BREAKING: New York Jets RB La’Mical Perine tests positive for COVID-19

New York Jets

The rookie rusher is the Jets’ first player to have a confirmed positive test. Contact tracing is underway.

Per multiple sources, New York Jets running back La’Mical Perine has tested positive for COVID-19 and will be placed on the reserve list. SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano has stated that contact tracing is underway and Gase isn’t sure how many in the organization will be affected. Perine has yet to comment and will be held out of Sunday’s season finale against the New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Perine’s first season ends with 232 yards on 64 carries, two of which went for touchdowns (tying for the team lead in rushing scores). His best output was a 40-yard showing against Buffalo in October, which featured his first career NFL score. He was chosen in the fourth round (120th overall) out of Florida in the fourth round of April’s draft.

[UPDATE: 1:50 p.m. ET]: Per notes from the Jets, head coach Adam Gase (who announced that Perine had tested positive earlier on Wednesday) mentioned that players have mostly been away from the facility due to health regulations, but that contact tracing is underway. Gase also confirmed that Ty Johnson and Josh Adam will be the top running backs for their season finale.

“I don’t think those two guys would be affected by this,” Gase said of Johnson and Adams. “The majority of the guys, I mean the only guys that have been in the building are any guys that have really been injured or doing any kind of rehab and stuff like that.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: La’Mical Perine, Sam Ficken placed on IR

Two major contributors to the New York Jets’ offense have been placed on injured reserve as they’re set to return to MetLife Stadium.

As the New York Jets return to MetLife Stadium to battle the Miami Dolphins on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS), they’ll be without two of their biggest scoreboard contributors. The team announced earlier this week that running back La’Mical Perine and kicker Sam Ficken were placed on injured reserve. Perine’s fellow rusher Josh Adams and tight end Ross Travis have been promoted from the practice squad.

Perine suffered a high-ankle sprain during Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, an injury that kept him out of the majority of the second half. A fourth-round pick out of Florida, Perine has been splitting the top rushing duties with Frank Gore since Le’Veon Bell’s release. He has tallied 202 yards on the ground this season, ninth amongst rookie rushers in the NFL. Perine also leads the Jets (0-10) with two rushing touchdowns this season, the latter coming on Sunday in Los Angeles on the Jets’ opening drive.

Ficken had already missed three games this season with a groin injury. Sunday’s date in Los Angeles marked his return, but Ficken missed two extra point in the Jets’ 34-28 defeat. It marred what has otherwise been a strong season for the Penn State alum, who leads the Jets with 35 points tallied this season. The failed extra points were his first misses on scores after touchdowns, while he has also converted 9-of-10 field goal attempts, including a career-long 54 yarder in an October loss to Denver. Sergio Castillo will resume the green kicking duties, having gone 6-of-7 in the previous three Ficken-free games. Castillo previously partook in both CFL and XFL action, earning an All-Star nomination with the former’s BC Lions in 2019.

Adams returns to the Jets’ active roster, having previously partaken in the first two games of the season as a substitute for the injured Perine, scoring a touchdown in their opening weekend loss in Buffalo. He began his NFL career under the watch of current Jets general manager Joe Douglas, having arrived as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame in 2018. The veteran Travis has been on and off the Jets’ practice squad and active roster in each of the past two seasons. He played a handful of snaps in the Jets’ Monday night loss to New England on November 9.

In another roster move, the Jets released quarterback Mike White and immediately signed him to the practice squad, increasing the likelihood of franchise quarterback Sam Darnold returning to the lineup from a shoulder injury.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Emergence of rookies provides incentive for hope and fight

The New York Jets’ draft class is making its way to the field. Their prescience should fuel the team and fans over a trying ten weeks.

Even when adhering to social distancing, autumn in New York…and New Jersey, for that matter…is blessed with enough open space that one has the luxury of choosing Sunday activities beyond football. Sure, it’s a time-honored tradition for many households in the metropolitan area, but with one of their teams seemingly destined for NFL infamy (and the other really isn’t much better), a healthier fall activity is strongly encouraged in these trying times.

After all, why raise your blood pressure? The New York Jets are 0-7, the lone winless team left in the NFL. They probably won’t be favored in any of their final nine games, and a 19.5 line against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS) somehow seems like if too low. Even if the Jets somehow earn a win, they’ll lose, fall in the endeavor for Trevor (Lawrence) standings. Sure, tuning into the Kansas City showdown might go along with the theme of watching horror movies on Halloween weekend (with Le’Veon Bell perhaps playing the role of the threat back from the dead to wreak havoc), but there have to be better ways to spend one’s time in this area.

