Welcome to the Spotlight. Here we spotlight one key player for each game of the season, hopefully putting a different player in the spotlight each week. Today's player in the spotlight is running back Elijah McGuire.
Elijah McGuire is a 23 year old, 5' 10", 215 pound rookie running back out of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. McGuire overcame the death of his father when Elijah was just 12 years old to emerge as a legendary force in Louisiana high school football. He went on to have a very productive career at Louisiana-Lafayette, amassing 4301 rushing yards, 1394 receiving yards and 52 touchdowns. McGuire was the Sunbelt Conference Player of the Year in 2015, and was the 2017 East-West Shrine Game MVP in 2017. McGuire was selected by the New York Jets with the 188th overall pick in the 6th round of the 2017 NFL draft.
Elijah McGuire began the 2017 season third on the Jets running back depth chart, but injuries to Matt Forte and Bilal Powell have allowed him to expand his role as the season has progressed. McGuire has responded to his increased opportunities by posting a gaudy 5.2 yards per carry average and 231 yards from scrimmage over his last four games. McGuire looks like the fastest and perhaps most talented of the Jets running backs, and may have forced his way into the running back rotation even when the Jets backs are all back to full health.
This week’s game against the New England Patriots presents McGuire an opportunity to take on more of a lead back role. Powell is out for the game, and Forte, while expected to play, is still feeling the lingering effects of a toe injury, leaving McGuire the likely bell cow on Sunday. In a game against a Tom Brady offense controlling the clock is often critical, making McGuire potentially the most important Jet on the field on offense.
With a compact frame, good speed, excellent burst, good field vision and the ability to make guys miss with his cutting ability, McGuire has a chance to establish himself as a lead back in the NFL. Those abilities will be crucial if the Jets are to have a chance to win this game against the Patriots. The Patriots defense has had trouble stopping the run and the pass this season, but with Josh McCown unlikely to win a shootout over Tom Brady, the clearest path to victory is via a ball control offense centered on Elijah McGuire.
This game presents the Jets with the rare opportunity to overtake the Patriots in the standings. It presents the Jets the opportunity to take over sole possession of first place in the AFC East and establish themselves as legitimate playoff contenders, an opportunity not many outside the team even dreamed of before the season began. If Elijah McGuire can lead a dominating Jets ground attack against the Patriots, the Jets should be in position late in the game to steal a victory over the defending Super Bowl champions. Elijah McGuire, this is your time in the spotlight. This is your chance to shine for the Jets. Time to stake your claim among the new generation of Jets trying to pull this franchise out of the doldrums and into the most unlikely Jets playoff run in recent memory. Let’s see what you’ve got.