RB Review: Banged Up Backfield Shifts Young Jets Into Spotlight

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Banged Up Bunch
The Jets backfield battled a lot of injuries in 2018, dating back to the first day of training camp when Eli McGuire hurt his foot. McGuire missed the first half of his sophomore year, returned in Week 9 and eventually took over as the Green & White’s lead back for the final quarter of the season after Isaiah Crowell landed on injured reserve.

While the second-year player’s rushing numbers aren’t splashy (92-276-3TD, 3.0 avg), he flashed at times, especially in the passing game. McGuire registered 19 catches for 193 yards and one touchdown, finishing 23 yards shy of his 492 total yards mark as a rookie despite missing eight games.

“It was tough, man. Missing the first eight games was something hard to deal with,” he said. “I couldn’t control it, but seeing my teammates out there, not being with those guys, it hurt. But it was better for me in a way because I got to sit back, learn a little more and get healthy. By the time the second half of the season came, I was ready to go.

“In the classroom, I learned so much about blocking, what teams are doing, the plays we put in. Even though I wasn’t getting the reps, I was getting mental reps. And there’s always room for improvement.”

Trenton Cannon, the team’s sixth-round pick who quickly emerged as a special teams ace, crept up the depth chart throughout the season. Cannon started the year behind Bilal Powell, Isaiah Crowell and McGuire, and he finished his rookie year second on the depth chart behind McGuire. The Virginia State product is raw but fast. He finished the year with 257 total yards (113 rushing, 144 receiving) and one rushing touchdown.

Powell, the longest-tenured Jet, showed no signs of slowing down as he rushed for 343 yards on 80 carries (4.3 avg) before hurting his neck, which shelved him for the rest of the season. The 30-year-old Powell also reeled in 11 receptions for 110 yards and one score before landing on injured reserve.

Six games later, Crowell’s season was cut short with a toe injury that caused him to miss the first game action of his NFL career. Crowell finished the season as the Jets' leading rusher with 143 carries, 685 yards and six touchdowns.

The 5’11”, 225-pounder started his career in green and white on a high note, rushing for 102 against the Lions in Week 1. Four games later, he rushed for a franchise-record 219 yards on 15 carries. But the fifth-year veteran also had his fair share of lows as he ran for less than 40 yards in six games, excluding Week 14 when he got hurt. Before landing on IR, Crowell battled an ankle injury midway through the season.

Best Photos of the Jets RB Unit During the 2018 Season

Looking Ahead
The Jets have a young backfield with Crowell (26), McGuire (24) and Cannon (24). McGuire showed growth from his rookie to sophomore campaign and the Jets are hoping to see a similar jump with Cannon.

“I think the next thing Trent has to do is slow down,” McGuire said. “Trent is fast, but he has a habit of getting ahead of his blocks. In this league, you can’t do that. But he’s been doing a great job. He comes in and works hard every day. He pays attention in the classroom, he takes notes and it carries onto the field.”

Powell (30) is the oldest horse in the stable and will become an unrestricted free agent in March.

Jets head coach Adam Gase used multiple backs with the Dolphins last season in Frank Fore, Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage. The Jets have a trio of backs under contract for 2019 that can be effective on the field, so it’ll be interesting to see how Gase and his staff decide to deploy Crowell, who is more of a bruiser, McGuire, a shifty utility man, and Cannon, a speed demon.

On the Roster in 2018

(Off—offensive snaps; ST—special teams snaps)

RBs GP GS DNP IA Off ST How Ended
Isaiah Crowell 13 6 0 0 332 0 IR
Elijah McGuire 8 3 0 0 318 3 Active
Bilal Powell 7 7 0 0 208 9 IR
Trenton Cannon 16 0 0 0 185 151 Active
De'Angelo Henderson 3 0 1 0 3 1 Active

Potential Free Agents in 2019

Unrestricted: Bilal Powell. Exclusive Rights: De'Angelo Henderson.

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