Perhaps the most brutal aspect…or merciful, depending on your point of view…of this most recent chapter of the Jets’ perpetual rebuild is the fact that none of these games appear to be truly close, their average margin of defeat coming by three possessions. No one said this was going to be the Jets’ season…even one of the extra wild card berths seemed like far too much to ask for…but they could at least provide hope for the future by giving opponents all they could handle and at least make the quest for the win difficult. Last week’s 18-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills’ might’ve fit the criteria of such a constructive defeat, but the Jets offset any good that might’ve emerged by earning a mere four yards in the second half…a figure made all the more depressing by the fact they earned a 13-yard rush on their first drive of the segment.

But, those who are dedicated to this team, those opt for, need the three-hour escape that is Jets football…salvation may be on the horizon.

The Jets’ final weeks may become football’s ultimate example of “trick or treat”. With this brutal 0-7 ledger, one that has the Jets further from the AFC playoff picture than driving from East Rutherford to Kansas City, a macabre gift arrives in the form of nine free weeks of research and development. Risks can be taken, assessments can be made…all in the name of playing relatively consequence-free football from a team standpoint.

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton
Credit: Joe McManus

It’s time for the Jets to unleash the rookies.

The modern New York draft class is a bit of an uncanny situation for general manager Joe Douglas. Overseeing his second full season with the team, Douglas is still working with his inaugural draft group obtained in April. Adding to the discomfort of the situation was the fact that the general manager was in an awkward position at 11th overall, one that gave the Jets a perfect opportunity to fill one of their most crucial needs: protection for Sam Darnold or get him a receiver. The fact the Jets had that many needs to fill with that single pick just goes to show where they were as a franchise. If Douglas satisfied one need, he would anger supporters of the other. It came to pass that when he opted to use the selection on Louisville’s Mekhi Becton, he passed on several talented receivers, such as Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, and CeeDee Lamb. For all intents and purposes, it seems like Douglas let the right one in with Becton (the same could probably be said about sixth-round punter Braden Mann) and he was able to whet the appetite of the pro-receiver crowd by opening the day two proceedings with the selection of Denzel Mims out of Baylor.

In typical Jets fashion, their 2020 draft class appears to be a star-crossed group, done in by factors both in and beyond their control. Injuries have plagued the class, Becton was controversially inserted into the Jets’ primetime game against Denver despite dealing with a shoulder issue suffered against Indianapolis a week prior. Mims injured both of his hamstrings and missed most of training camp, as did Jabari Zuniga. Even the Jets’ handling of their healthy rookies left something to be desired. With Bell injured and later released, the time seemed perfect to hand over the rushing reigns to touted fourth-round project La’Mical Perine, but the Florida alum has been forced to share carries, and even sit behind, a 37-year-old Frank Gore.

But rookie reinforcements are coming in. It’s time for the youth to revolt. These youngsters, even if it comes merely through the fact they’ve been dealt few snaps than their veteran compatriots, are the least guilty parties in the Jets’ early demise. It’s players like these that will shape the future and will be counted on to lead the potential glory days. Even if these players aren’t the answer, they deserve to at least get a chance to prove otherwise rather than sticking with veterans who clearly aren’t working. T

Such a strategy played in the Jets’ favor last Sunday. With offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains calling plays, Perine and Mims (making his NFL debut) earned extended opportunities. The receiver wound up being the Jets’ top aerial threat (42 yards on four receptions) while Perine (11 carries for 39 yards) wound up scoring the team’s only touchdown. They would unite on that play, as Mims’ crucial block afforded Perine the necessary yardage to give the Jets a short-lived 10-0 lead.

Speaking with Randy Lange of NewYorkJets.com after the game, Perine expressed his excitement in taking the field with fellow premier picks Becton and Mims and seems quite keen for such endeavors to become more regular.

“It was great to see Mims out there just because he hasn’t been out there the whole season, he didn’t have a training camp. For him to be as confident as he was, I wasn’t surprised but it was just good to see. And Mekhi, he’s a great dude, a great player who’s always going to work hard and be the guy he is. They drafted him in the first round for a reason and he’s putting everybody on notice.”

Out of these darkest hours, a golden opportunity has emerged in the form of a silver lining. The Jets must wisely seize it while it’s still on the table.

Hand it off to Perine. Target plays for Mims as much as possible. Run to Becton’s side. Allow Zuniga an opportunity to rush the passer.

Some of these opportunities could well become necessities, as the Jets are dealing with several injuries leading into their dire deposition against Kansas City. For example, Ashtyn Davis could see a bigger role with Bradley McDougald down. It’s an opportunity that head coach Adam Gase has noticed. Developing talent in the rookie class could well be the last chance Gase has to truly save his position, if he’s not too far gone as is.

“I know (Douglas) is excited to see these guys play,” Gase said this week, per Greg Joyce of the New York Post. “We’ve been waiting. I think we were one week where it was like Perine might have been the only guy that was available, and that’s frustrating because we really like this draft class and we feel like these guys can help us a lot. For us to have injuries or whatever it’s been at the beginning of the year, to get all these guys out there that’s a step in the right direction.”

