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By: Brandyn Pokrass
Even with minimal hype surrounding him, Michael Carter can still be productive for the New York Jets in 2023
Many parts of the New York Jets’ roster have been subjected to immense hype this offseason. One of those is the running back room, with the excitement mainly revolving around Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook. This duo is capable of being the league’s best.
While Hall and Cook are receiving most of the attention, the Jets’ depth at the running back position will still play an important role this season. After all, Hall is coming off a torn ACL while Cook is coming off shoulder surgery. The Jets need their backup running backs to be ready while Hall and Cook work their way back up to full speed, or in case one of them does not progress as hoped.
As a result, Michael Carter, the Jets’ primary backup behind Hall and Cook, is still going to be a vital player for the team this season.
Carter has been an interesting player over his first two NFL seasons. His 2021 rookie season was quite promising, but his production took a nosedive in 2022.
With a patient running style, high-level shiftiness as a ball carrier, and good production in the passing game, Carter looked like the Jets’ potential RB1 of the future after his rookie year. He recorded 964 yards from scrimmage in 14 games (68.9 per game). Carter averaged 4.3 yards per carry despite a poor offensive line and also contributed 23.2 receiving yards per game, posting 9.0 yards per reception.
Carter was much less effective in his second season. His yards per carry dropped to 3.5, the worst rate among running backs with at least 100 carries. His yards per reception also dropped to 7.0.
Overall, Carter finished with 690 yards from scrimmage in 16 games (43.1 per game). Carter was quickly surpassed by Hall as the Jets’ RB1. Once Hall went down with an injury in Week 7, Carter had a chance to reclaim the RB1 role for the rest of the season, but he was eventually demoted in favor of Zonovan Knight, who was cut by the Jets this offseason.
Carter seemed a step slower in 2022, not hitting the rushing lanes as quickly as he used to. Broken tackles were not as frequent either, especially in the passing game. According to PFF, Carter forced 15 missed tackles on 36 receptions in 2021, but in 2022, he only forced five missed tackles on 41 receptions.
Due to his struggles in 2022, Carter had to compete throughout training camp to make the Jets’ roster in 2023. He was up to the task, showing signs of getting back to the form he displayed in 2021.
His explosiveness reappeared in the running game, allowing him to burst through lanes when needed. Carter also looked to be effective in the passing game, breaking tackles and gaining good chunks of yardage. Whether it was catching passes from Aaron Rodgers or being the safety valve for Zach Wilson, Carter was getting back to being a dual-threat asset.
Carter sparingly played in the preseason but gained a lot of stock with an impressive performance against the Panthers in Week 2. He looked like his old elusive self again.
In Carolina, Carter rushed four times for 19 yards (4.8 per carry), forcing three missed tackles and gaining 12 yards after contact (3.0 per carry). In the pass game, Carter caught both of his targets for 34 yards and forced another missed tackle, giving him four missed tackles forced in very limited playing time.
More importantly, Carter’s leadership had seemingly improved from last season. On August 15, Carter said that, in light of the team signing Dalvin Cook, he “probably would have asked not to talk today” if it happened last season and feels comfortable due to being “grown up.”
Additionally, Carter showed maturity when asked about his role on the team.
“I can’t worry about that, in all honesty, because then if I’m worrying about that on the field, I’m not getting better. So, the main thing is about getting better. That’s really the only thing that matters, from my perspective, helping the team get better and getting better along the way.”
Nobody expects Carter to be the engine of the Jets’ offense this season. On a team with Rodgers, Hall, Cook, and Garrett Wilson, plenty of players can serve that role.
Carter does not have to be a superstar to make a significant impact for the Jets this season. If he can spell Hall and Cook with the shiftiness and explosiveness he’s shown at his best, teams will never get a break when facing the Jets’ offense. Carter’s receiving ability can also keep teams guessing in terms of what plays the team will run with him on the field.
Beyond his play, Cater can provide leadership for the other young players on the Jets’ offense. This could pay dividends for the newly drafted Izzy Abanikanda, as Carter can help lay the foundation for a trio of himself, Izzy, and Hall in 2024 and beyond.
The 2021 season in which Carter looked like a budding star seems like forever ago. But make no mistake: Carter is still a key piece of the New York Jets. Between his dual-threat ability on the field and leadership off of it, Carter still has a crucial role to play in making the Jets’ 2023 season a success.
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Originally posted on Jets X-Factor