Where Giants and Jets land in PFF's backfield rankings heading into 2021 NFL season

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Saquon Barkley on field with ball in blue jersey
Saquon Barkley on field with ball in blue jersey

Heading into the 2021 NFL season, Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 NFL teams' running back units.

The Giants and Jets both had their issues in the run game during the 2020 season, finishing the record season ranked No. 19 and No. 23, respectively, in total rushing yards.

PFF ranked the Giants with the No. 12 best backfield going into the 2021 season, as star Saquon Barkley returns after going down in Week 2 with a torn ACL.

"Saquon Barkley is one of the most dynamic running backs in the NFL when healthy. That was clear in a 2018 rookie season where Barkley was the only running back in the league with rushing and receiving grades north of 80.0. The problem is that he hasn’t been fully healthy in the two years since. Barkley’s production took a hit in 2019 while battling a high ankle sprain, and his season ended in Week 2 last year with a torn ACL."

The former Penn State back had just 19 attempts for 34 yards in two games before going down with a knee injury. Wayne Gallman (now on San Francisco 49ers) led the Giants in rushing with 682 yards on 147 attempts and six touchdowns, and QB Daniel Jones finished second on the team in rushing with 423 yards on 65 attempts.

The team brought in Devontae Booker, Ryquell Armstead, and Corey Clement in the offseason to back up Barkley. Booker has the most experience with 1,526 career rushing yards over five seasons, with his best year coming in 2016 with the Denver Broncos when he ran for 612 yards and four scores.

"Those injury concerns, along with a lack of quality options behind Barkley on the depth chart, keep New York outside of the top 10, despite how electric Barkley is when he’s 100%."

Oct 25, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets running back La'Mical Perine (22) scores a rushing touchdown in front of Buffalo Bills cornerback Taron Johnson (24) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 25, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets running back La'Mical Perine (22) scores a rushing touchdown in front of Buffalo Bills cornerback Taron Johnson (24) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

PFF ranked the Jets with the No. 32 overall running back unit heading into the 2021 NFL season. Future Hall of Famer Frank Gore led the Jets with 653 yards and two touchdowns on 187 attempts during the 2020 season. While La'Mical Perine ran for 232 yards on 64 attempts and Ty Johnson had 254 rushing yards on 54 attempts.

Perine and Johnson return to the unit under new head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. The team also brought in veteran Tevin Coleman, and drafted Michael Carter out of UNC with pick No. 107 in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

"Coleman brings the most experience of that group by far, but he is coming off a 2020 season in San Francisco in which he struggled to stay healthy. The highest PFF grade of his career came at 74.6 back in 2016 with the Falcons. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see one of the younger backs win the lead job relatively early in the season. That could be Carter coming off a 91.7 overall grade with UNC in 2020.

One of the young running backs could surprise and make a big immediate impact, but this is the weakest group in the NFL on paper heading into next season."

Carter ran for 3,404 yards and 22 touchdowns over four seasons at UNC, including a career-best senior season with 1,245 yards and nine touchdowns on just 156 attempts. He brings a dynamic skillset that could have great success in the Jets new offensive schemes.