Author: DAVID WYATT-HUPTON
Sometimes in football, tough decisions need to be made. The Jets’ decision to release third year running back Michael Carter this week was a tough decision, made with all the right intentions.
Jets Head Coach Robert Saleh went to great lengths to reiterate how much he loves Carter, and that the release was in part to enable him to find a bigger role elsewhere, as the Jets shake up their running back room.
The Arizona Cardinals claimed Carter off waivers and he’ll now head to the Grand Canyon State looking for a fresh start and a bigger role. I’m sure we all wish him the best of luck going forward.
What that move does is open up an opportunity for Israel “Izzy” Abanikanda to make his season debut this week against the Buffalo Bills. The Brooklyn native has had to stay patient this year with Breece Hall, Dalvin Cook, and Michael Carter ahead of him in the pecking order, but that patience looks to have paid off.
The Jets are currently experiencing an offensive funk. There is no way to hide from that reality and if you’re reading this then you likely already know the stats. New York is last in red-zone offence, scoring touchdowns on 22.7% of trips, and last in third down offence, converting at a 25% rate.
Change is needed, and while Izzy won’t come in and dominate touches with Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook around, he does offer another home run threat to an offence who needs an injection of life.
Izzy dominated college football last year, rushing for 20 touchdowns and 1,426 yards. Nobody had more rushing touchdowns and only Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim matched that 20 TD mark.
But whereas Ibrahim ran through people, Izzy ran past people. Only Bijan Robinson and Chase Brown came away with a higher relative athletic score at running back in the draft process, and Izzy scored an “elite” mark for both explosion (vertical & broad jumps) and speed (40 yard dash, 20 yard split, and 10 yard split).
Last year in Pittsburgh, he had 38 plays that went for 10+ yards on the ground and 19 of those went for over 15 yards. He’s a firework ready to explode on every snap, and while there are always things you can work on, adding a home run threat is never going to hurt an offence.
When he was drafted, he was asked what Jets fans can expect from him:
"They are getting a running back who can break tackles," said Abanikanda. "I can run in any type of scheme, outside zone, inside zone, under the center. I also can line up at slot and catch the ball and break away. A home-run runner with great ball security as well."
His ability to take over games was evident last season with Izzy recording 100+ yards in 9 of 11 games played. His 322 yard 6 touchdown performance against Virginia Tech was a lesson in explosion, as was his 4 touchdown performance against Rhode Island.
The only games where Izzy failed to hit that 100 rushing yards mark were in week one where he was limited to 8 carries against West Virginia and week five where he was limited to 10 carries against Georgia Tech. Put simply: when he played, he dominated.
Although he wasn’t used a lot as a receiving threat, his 38 receptions for 354 yards and 3 touchdowns over three years at Pitt show the capability is there and it’ll be interesting to see if the Jets try and scheme some looks to get him the ball in space, allowing his speed to take over.
The Jets run a good mix of zone and gap concepts on the ground, but Izzy’s comments above and his work at Pittsburgh, a program with a dominant zone rushing attack, should stand him in good stead to hit the ground running for the Jets.