The Jets season, or what’s left of it, is going to be a draft no matter what lies ahead. One of the few ways to prevent this endeavor from truly becoming a waste is to prepare for the future…in the dreary present.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Four plays that decided the New York Jets’ Sunday fate vs. Buffalo

The New York Jets actually held a brief two-possession lead on the Buffalo Bills, but the normalcy of defeat followed soon after.

Usually, three-pointers haunt New York’s trio of professional basketball franchises. This time around, however, one of their football teams ended up on the wrong side of a showcase of triples, namely six from Tyler Bass.

The Buffalo Bills’ rookie kicker converted 6-of-8 field goal attempts on Sunday afternoon, leading a comeback effort over the winless Jets. It negated what was probably the Jets’ most consistent half of the season from an offensive standpoint. They tallied 186 yards and 10 points over the first 30 minutes but only four yards in total over the latter half. Buffalo prevailed by an 18-10 final. Sam Darnold threw for 120 yards and had two passes intercepted in his return from injury, while La’Mical Perine scored his first career NFL touchdown.

ESM looks back on the Jets’ latest loss, grabbing a play from each Sunday quarter that, for better or worse, that shaped their past, present, and future of their team…

1st Quarter: Sack Attack

At first glance, it’s hard to truly hate what the Jets (0-7) were able to accomplish on their opening drive. They were able to enjoy a 29-yard field from former CFL and XFL participant Sergio Castillo to give them a rare early lead. But it could’ve been so much more from a New York standpoint.

In his first drive back from the injury-induced absence, Darnold led a swift, methodical drive, situating the Jets at the Buffalo 17. However, the Bills’ defense gave him a cruel welcome back in the form of a shared sack between A.J. Epenesa and Trent Murphy. The seven-yard loss more or less killed New York momentum before it could truly return, a pair of short passes failed to erase the damage and a Buffalo penalty couldn’t even help matters at a five-yard charge. Not only did it forced the Jets to end a relatively successful drive with a mere Castillo triple, but it was a foreboding warning of things to come. Darnold would go on to be sacked six times over the course of the afternoon.

2nd Quarter: Misplaced Faith

The Jets’ propensity for going for it on fourth down should be somewhat commended. Knowing there’s little, if anything, to lose in this woebegone campaign, New York has taken Bob Dylan’s axiom of “when you ain’t got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose” to heart. The Jets went for it on fourth down 10 times entering Sunday, the fourth-most in the league.

Converting them, however, has been the real challenge.

The Jets converted only two tries in their prior decalogue of attempts, and that number didn’t improve on Sunday. Playcalling has been the main reason behind the lack of success, in yet another recurring problem. Playcalling affairs were turned over to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains for the Buffalo matter, but his shotgun draw to Perine on fourth-and-one…putting the Jets’ first-down plans in jeopardy before they could ever truly begin…left a lot to be desired. Jerry Hughes and Quinton Jefferson invaded the backfield to stop Perine in his tracks, stifling the Jets’ attempt at points. A field goal was going to do the Jets no good with a 3-0 lead…but neither would a shotgun draw.

THat play wound up permanently shifting the game’s momentum. The Jets earned 103 yards over their first two possessions…they gained 87 for the rest of the game.

3rd Quarter: Can You Diggs It?

Defensively, the Jets actually did a decent job in holding Stefon Diggs in check, keeping him at 48 yards on six catches. But he still managed to change the course of the game in the early stages of the third quarter.

Facing third-and-five at the Bills’ 32, the Jets defense had a major opportunity to swipe momentum away. Alas, they couldn’t stop Diggs to the right, as the veteran receiver picked up a crucial 12-yard-gain that kept the Bills’ drive alive. It would lead to a 46-yard field goal from Bass, a triple that narrowed the Jets’ lead to 10-9. Who knows how much things would’ve changed with this simple stop, but it’s safe to say that that play affected the Jets’ mindset for the remainder of the affair.

4th Quarter: Block-Down

For all their shortcomings, the Jets still had an opportunity to push things to overtime, the score at a manageable 18-10 tally thanks to Bass field goals and a strong defensive effort that kept the BIlls out of the end zone. Alas, it wasn’t enough to push the Jets forward for a new opportunity to nab their first win of the season.

Pressure from Buffalo was raised to 11 on the final attempt, swarming Darnold on the first play of the final drive. They picked up 15 yards on a brutal hit on Breshad Perriman by Michah Hyde, but the Bills continued to be relentless, forcing George Fant into a holding penalty just to keep things relatively sane. It was Hughes that wound up rising to the highest of occasions, not only sacking a reeling Darnold but then picking up an interception through the quarterback’s desperation and sealing the Jets’ fate.

