnson broke out against the Raiders with 22 carries, 104 yards and his first career rushing TD. He finished with 254 rushing yards in 2020 and was also serviceable out of the backfield with 16 catches, 99 yards and 1 TD.
Will the Jets have a lead back or use a committee approach? San Francisco, where LaFleur was most recently as its passing-game coordinator, use a stable of backs that included Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. But LaFleur's brother, Matt, the head coach of the Packers, has a lead back in Aaron Jones. Both SF and GB implement the Shanahan system.
It seems like the Green & White take a committee approach, but who will line up the first snap at Carolina in Week 1? How quickly can Carter translate his all-around style to the NFL? Will Coleman regain his form and will Perine take a Year-2 leap?
See the Jets Running Backs Leading Up to the 2021 Season