Deep Dive on Jets running back Michael Carter’s Week 2 performance

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Michael Carter home debut vs. Patriots
Michael Carter home debut vs. Patriots

Sunday’s Jets loss to the New England Patriots will probably be remembered for Zach Wilson throwing four interceptions in his home debut. However, another offensive rookie stepped up to give the Jets some hope that they’ve found a potential weapon who can help them this season.

Running back Michael Carter led the Jets in rushing in just the second game of his career as he racked up an impressive 88 yards from scrimmage on 13 touches, including six first downs.

Let’s break down some of his key plays…

1st quarter, 4:46. 1st-and-10 from the Jets’ 40-yard line, as they trail 3-0

The Jets initially lined up in an I-formation with Tyler Kroft at fullback, but then Kroft motioned to the right side so the Jets were in a balanced two-tight end set at the snap. Kroft came across the formation as the Jets flowed to the left with the linemen zone-blocking. Carter showed outstanding vision as he cut back in behind an Alijah Vera-Tucker block, then bounced outside and slipped a tackle at the second level to pick up 13 into New England territory.

2nd quarter, 12:38. 2nd-and-3 from the Patriots’ 15-yard line, as the Jets trail 10-0

This play subtly showcased Carter’s athletic attributes, as he picked up a big first down inside the 10-yard line on an eight-yard run to the edge. Elijah Moore ran a jet sweep motion to keep the defense honest and then Carter took the handoff and immediately made a hesitation move that froze the defense, so he could use his burst to get to the edge. To stop on a dime and accelerate quickly like that is a rare gift and the Jets will look to exploit this by getting Carter the ball in space.

2nd quarter, 3:31. Jets facing 1st-and-18 from their own 9-yard line, following a penalty

On this play, the Jets lined up near their own goal line with three receivers and a tight end. Deatrich Wise burst into the backfield as Vera-Tucker blocked down and George Fant was preoccupied by an edge defender who showed blitz and then blocked off. Wise looked set to get a clean hit on Wilson but Carter spotted the danger and got across to throw his body in the way and buy Wilson the time to complete an 11-yard pass to Braxton Berrios on the outside to give the Jets a more manageable second down. This play might not show up on the stat sheet but it’s important for Carter to show he can handle such situations.

3rd quarter, 0:20. Jets facing 2nd-and-7 from their own 29

Having caught the dump-off pass in the flat, Carter looks to be stopped in space, but squirms out of the first tackle and then stays on his feet to slip another tackle and dash up the sideline for a 17-yard gain. This is dynamic playmaking to create extra yardage out of nothing. Carter had two first down catches, both on dump-off passes, but the Jets will hope he can also expand his route-running repertoire.

In summary, Carter’s decisive running, elusiveness, and power made him tough to bring down and saw him creating yards after contact in impressive fashion. A lot of rookies find it hard to get on the field because they can’t be trusted in pass protection or are limited in terms of the contributions they can make as a pass catcher. However, Carter seems to have settled down and already looks quite comfortable in these situations.

If he can keep performing like he did on Sunday, it will be difficult to keep Carter out of the lineup and he might even warrant more touches. If he can ultimately establish himself as a statistically productive lead back, then the Jets will have found themselves a valuable piece with their fourth-round pick.