Particularly troubling in this game was the return of Mekhi Becton. The rookie had a decent day blocking, but had two penalties, including one that wiped out a 14-yard third-down conversion from Chris Herndon. Becton had one penalty through the first three games of his career.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The Case for Gase: How the New York Jets head coach can keep his job

New York Jets, Adam Gase

Adam Gase may have the hottest seat in football, but the embattled head coach of the New York Jets might still be able to save his job.

After his team blew yet another strong fourth quarter lead, Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn appeared to sit in the proverbial hottest seat in football.

Adam Gase and the New York Jets appeared to reply “hold our Gatorade”.

Less than two weeks after Gase was labeled an “offensive genius” by team CEO Christopher Johnson, the Jets (0-3) have endured consecutive shellackings by a combined 47-point deficit. The losses have come against a San Francisco 49ers squad missing a good portion of its starters and the Indianapolis Colts, whose ceiling likely resides on wild-card weekend. New York also ranks in the lowest portions of nearly all offensive categories, only raising the temperature on the second-year head coach.

Despite Johnson’s vote of confidence, rumors persist that the Jets may be ready to move on. Fox Sports’ host Colin Cowherd remarked during his Monday show that a source has claimed that Gase is set to be fired should the Jets fall to the Denver Broncos on Thursday night in East Rutherford (8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network). The extended break that follows the Denver game only increases the possibility, as if the Jets’ performance over the first three weeks of the season wasn’t enough to convince anyone a change has to be made. Through three weeks, the Jets are the lone team in the NFL to hold a lead at any point this season.

Players have also spoken out against Gase’s practices, though quarterback Sam Darnold has been supportive.

“We’ve been put in great positions to go out there and succeed, to go out there and make plays and execute a game plan that’s put together perfectly for us,’’ Darnold said, per Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post. “It’s just about us going out there and executing. That’s it. I’ve just got to execute the play that’s called.’’

New York has not fired a coach midseason since 1975, when they fired Charley Winner, who was also in the midst of his second season with the team.

The case of Gase may be too far gone, with the trigger fingers of NFL decisionmakers quicker than ever. It took the Arizona Cardinals only a single season to give up on Steve Wilks, for example. A 2016 playoff berth wasn’t enough to give Ben McAdoo a full season when the Jets’ MetLife Stadium co-tenants endured a brutal sophomore season under his watch. Thus, the invisible clock has more than likely start to tick on Gase. If they can’t beat a Denver squad sending Brett Rypien into his first NFL start, midnight will likely chime.

How can Gase stick around? ESM investigates…

Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

No More Gore

It’s admirable what Frank Gore, 37, has been able to do this late in his career. Through three weeks, Gore is second amongst running backs in their 30s with 144 yards (behind only Adrian Peterson in Detroit), though that has mostly come from an unusually high workload in the wake of Le’Veon Bell’s injury. He’s currently averaging a career-low 3.4 yards on 42 carries, 38 of which have come over the last two games.

Gore’s Florham Park prescience has a purpose. The rusher, third all-time in yardage, can still be serviceable as a spell option (1,321 yards with Miami and Buffalo over the past two seasons). A similar journey from rebuild to Super Bowl can also be inspiring to this inexperienced green squad. But Gore is no longer at a level where he can single-handedly turn games on their head. There’s no need to force a 37-year-old back into 19 carries a game, especially when you have a rookie running back that can potentially contribute.

The Jets have high hopes for La’Mical Perine, a fourth-round rushing selection. Formerly of Florida, the freshman is working with a team best 4.1 yards per carry…but, the problem is, he has only had 10 opportunities to date. Gase has continually expressed his desire to get Perine more opportunities, and it appears he’s not alone.

“Perine has been awesome. Super explosive,” Darnold said in a report from Rich Cimini. “He has ‘big play’ written all over him.”

Had we been talking about this a decade ago, sure, Gore could be the man to solve this offensive conundrum. But with this dreadful start offering the cruel silver lining of 13 research and development opportunities…basically preseason games denied by coronavirus…Gase needs to give young players an opportunity to showcase their skills. If things go well, it could work in Gase’s favor in terms of him staying, allowing him to build a rapport with young players.

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Take a Chance

In the final verse of “Like a Rolling Stone”, arguably his most renowned work, Bob Dylan declared “when you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose”.

It’s highly unlikely that Blind Boy Grunt was prophesizing the status of the 2010s/20s New York Jets, but they can learn something from that line.

Going along with the theme of the research and development silver lining, another macabre gift that the Jets have is that there is little, if any, consequence, to their remaining games. Dead last in the AFC by October’s debut, there’s simply too many teams to leapfrog and too many brutal opponents and performances to even consider the mere idea of the postseason. Thus, they should take advantage of this opportunity.

