The Jets are trying to win games this year, but developing young players is very important for this team. With that in mind, I’d like to take a look at rookie Elijah McGuire’s Week 3 performance against the Dolphins.
Adding a rookie back can mean bringing young legs into the equation. Pure speed can help make something happen even when the blockers fail. On this play, Will Tye missed his block in the middle of the field. Robby Anderson also didn’t do much of a job blocking on the outside, which is probably something the Jets will just have to live with. McGuire took it to an extra gear and beat both unblocked defenders to the corner for a nice 8 yard gain.
Just being fast isn’t enough to make a rookie back effective, though. When discussing Robby Anderson the other day, I mentioned how speed isn’t very useful for wide receivers unless they actually know how to play wide receiver. In truth, that comment is true of every other position on the field.
McGuire had rather limited snaps, but one thing that struck me on a few of his runs was his patience. In many cases, young backs who have speed want to use that speed in a hurry. They leave yardage on the field because they lack patience. McGuire showed some signs of promise in this area on Sunday.
On this play, the Jets were trying to open up the hole between the left tackle and the tight end. Kelvin Beachum’s assignment was to double team the tackle with James Carpenter and then get to the outside linebacker.
The Jets did a great job of opening a hole, and there was a nice gain to be had here. McGuire easily could have hit the hole hard and picked up a few yards when it first opened, but Beachum hadn’t left the double team left, which left the linebacker as one of three unblocked Dolphins.
Alternatively, many young backs like to think they can outrun any defender and try to bounce things outside too frequently.
Instead, McGuire, waited for Beachum to hit the linebacker and open up a small hole for McGuire to run through.
McGuire also did a nice job finishing this run. He made a little move to avoid maximum impact while being tackled. He was first contacted at the 34 but makes it all the way to the 29. I’m not sure McGuire is going to be a physical bruiser, but 5 yards after contact is a good haul.
On this next play, the Jets didn’t appear to block things very well. At first look, McGuire either had to choose between taking it inside, where an unblocked defender was waiting for him or busting it outside where he would have to beat a defender one on one.
Again, though, he showed patience and read that the flow of his blocks would create an opening if he didn’t commit to a hole too early.
One thing that stuck out in a negative way is how loosely he was carrying the ball. You may remember this play because shortly after the picture below, McGuire was stripped and fumbled the ball away to the Dolphins.
If patience is the kind of trait that earns young backs more playing time, a lack of ball security earns backs a seat on the bench. As our old friend Rex Ryan liked to say, “There’s nothing worse than a fumbler.”
Still, there are some encouraging positives. Sixth round picks usually do not make much of an immediate impact so getting any sort of contribution from McGuire this early is a plus.