One of the Jets' engines on offense -- rookie running back Michael Carter -- could be sidelined for up to one month with an ankle injury. In the NFL, one man's absence is another man's (or two or three men's) opportunity.
"It's always rough," RB Ty Johnson told reporters on Wednesday. "He [Carter] was running that thing against Miami, but I believe in TeCo [Tevin Coleman], La'Mical [Perine] and Austin [Walter] and me. I know he [Carter] is going to support us while he's out and he knows we have his back. We have to keep moving forward until he comes back."
The conventional wisdom at the beginning of the season was that the Jets offense, directed by coordinator Mike LaFleur, would employ a running-back-by-committee approach. Things started out that way, that is until Carter, a strong and stout RB out of North Carolina, began to put some separation between himself and the rest of the committee.
Before leaving the game against the Dolphins, Carter had rushed for 430 yards on 111 carries (3.9 yards a carry) and 4 TDs while catching 32 passes for 308 yards (9.6 yards a grab). He has displayed versatility and a powerful style of running, and the Jets will have to adjust to his absence.
"Nothing changes," HC Robert Saleh said Wednesday morning. "Ty can run the ball, Tevin knows the system, Perine and Austin Walter know how to do it. I like to focus on those two proven guys who can run in this system. I know those two are very excited for the opportunity."
So far this season, Johnson has carried the ball 42 times for 144 yards (3.4 yards a carry) with 1 TD and caught 25 passes for 271 yards (10.8 yards a catch) and 2 TD.
"My role going into the game, regardless if someone is in or out ... I don't think about it," Johnson said. "It's about knowing my details. My job is to execute to the best of my ability. I get to play a game I love. I don't get all hyped up, I just do my job because this team wants to win."
Asked if the Jets (2-8), who have lost three straight games, are desperate to win, Johnson pushed back.
"I wouldn't say desperate, every team wants to win," he said. "It's more of we've just got to do the right things at all times. We can't hurt ourselves with penalties, errors, turnovers. We're not desperate ... that's such an aggressive word! Ugh. We want to win every week. No one plays to lose."
He added: "Really, in the NFL, no one feels sorry for us. We can't pat ourselves on the back like it's OK. We want to keep moving forward, come in every day, get better that day and the next day, Friday, Saturday and play Sunday. We think we can win, a lot of guys know we can win, it just hasn't played out that way."
So while one player (Carter) goes to the sideline injured, another player (Zach Wilson) comes back from injury to play his first game in more than a month. After sustaining a PCL strain against the Patriots on Oct. 24, Wilson has been cleared to return to the field as two of the team's four quarterbacks -- Mike White and Joe Flacco -- have been dealt setbacks because of the coronavirus pandemic. The veteran Josh Johnson has been elevated from the practice squad (without penalty because it is COVID-related), though Saleh said that Flacco could conceivably be available if he passes certain benchmarks.
"It's great [having Wilson back]," Johnson said. "We had a guy making strides going into the Patriots game. It's good to see him out there running the offense and doing what he does.
"I believe in every single one of those guys [the QBs]. Zach is that pup that's growing into his bark. He's a dog. Those are my guys, I see them every single day and I have 100 percent faith in them."