Kicking field goals down 24-3 in “goal-to-go” situations isn’t the way to do that. But that’s exactly what the Jets did in their home opener against San Francisco.

If the Jets are going to sit in the NFL cellar, the least they can do is be entertaining. By this point, there’s more or less no reason to punt once they cross their own 40-yard-line and facing fourth down with less than six yards to go (sorry, Braden Mann).

Risk-taking could play out in Gase’s favor in more ways than one. Not only could it take the advice of one of his New York predecessors (“You play to win the game!”), but it can give members of a beleaguered offense a chance to showcase their talents and allow them to audition for a role in 2021.

Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Be an Offensive Genius

All it takes to find Johnson’s “offensive genius” comments…well, offensive, is a quick glance at sortable team stats on any football stats sites.

Most of the unit’s rankings are double-digit numbers that start with a “3”…when there are 32 teams in your league, that’s never a good sign. Each of the Jets’ NFL brethren has earned more yards (791), first downs (47), and touchdowns (4) through three games. The Jets have failed to earn 300 yards in any of the opening trio, a borderline impossibility in today’s football landscape. Unless you’re a double-agent from New England, Buffalo, or Miami, nothing about that screams genius.

To save his job, Gase needs to make some progress with a young, developing offense. That starts with Sam Darnold, the franchise quarterback who’s making throws that would be concerning in a rookie season, much less a third campaign. For the first time, there’s legitimate doubt over whether he’s the man of the future for this franchise. Reestablishing that idea will be vital to Gase keeping his spot.

Gase and company are set to gain at least some reinforcements in time for the primetime showdown with the Broncos. Jamison Crowder is expected to be back, while Mekhi Becton’s injury in Indianapolis is not expected to be anything long-term.

New York Jets, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Win

Honestly, the surest cure Gase can provide is that of victory.

The Jets posted a 7-9 ledger last season, earning their best win total since the star-crossed 2015 campaign. Those wins, almost a winning record by modern New York standards (on either side), masked a good part of the 2019 malarkey. It was enough to make many, including the Jets’ decisionmakers, apparently forget about the 1-7 start, none of those in the right column being particularly close. Gase and his comrades too advantage of a weak second half, topping Washington, Oakland, Miami, and their blue MetLife Stadium roommates. The outliers came against Pittsburgh and Buffalo. While the former was somewhat impressive, more or less ending the Steelers’ playoff chances, it came against a pair of backup quarterbacks, as did the season-ending triumph in Orchard Park with the Bills resting starters upon locking up the fifth AFC playoff seed.

Thursday’s game against Denver is the perfect storm: the Broncos come in reeling from injuries of their own. Many had pegged them as a surprise playoff contender, energized by a strong finish from then-rookie Drew Lock. However, Lock’s one of the players down (joining Courtland Sutton, Von Miller, Jurrell Casey, and A.J. Bouye), replaced first by Jeff Driskel and now Brett Rypien, he of his first NFL start…and that’s only because recent signee Blake Bortles isn’t ready. Combine that with the ten days off to prepare with a potential interim boss, and Gase’s Jets are faced with the most morbid kind of must-win.

Realistically, Thursday may be one of the final times casual observers put the Jets in the “favorite” column. November begins with a matchup against the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs, who haven’t lost a step. The Jamal Adams revenge game in Seattle awaits in December. This doesn’t even include the yearly double nightmare against New England.

Winning is going to be the best thing to help Gase right now, even if the playoffs are far removed from any New York conversation (green or blue). Heck, the Gase goose may be already cooked. But that shouldn’t stop anyone in the locker from providing even the slightest bit of metropolitan hope.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

3 keys for a New York Jets win against San Francisco in week 2

New York Jets, Jimmy G

The New York Jets were utterly embarrassed this Sunday in Buffalo. The team looked poorly coached, poorly prepared, and not ready to face even the worst teams in this league. Heading into today’s game, there are there key factors that will decide whether or not the team starts the season at 1-1 or 0-2.

Take Advantage of Injuries

Today’s game will be a tough one for San Francisco. With George Kittle out for the game, the 49ers will revert to Jordan Reed as their starting tight end. For those that don’t remember, when he wasn’t battling concussions, Reed was a productive tight end in Washington. Still, he is no Greg Kittle. The Jets need to take advantage of the lack of weaponry that Jimmy G has and let them rely on the run. The Bills rushing attack, outside of Josh Allen, could not get going against the Jets front 7. Quite frankly, if the Jets can keep that offense at bay, this could be a close game.

As for the other side of the football, Richard Sherman is out, and that could also be a huge help. Without Sherman, the Jets will have an opportunity to face the 49ers backup corners, which ended well for Atlanta last year. Granted, the Jets have no Julio Jones, but they can have success like the Falcons had when Julio put up over 100 yards. The Jets receivers need to create space and make Darnold’s life a little easier in order to win today.

