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New York Jets Team Needs: Running Back

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New York Jets Team Needs: Running Back

2014-02-27 14:26:35

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Chris Ivory rushed for 139 yards against the New Orleans Saints. (Image Source: Reuters)

With veteran running backs Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell and Mike Goodson on the roster it appears the Jets might be set at the running back position…or are they?

Rich Cimini of ESPN New York writes that the Jets are thinking about making a run at free agent running backs Ben Tate and Donald Brown. If he could stay healthy, Tate (4.7 career yards per carry average) would be a nice upgrade but he’s never had more than 181 carries in a single season and has missed eight games in three years despite his backup role. In 2012, he ran the football just 65 times.

As for Brown, the former first-round pick had a breakout season in 2013 averaging 5.3 yards per carry after a mostly disappointing first four years in Indy. The New Jersey native may be coming into his own, but he’s never had more than 134 carries or 645 yards (both in 2011) in a single season. The Colts haven’t showed much faith in Brown, as they’ve continuously drafted, signed and traded for running backs.

It’s not clear how much of an upgrade, if any, Brown would make. Even though the Jets expect to have a ton of cap room, they have so many more-pressing needs than running back that adding another ball carrier should not be too high on their priority list heading into free agency.

The Jets were sixth in the NFL in rushing (134.9 yards per game) and that wasn’t just a product of a ground-and-pound philosophy (sixth in rushing attempts), as their 4.4 yards per carry average as a team was tied for ninth in the league, just ahead of the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks.

In other words, good enough to win.

Could they upgrade? Sure. But should that be a major allocation of resources in the offseason? Probably not.

Last season, (per ESPN New York) the Jets used just five percent of their cap space on running backs ($6.4 million), which in today’s NFL is probably a wise use of their funds. Of the eight teams that averaged better than 4.4 yards per carry only three—the Eagles, Chiefs and Packers—made they playoffs and they were 0-3 in the postseason.

Ironically, their highest compensated running back, Mike Goodson ($2 million), was also their least productive. Off-field issues and a knee injury limited Goodson to seven carries. Couple that with a $650,000 roster bonus and no one would be surprised if GM John Idzik deemed the former Oakland Raider expendable.

If they do jettison Goodson that would open the door for a speed back, with home run potential, who can also catch the ball coming out of the backfield to be added to their offseason wish list. Chris Ivory had a very solid 2013 campaign, rushing for 833 yards on 181 carries (4.6 YPC), but a pass catcher he is not (two receptions on seven targets).

Some draft options in the mid-to-late rounds include De’Anthony Thomas (Oregon), Lache Seastrunk (Baylor), Charlie Sims (West Virginia), Dri Archer (Kent State) and Jerick McKinnon (Georgia Southern).

Related Links:

New York Jets Team Needs: Quarterback

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. 

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