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By Run or by Pass, Robert Saleh Wants the Ball in Jets RB Breece Hall's Hands

Head Coach Says His 3rd-Year Back 'Fully Understands What It's Going to Take' to Reach His All-Pro Goal


The anticipation will only grow this season to see Aaron Rodgers dropping downfield dimes and fitting passes through small windows. What might a healthy A-Rod get done in a full season throwing the ball to Garrett Wilson, Mike Williams, Allen Lazard in a hoped-for return to form, and TE Tyler Conklin?

Which should open the door to the continued rise of the ground game led by third-year RB Breece Hall. And as good as Hall was last season, Jets head coach Robert Saleh suggests there's more where that came from.

"I don't think people realize or appreciate the road it takes to recover from an ACL," Saleh said of the injury that short-circuited Hall's rookie season after seven games. "Breece really wasn't full Breece until right around the midpoint of the season and he was still producing. And I thought he finished the season very strong."

Despite Hall working off to the side at OTAs lately with what Saleh called "some lower-half stuff, nothing we're concerned about," the coach has liked Hall's hard work and trajectory through the offseason program's three phases.

And that includes him getting the wind behind his sails in the aforementioned passing game.

"If you get a guy like him the ball in space, he makes it happen," Saleh said. "I think the quarterback's best friend is a guy who can take a 5-yard checkdown and turn it into 20, which I think he made a routine of last year. We can use him a bunch of different ways, but at the end of the day, it's just trying to find ways to get him the ball."

That's another entry on the Hall résumé that fans may not have fully appreciated. Yes, there were his 50-yard touchdown catch-and-run (49 yards after the catch) vs. the Giants and 42 more YAC yards on a 35-yard screen at Las Vegas. But those were just the tip of the Breeceberg.

Hall had seven receptions with at least 20 yards after catch, screens and checkdowns combined. This led to his 649 YAC on 76 catches and 96 targets — all NFL-leading totals among backs. In recent team history, the 649 yards were the most YAC in a season by a Jets back since that stat began to be tracked unofficially but rigorously in 1992.

In fact, the entire Green & White backfield depth chart appears to be "two-dimensional." Israel Abanikanda didn't show it last year as a rookie, but he averaged 8.2 and 12.2 yards/catch, most of it after the catch, in his last two seasons at Pitt. And recently signed Tarik Cohen is the speedy wild card who had 203 catches as Chicago's multi-threat RB in his first three pro seasons before battling multiple injuries.

Which leads to the Jets' pair of day three rookie draft choices, Braelon Allen and Isaiah Davis. Allen has been intriguing catching the ball during OTAs as the Jets head for next week's mandatory full-squad minicamp.

"What's been cool about Braelon, he's very smooth for as big as he is," Saleh said. "Both he and Isaiah, we knew they were good enough to catch those checkdowns and do something with them. He's a very smooth route runner, has very easy hands — both of them do, really. Both of them have been pleasant surprises out of the backfield."

But whatever the Jets backs do, running or receiving, it figures to start with No. 20. Saleh said Hall "fully understands what it's going to take" to reach his stated goal last year of being recognized as an All-Pro RB this year. Yet can the Jets have an All-Pro back in the offense that's expected to be dominated by Rodgers making downfield connections? Why not, said Saleh.

"Breece, as good as he is running the ball, he's pretty damn good as a receiver, too," the coach said. "We're looking forward to seeing what he can put together in '24."

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