Run Gore To The Ground

I hate to say it, but in the few reps Gore had last week, he looked like the best running back on the field. The 37-year-old back is a workhorse, and I think him complimenting a healthy LaMical Perine could be a nice rushing attack until Lev Bell is back. The issue is, this is one of the best defensive lines in the game. Nick Bosa, Javon Kinlaw, Arik Armstead, and Solomon Thomas make up that talented group, and all four can be game wreckers. If Gore can continue the momentum he had in camp today, the Jets could pick up some yards on the ground against this tough defensive line; if not, it will be a long day. 

TACKLE

The Jets’ biggest issue has fallen somewhat under the radar. The Jets could not tackle last Sunday. Consistently, the Jets were creating pressure in the backfield. Yet, they would get back there and fail to wrap up the receiver, quarterback, or rusher. This led to a long day of exploiting that poor play. The Jets need to come out with much better tackling today, or else the 49ers will run wild on this Jets team.

New York Jets Position Group Grades: Running backs

New York Jets, Leveon Bell

As the season looms, I decided to take a deep dive into each position group within the New York Jets‘ organization and grade each group. Today’s group is the running backs. Headlined by a thinner and motivated Le’Veon Bell, the ageless wonder that is Frank Gore, and the dynamic rookie in LaMical Perine. It’s a good group with a lot of potential, but how much can potential carry this group, let’s take a closer look.

RB 1: Le’Veon Bell

Without question, Lev Bell is the lead back for the 2020 campaign. Bell is determined to prove that last season’s poor performance was a fluke. He set a record for the lost YPC in franchise history, and I’m sure that doesn’t sit well with him. Bell is lighter than last year, has more quality linemen blocking for him and a coach taking accountability for his poor usage. Still, how much of that is fools gold. Bell is still struggling to keep frustrations quiet, and we know what happened last time a Jet did that. The offensive line could fail to gel and prove to hinder the offense early on. Most of all, Adam Gase may decide to take more of a committee approach and not give Bell the reps he truly deserves. I think Bell will be more improved this year, but I can’t say have I have the same confidence in Adam Gase to use him properly.

RB 2: Frank Gore

Fresh off another year of not looking like he’s slowing down. The 37-year-old running back is being counted on to play two roles this season. After jumping to #3 on the all-time rushing yard rankings, Frank Gore has continued to be an aggressive and productive back. He’ll be counted on to get meaningful reps early.

Gore is also being counted on as a leader and mentor to the younger backs in Perine and Bell. Gore is going to have his hands full trying to keep Bell quiet and still mentor Perine as a rusher. If anyone can do it, though, Gore can. Gore has been touted as one of the most impressive rushers in camp, and I’m genuinely excited to see his impact with the squad. I just hope Gase doesn’t overuse him in lieu of Bell.

RB 3: LaMical Perine

Perine suffered a low-grade ankle sprain that had potential to be A LOT worse. I and Jets fans everywhere feared the worse upon the report he was carted from practice. Now, Perine will hopefully be back quickly and able to contribute by Week 2 at the latest. Perine has the potential to be a change of pace back that really compliments the punch you in the mouth rushing style the other two backs have. Perine has flashed his impressive speed early and often in camp, and I’m excited to see him take the field as well. Perine needs to get some reps early to see if he is capable of being the long term back for this team. I’m weary of his durability and overall productivity, but ultimately I’m hoping for the best.

Grade: B

I really like this group. It’s one of my favorite position groups on this roster as a whole. I think the combination of potential with veteran presence is something that could really benefit the team as a whole. Plus, the value Bell brings as a pass-catcher adds another dimension to the offense. I have high hopes for this team. My biggest fear is Adam Gase is the reason I get let down. 

New York Jets: Updated expectations for running back group

New York Jets, LeVeon Bell

The New York Jets‘ running back group was just recently strengthened with the addition of Kalen Ballage. He isn’t going to be a starter by any means, but he’s a capable back who adds depth. With Ballage now added to the mix, the Jets’ depth chart is currently as follows, according to ESPN:

  1. Le’Veon Bell
  2. Frank Gore
  3. La’Mical Perine
  4. Kalen Ballage

The order behind Bell could change a little, but it’s expected to be extremely similar once the season begins. Bell is going to be the workhorse and get the majority of the playing time and touches, but behind him, it’s all open. It seems pointless to discuss the expectations for Le’Veon because they have been spoken about so frequently. Instead, let’s take a look at some expectations and predictions for the three backs behind him.

Frank Gore

The future Hall of Fame inductee currently sits third all-time in career rushing yards with 15,347. While his best days are behind him, Gore can still provide key help when needed. Le’Veon Bell can easily be an every-down back but Gore can be used in late-down situations very well. Third-and-short situations are where I see the long-time veteran taking most of his touches. He can pound the ball up the middle to get the one, two, or three yards to move the chains.

