Since Eli McGuire returned from injured reserve in Week 9, he's provided a spark to the Jets offense. In two games, McGuire has accounted for nine first downs on his 19 total touches and offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates is excited to have the second-year running back at his disposal.
"I was really fired up about him last year. For a young kid, he's a true pro," Bates said. "He reminds me of Kevin Faulk as far as just understanding the game. He's a special player and he loves the game. He played basketball in college, so he knows how to get open, knows how to move defenders."
Faulk was a swiss army knife for the Patriots in his 13-year NFL career as he was reliable in the backfield, as a receiver and at returner. The 5'8", 202-pounder tallied 3,607 rushing yards, 3,701 receiving yards, 4,098 kickoff return yards and totaled 33 touchdowns.
McGuire, the Jets' 2017 sixth-round pick rushed for 315 yards and one touchdown on 88 attempts (3.6 yards/carry) in his rookie season in addition to reeling in 17 catches for 177 yards and one score. McGuire had an impressive spring but hurt his foot in the first practice of training camp and was sidelined for a little over three months.
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While rehabbing, the Louisiana-Lafayette product attended every meeting and stayed on top of his playbook. In his two games back in the lineup, the 5'10", 214-pounder has rushed for 60 yards at 4.6 yards per carry and also accounted for 64 yards on six receptions.
"This is the moment I've been waiting for," McGuire said. "It's a great opportunity for me to show what I can do in my second year. It's all up to me on how I can approach it and my work ethic for the rest of the season."
The Jets want to establish the run game and McGuire could see an increased workload in the final six games as Bilal Powell landed on injured reserve with a neck injury and Isaiah Crowell has been struggling lately. The Houma, LA native is effective on the ground and through the air, but one under-the-radar aspect of his game is his pass protection.
"Last year, I've never seen a rookie running back handle protections like him," Bates said. "A lot of times when you have a young back, protections are one thing that keeps him off the field. They can run, they can catch, but they struggle with the protection. There are a lot of different schemes defensively and he picked that up extremely fast last year.
"Some guys just see 11 defenders and understand football. It's almost like some people can play chess and checkers, he can play football mentally in his head and it makes it easy for him."