Leading up to the start of the 2017 season, JetNation.com will be taking a look at each positional group as the Jets roster is currently constructed, with today’s group being the running backs.
Currently under contract:
Bilal Powell, Matt Forte, Elijah McGuire, Romar Morris, Marcus Murphy, Jordan Todman, Julian Howsare (FB), Anthony Firsker (FB)
A late round draft pick, Elijah McGuire shares a lot of similarities to current Jets running back Bilal Powell in terms of his ability to make defenders miss while also displaying excellent hands as a receiver out of the backfield. Injuries slowed him down a bit during his senior season, but if he’s 100%, McGuire could pay dividends during his rookie season and beyond.
Veteran to watch: Just how the Jets decide to deploy Forte will be interesting. He’s a guy with little left in the tank and isn’t part of this team’s long-term plans. It’s fair to assume he’s only on the roster because cutting him would cost the team more than it would to keep him. He could see a bump in production this season if he’s deployed as a pass catcher, something Chan Gailey didn’t do much of last year, but should the team allow Forte to take reps away from a younger back who they may be trying to develop?
Rookie to watch:
As mentioned above, McGuire could be a very good back for this team if given the chance. While not a rookie, second year running back Romar Morris spent his rookie season on IR. If given a chance to win the kick return job, his blazing speed could help him secure a roster spot, but he’s a long-shot at best right now.
They’ll succeed if:
The offensive line sees continued improvement from Brandon Shell at right tackle and Kelvin Beachum returns to 2015 form. As a unit, if the O-line can play as well as they did down the stretch last season when Powell rushed for 411 yards over the final four games of the season, the jobs of the backs will be much easier.
They’ll fail if:
The quarterbacks don’t give opposing defenses enough reason to play honest. If the Jets get what they’ve gotten from their quarterbacks over much of the past decade, defenses will regularly put 8 defenders in the box and close up any possible running lanes.
Outside of Forte, this is a young group of backs with a few possible kick returners in the mix with recently signed Marcus Murphy set to join that rotation. It looks like the Jets will carry at least three backs, and possibly a fourth who will be called upon strictly to handle return duties.
The fullback competition will be between Julian Howsare who spent some time on the active roster last season while rookie Anthony Firkser looks to beat him out. Don’t discount the possibility of Brandin Bryant getting some pre-season run at fullback as well.