Gore most likely isn’t going to have pretty stats this season, but he doesn’t need them. If he can use his experience and intelligence to just keep drives alive, he can be a nice part of this New York Jets offense.

La’Mical Perine

The rookie out of Florida had a solid college career, finishing ninth in career rushing and receiving yards in team history. He will be getting nowhere near the same amount of touches that he’s used to this season, and he knows that. It’s hard to predict just how much he’ll be used, but it’s probably going to be sparingly, at least to start. He’ll be the third back behind Bell and Gore, and he’ll have to show he deserves to get touches.

The question isn’t whether or not he’ll see the field, because he will. He won’t be appearing on every drive, but he should get around 5 touches a game to start. It could be more, it could be less, but it should be around there.

Kalen Ballage

The third-year back has never had the chance to be featured consistently on offense. That will continue with the New York Jets. Across two season in Miami, he started just 6 of the 24 games he played. In his career, he’s totaled 326 yards and 4 touchdowns thus far. Those are very limited numbers in limited playing opportunities. The downside for him now is that he’ll have even fewer opportunities, if he plays at all.

Ballage may never see the field in a Jets uniform, since he was added simply for back-end depth. He’s capable of being a rotational piece in a backfield, and that’s what he’ll be if he touches the field. He seems to be an addition for the potential scenario where injuries diminish the group. Whatever his usage is or isn’t, he adds back-end security for the Jets backfield.

New York Jets: The four most intriguing training camp battles

New York Jets

These positional battles will be especially crucial for the New York Jets to figure out, especially with a potential lack of preseason games.

If the NFL has its way, the New York Jets and their gridiron brethren are making their way to summer camp.

While several notable players have voiced concerns, the league has nonetheless put out a plan that would commence training camp on July 28. Jets proceedings would take place at One Jets Drive in Florham Park, which would be hosting its sixth summer tune-up. The number of preseason games remains a point of contention among the league and the players’ association, thought the Jets’ exhibition opener on August 13 against the Giants has yet to be officially canceled.

But with a shortened slate almost all but assured, training camp takes on greater importance. Games may be the primary source of fans watching depth chart and roster battles, but camp exploits are going to be more important than ever, especially for a team looking for chemistry and coherence.

Where will the most intriguing battles be? ESM investigates…

(Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

Offensive Line

Right: Chuma Edoga/Brian Winters/Greg Van Roten/George Fant
Left: Alex Lewis/Cameron Clark 

Protecting Sam Darnold’s blindside was one of the biggest offseason priorities. The Jets came through via the selection of Louisville’s Mekhi Becton at 11th overall in April’s draft. But big questions remain on the other side.

The veteran Winters, the longest-tenured green player on the New York roster, will probably be fighting for a roster spot. His release is accompanied by cap savings of over $7 million, but management seemed more than happy to give the guard another chance.

“(He’s) a guy that just battled, battled his tail off all year after injuring his shoulder in the preseason and fighting through,” general manager Joe Douglas said in February, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. “You’re going to be hard-pressed to find a better teammate, a tougher guy than Brian Winters.”

Winters’ journey to maintain his role in the starting lineup faces a major challenge with the arrival of Chaminade High School alum Van Roten, who served as Cam Newton’s security in Carolina over the last three seasons. The arrivals of Van Roten, who can also play tackle, and Fant also raise some heat on Edoga, who was thrust into a starting role due to injuries last season.

Even with the arrival of the dominant Becton, Darnold’s blindside isn’t fully safe. Becton seems set on the outside, but there are major reservations on the interior. Alex Lewis (pictured) may be the name currently penciled in on the depth chart, but he has (understandably) shown some concerns about partaking in the season and could be an opt-out if and when we get to that point. It could be a chance for day three choice Cameron Clark, the pride of the Charlotte 49ers, to work his way into the starting five.

The Jets have been placed in a fortuitous, yet responsibility-laden position where they have not one but two backfield saviors in the forms of Darnold and Le’veon Bell. They’ve started the long arduous process with the drafting of Becton and spending their offseason money on experienced veterans. But as this logjam on the line shows that their work is far from over. 

New York Jets, La'Mical Perine
(Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Primary Spell RB

Frank Gore vs. La’Mical Perine 

Bell has vowed to right the wrongs of 2019. Reliable rushing assistance will help him attain that goal and help has been obtained from opposite ends of the football experience spectrum.

Bilal Powell and Ty Montgomery were not retained, their roles filled by the rookie Perine (pictured) and Gore, who’s anything but. Even in his advanced age, Gore has proven himself useful while playing AFC East bingo. His 4.1 average over the past two seasons with Buffalo and Miami would not only be highest on the Jets last season but also ranks in the top 20 amongst running backs with at least 300 carries over the last two seasons. Gore also has the advantage of working in an Adam Gase system during his 2018 exploits with the Dolphins.

