Author: DAVID WYATT-HUPTON
“Obviously, you never want to say no to a great player.”
Those were the words of Jets coach Robert Saleh back in the middle of July when he was asked about four-time Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook. Fast-forward to today, and that great player is officially a New York Jet. With his addition, the Jets now possess one of the deepest and most threatening running back rotations in football.
The good news for the running back room continued with the news that second-year player Breece Hall has officially been activated from the Physically Unable to Play (PUP) list, and will now (slowly) take part in practice sessions in an effort to ramp up for the new season. Coach Saleh said the team was “very confident" that Breece would be ready for week one against Buffalo and that Cook’s addition didn’t change the timeline.
What it does do is create a whole lot of problems for defensive coordinators.
Some may struggle to understand the need, but as Coach Saleh said, “I look at it like our d-line (defensive line), you can never have enough and just let them rotate and be fresh and get downhill and wear people out.”
Back in 2020, with Nathaniel Hackett and Aaron Rodgers calling the shots for the Green Bay offence, the Packers used 21 personnel (2 running backs) on 14% of all plays, double the league average. They used Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams to create a matchup nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators.
That year, those two players combined for 320 carries, 1,609 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, and 78 receptions, 591 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air. The Jets, thanks to their depth, will be able to run multiple variations throughout the game, keeping players fresh, physical and fast.
But what does Dalvin Cook bring to the franchise in 2023?
You can’t talk about Dalvin now without talking about Dalvin’s record. Four Pro Bowls, four straight seasons of 1000+ rushing yards, 52 NFL touchdowns, and a whole lot of experience.
It’s never a bad thing to add experience to a room. Despite the obvious talent, the Jets running back room was and is a very young group. Breece is heading into year two with just half a season of on-field experience, Israel (Izzy) Abanikanda is a rookie, and Michael Carter is heading into year three. Dalvin has nearly 1,300 rushing attempts to his name. He’s seen every formation and every defensive philosophy designed to stop and control the rushing attack, and he’s developed ways to beat it.
He’s also one of the most physical presences. “He’s not a trick back either. You can turn around and hand him the ball and he can run downhill and he’s done it for a long time”, as Coach Saleh said.
Last year, only three players had more rushing yards after contact than Cook (842); he also forced 51 missed tackles, using his speed/power combination to good effect. He ranked inside the top 10 in terms of explosive plays with 30 attempts that went for 10+ yards, with 12 of those going for 15+ yards.
Coach Saleh mentioned that the plan for the running-back room was clearly communicated to the players before the signing to ensure that everyone was on the same page. Cook, Hall, Carter, Izzy and Zonovan (Bam) Knight all bring certain skill sets that can be utilised in different ways.
For years, Cook had to act as the Minnesota bell cow, carrying the load. Here, he’ll be part of an extremely talented rotation, enabling him to do what he does best - to be a home-run threat every time he touches the ball.