One stat proves NY Jets RB Zonovan Knight is playing like a star

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By: Michael Nania

New York Jets rookie Zonovan Knight is performing at a star-caliber level, especially based on one specific stat

He’s only two games into his career, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. He has to keep this going to prove it is the real deal.

But Zonovan Knight has performed like a star running back over his first two career games with the New York Jets. That’s simply a fact.

Knight racked up 103 yards from scrimmage in his NFL debut against the Chicago Bears. How did he follow it up? With another triple-digit outing, of course. Knight dropped 118 yards from scrimmage on the Minnesota Vikings in his encore performance. This puts his average at 110.5 scrimmage yards per game.

It’s silly to put Knight up against the rest of the league after only two games, but just for the sake of exemplifying how stellar it is for a running back to average 110.5 scrimmage yards per game, here is a look at the 2022 NFL leaders in scrimmage yards per game (min. 2 games played):

  1. Josh Jacobs, LVR (136.2)
  2. Tyreek Hill, MIA (117.4)
  3. Derrick Henry, TEN (113.7)
  4. Zonovan Knight, NYJ (110.5)
  5. Justin Jefferson, MIN (108.4)
  6. Saquon Barkley, NYG (108.0)
  7. Nick Chubb, CLE (105.9)
  8. Christian McCaffrey, SF (104.9)
  9. Stefon Diggs, BUF (100.2)
  10. Davante Adams, LVR (97.9)

More important than his raw yardage total is how efficiently Knight arrived upon it. Knight is averaging 5.5 yards per carry and 7.8 yards per target. If he qualified (38 RBs with 100+ carries this season), those numbers would rank third-best and fifth-best, respectively, out of 38 running backs.

These yardage numbers are nice to see. It’s always important to dig deeper, though. You can never just look at the box score.

Context is needed to ensure that a running back’s yardage production is a sign of actual impact. What if Knight is just benefiting from amazing blocking? What if he is a product of the system and isn’t actually creating much of his own offense?

In this case, neither of those things is true. Knight is creating his own offense at an absurd rate.

Knight has been credited with forcing 15 missed tackles – 10 in the run game and 5 as a receiver. That ranks as the second-best total among running backs over the past two weeks:

  1. Josh Jacobs, LVR (18)
  2. Zonovan Knight, NYJ (15)
  3. Dameon Pierce, HOU (12)
  4. David Montgomery, CHI (11)
  5. Samaje Perine, CIN (11)

This is the key point that confirms he is truly playing at a star-caliber level so far.

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While ranking second in missed tackles forced, Knight is only 11th in touches over the past two weeks (37), which means he is forcing those missed tackles at a highly efficient rate. Here are the top running backs in MTF per touch over the past two weeks:

  1. Dameon Pierce, HOU (0.414) – 12 MTF on 29 touches
  2. Zonovan Knight, NYJ (0.405) – 15 on 37
  3. David Montgomery, CHI (0.314) – 11 on 35
  4. Najee Harris, PIT (0.310) – 9 on 29
  5. Cam Akers, LAR (0.269) – 7 on 26

Knight is also doing a great job of gaining yardage after contact. Here are the best running backs in yards after contact per carry over the last two weeks (out of 39 RBs with at least 15 carries):

  1. Josh Jacobs, LVR (4.66)
  2. Rhamondre Stevenson, NE (3.76)
  3. Miles Sanders, PHI (3.74)
  4. Zonovan Knight, NYJ (3.72)
  5. David Montgomery, CHI (3.64)

Between Mike White and Bam Knight, Gotham City could have something special brewing with its “White Knight” backfield.

Still, let’s avoid making any declarations about these players after only two games. The early returns are extremely promising but there is a long way to go. They must continue stockpiling impressive performances.

Let’s see how the duo fares against the Bills this week. Buffalo will be an entirely different animal than the low-ranked defenses of Chicago and Minnesota. Both players have a chance to put the league on notice.

Next Article: Grading every Mike White throw vs. Minnesota Vikings 

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