The Jets, however, also have plans for Perine, their fourth-round pick out of Florida.

“We all like his skill set. He’s one of those guys that’s able to do all three phases that you look for a running back to do: be able to run the football, be able to be involved in the passing game, be able to protect,” Gase said of the former Gator, per Demetrius Harvey of Sports Illustrated. “I think we are getting a guy, too, that is very hungry, that is going to be playing with a chip on his shoulder. He obviously was surprised that he lasted to the pick he lasted, and anytime that we can get guys that are coming in like that, that’s a good thing for us.”

This isn’t to say that there isn’t a place for both Gore and Perine on the team. But it’ll be interesting to see which one gets more opportunities if and when training camp commences.

New York Jets
 Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com via USA TODAY NETWORK

Inside Linebacker

Avery Williamson/Blake Cashman/Patrick Onwuasor 

A shortened or eliminated preseason might wind up helping the Jets in the sense that they would avoid situations like that of Avery Williamson’s last season. The veteran suffered a torn ACL in an exhibition in Atlanta and wound up missing the entire 2019 season. Cashman, a fourth-round pick out of Minnesota, filled in very well in Williamson’s absence before suffering a season-ending injury himself. Further depth came in the form of ex-Baltimore Raven Onwuasor while Neville Hewitt and James Burgess were also re-signed.

Releasing Williamson would’ve saved the Jets $4.5 million in cap, but he was nonetheless retained for another go at it. Whatever work the Jets get in this summer will be absolutely vital for Williamson, currently at the top of the depth chart in one of the Jets’ deepest position groups. If Williamson has made one thing clear this offseason, it’s that he’s not going down without a fight.

“I definitely want to go in being a leader on the defense and just knowing that I’m going to make plays,” Williamson said to Olivia Landis in a video on the team’s official site. “That’s what I did my first year with the Jets and I’m ready to continue that. Once we get back as a group, just going out in camp and proving myself again and showing them that I still have that same fire and the same ability to make those big plays.”

New York Jets, Sam Ficken
Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Kicker

Sam Ficken vs. Brett Maher

When you’re a team that struggles to consistently enter the end zone, a good kicker is a must. The Jets have attempted 63 field goals over the last two seasons (tied for seventh-most in the NFL). That issue was easy to tolerate with Pro Bowler Jason Myers at the boot, but the team went through four different kickers after he left for Seattle. Ficken was retained after being the last of these legs, while Maher was added from Dallas shortly after season’s end. Their percentages were at the literal bottom of the league’s qualified rankings.

Ficken (70.4 percent) was nonetheless retained, his case perhaps helped by a pair of ten-point games in December victories over Miami and Pittsburgh. Maher (66 percent) is perhaps the most notable Jekyll and Hyde case in recent NFL memory, offsetting 60-yard gems with 30-yard flops (sometimes in the same game, like the Cowboys’ October loss to the Jets in East Rutherford). Having a reliable kicker will be vital, creating a safety blanket for a growing offense.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Did the New York Jets find their next Bilal Powell in La’Mical Perine?

New York Jets, La'Mical Perine

What are the New York Jets getting in La’Mical Perine?

The New York Jets have a deep runningback room, consisting of Le’Veon Bell, veteran Frank Gore, and newly drafted La’Mical Perine out of Florida.

Perine is an interesting player, who can contribute in a similar role to Bilal Powell in recent years. He is a do-it-all running back and can hold his ground in pass protection. While the Florida product isn’t explosive in any category, he does everything at an average level, which makes him a solid back up for the future. Learning from a player like Frank Gore could do him some good, and they might be expecting him to take a significant jump in 2021 after Gore and his one-year deal expires.

Going into the 2020 NFL draft, Perine was noted as having a prototypical size at the position, a great personality, high character, and has good vision when choosing his running lanes. However, he is a little monotonous and fails to explode through the hole, giving linebackers an opportunity to stop him before reaching the second level. His lateral quickness is a bit underwhelming and tends to rely on power rushes up the gut.

Nonetheless, Perine was a solid contributor for Florida in 2019. Over 131 carriers, he totaled 677 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He was also among the teams top pass catchers, logging 40 receptions, 262 receiving yards, and 6.6 yards per catch. He also earned five receiving touchdowns in 13 games.

Overall, he contributed in multiple facets, giving the Jets an all-purpose back with plenty of untapped potential. I fully expect him to sit in a developmental role in 2020, learning from two of the best running backs in the NFL, one of whom a Hall of Fame pedigree.

This will be a fantastic opportunity for Perrine to work on his weaknesses and emerge as a solid back up to Le’Veon Bell in the future.