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Scouting Jets running back Josh Adams

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New York Jets v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

With the regular season well underway, we’ve been looking at the players the Jets have added since cutdown day, continuing today with Josh Adams.

The 23-year old running back is listed at 6’2” and 225 pounds and was undrafted out of Notre Dame last season. Adams spent his rookie year with the Eagles and ended up in a prominent role due to injuries. He ended up as their leading rusher with 511 yards and three touchdowns.

Background

Adams was recruited to Notre Dame as a three-star high school recruit in 2015 and began his true freshman season as a backup. However, he ended up as a starter due to injuries and had a productive year with over 800 yards and six scores. Adams’ 7.2 yards per carry average was the best of his career and the seventh highest mark in the nation.

In his second season, Adams was productive again and although his average dropped to just below six yards per carry, he ended up with 933 yards and five touchdowns. He also caught a career-high 21 passes.

As a junior, Adams became the full time starter and rushed for career-highs of 1,430 yards and 13 touchdowns, as he again averaged almost seven yards per carry. At the end of the season, he decided to declare for the 2018 draft.

Unfortunately, an offseason ankle injury meant that Adams couldn’t work out properly at the combine and, despite later posting decent numbers at his pro day, this led to Adams going undrafted.

The Eagles picked Adams up as an undrafted free agent and, having been released in final cuts, he began his rookie season on their practice squad. However, he was soon activated due to injury and ended up in a key role.

Adams didn’t have a 100-yard game in his rookie year but he surpassed 80 yards twice and ended the season as the Eagles’ leading rusher with over 500 yards. He also caught seven passes.

In preseason this year, Adams struggled. He carried 17 times for just 27 yards with no runs of more than five yards. This saw him released in final cuts again but this time he would join the Jets to begin the season on their practice squad instead.

The Jets activated Adams a few weeks ago and he played on special teams in the Giants game, then carried four times for six yards in the Washington game. He also had a 13-yard run negated by a hold.

Now let’s take a look at what Adams brings to the table, divided into categories.

Measurables/Athleticism

Adams is a taller back but runs with a low center of gravity in spite of this. He posted 18 bench press reps at the combine.

At his pro day, Adams was clocked at under 4.5 in the 40-yard dash and also posted an outstanding 6.75 three cone drill which would have topped all backs at the combine. Despite this, scouting reports indicate he lacks burst and acceleration and isn’t particularly elusive.

Adams also posted a good broad jump of 122 inches, but his vertical was below average at 34 inches.

Usage

Adams was employed as a conventional two-down back by the Eagles and rarely split out wide or in the slot. That was the case in his final year of college too, although he played a bit more often out wide or in the slot in his freshman and sophomore season.

Running ability

Adams defied his critics with his production in his rookie year during which he averaged 4.3 yards per carry.

While some scouting reports cast doubt on his breakaway speed, elusiveness, vision and ability to be an outside runner, Adams demonstrated all these attributes on film in his rookie campaign.

The first thing that stands out about Adams’ style is that he’s a direct north-south runner. Even when going outside or changing direction, he’ll get his shoulders square and head upfield at the earliest possible opportunity.

With some nice size, he can run with power and hit the hole hard, but he can sometimes take a while to build up to full speed so he ideally needs his blockers to give him some daylight to make things happen.

While he didn’t have a run of 30 yards or more in his rookie year, Adams has displayed some breakaway speed in the past. He set a school record with a 98-yard touchdown in college.

Adams shows off some nice elusiveness on this run, not only using a jump cut to elude the safety in the hole but then side-stepping a tackler at the second level and immediately turning his pads upfield as noted earlier to finish the run strong.

He also showcases some of his power here by stiff-arming his man to the ground and spinning away for a nice gain outside.

Adams twice carried 20 or more times with the Eagles, so has proven capable of handling a full-time workload and potentially being a workhorse back.

He’s had mixed results as a short yardage back, but did score 13 touchdowns in his junior year so he obviously has a nose for the end zone. One of his three NFL touchdowns came from the one-yard line as he found a lane and went low to break the plane. He was also stuffed on a fourth down play from the goal line though.

One concern has been ball security. While Adams officially only fumbled once in his rookie year, he also had a play where he allowed the ball to be stripped away from him in crunch time of a close game where he was lucky to be ruled down just before the ball came loose.

Pass catching

Adams hasn’t done much as a pass catcher at the NFL level, with all seven of his catches coming on dump-offs. He also had a couple of drops.

While Adams doesn’t generally look that comfortable catching passes, he showed improvement during his college career and displayed some good hands on this play.

In college he had a couple of plays down the field on wheel routes, but generally speaking nearly all of his production at that level was on dump-offs too. He doesn’t really bring much to the table as a route runner at this stage of his career.

Blocking

Adams isn’t particularly comfortable as a blocker but has had some experience in pass protection both at Notre Dame and with the Eagles. He gave up a couple of sacks last year and four in his three years in college.

Special Teams

While Adams doesn’t have any experience as a return man, he has seen action on special teams as a blocker on kick returns, as a punt protector and in kickoff coverage. He had a couple of tackles as a rookie and was in on one in his Jets debut.

Instincts

Scouting reports were also critical of Adams’ patience and vision, but he’s shown some good examples of this with the Eagles.

On this first play, the middle is clogged up but he reacts to this and is able to bounce the run outside.

This one saw him burst through a big hole, but he sees the block at the second level and cuts in behind it. He also immediately angles his run away from the safety coming across. This evidences the fact he’s seeing beyond the first lane and anticipating well.

You would expect Adams’ instincts as a blocker or receiver to be less well-developed though.

Attitude

Adams’ coaches have been extremely complimentary of his work ethic and leadership. He’s regarded as a humble character with a team-first attitude and was named as a team captain as a junior.

Adams was the first underclassman to wear the number one jersey which is an honor bestowed upon “the player that exemplifies himself both on and off the field in a manner that represents all the things we want a Notre Dame football player to represent” according to Brian Kelly.

Injuries

Adams didn’t miss any time through injuries at Notre Dame but was slowed by a hip injury at the end of his rookie season.

He reportedly collected $500,000 on an insurance policy because his ankle injury led to him going undrafted.

Scheme Fit

The Jets obviously have a good idea of what they’re getting with Adams because general manager Joe Douglas was with the Eagles when Adams was brought in.

His direct style should be good in a zone-based system but the Jets have been mixing in plenty of power runs too.

Adams was a teammate of Paul Worrilow last season and Blake Countess in preseason.

Conclusions

Adams was reportedly only activated because the Jets believed he was about to be poached off their practice squad by another team. They therefore perhaps don’t have any immediate plans for him, although he has been active twice so far.

It’s pretty surprising that the Eagles gave up on him after he put up some production and good film in his rookie year, but obviously they had other backs ahead of him initially that are now healthy. The Jets are the beneficiaries of this, as he obviously has the potential to be a low-cost reserve in the short-term with possible longer-term upside.

Keeping a young back who has had some NFL production like Adams in the system is a smart idea. With Bilal Powell and Ty Montgomery both out of contract at the end of the season and Valentine Holmes not certain to be back at camp next year, Adams might have a good chance at competing for a role, especially if he gets a chance to impress over the next six weeks.