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Scouting Jets running back Frank Gore

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NFL: JAN 04 AFC Wild Card - Bills at Texans Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Over the next few months, we’ll be providing an in-depth scouting report for each of the Jets’ undrafted free agents. However, before we do that, the Jets signed a couple of veterans recently, so we’re going to cover them first, starting today with veteran running back Frank Gore.

The 37-year old is listed at 5’9” and 212 pounds and is a five-time pro bowler who currently stands in third place on the NFL’s all-time rushing list. He rushed for just under 600 yards with the Bills last season.

Background

As a high school recruit, Gore was ranked in the top 10 in Florida and the top 20 running backs in the nation. He was ultimately recruited to Miami where he made an immediate impact in his true freshman year by averaging over nine yards per carry in a reserve role.

Having red-shirted his sophomore year due to a preseason injury, Gore was off to a good start in 2003 with three hundred-yard rushing performances in the first four games. However, he would go on to suffer another season-ending injury in game five.

Gore returned for his red-shirt junior year in 2004 and set career highs for rushing yards (945) and touchdowns (eight). However, his average per carry was just 4.8 yards, the lowest of his career.

At the end of that season, Gore opted to head to the NFL. He ended his career with 1,975 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, also adding 23 pass receptions.

With concerns over his injury history, Gore lasted until the third round in the 2005 draft where he was picked up by the 49ers. He had a solid rookie year as he averaged 4.8 yards per carry in a reserve role and displayed his potential by rushing for over 100 yards for the first time in the final game of the season.

Ironically, the Jets were involved in Gore becoming a starter, as they acquired the incumbent Kevan Barlow before the 2006 season, paving the way for Gore to break out with the best season of his career.

Gore headed to his first pro bowl after having racked up 1,695 rushing yards at an average of 5.4 yards per carry and 61 receptions for 485 yards. All of these are still career-highs for Gore. He also had his best ever single-game rushing performance with a 212-yard effort against Seattle.

Gore would follow up his break-out year by becoming one of the league’s most dependable backs over the next decade. He rushed for over 1,000 yards eight times in the next 10 seasons and went to four more pro bowls.

During that time, Gore had plenty of iconic performances, including a game in 2007 where he rushed for 116 yards and caught a career-high 11 passes for 98 yards. In 2009, he set career-highs with 10 rushing touchdowns and 13 total touchdowns and also racked up a career-best 246 yards from scrimmage in one game. 2010 saw him register the only 100-yard receiving game of his career in a nine-catch, 102-yard performance.

Gore helped lead San Francisco on a postseason run at the end of the 2012 season, rushing for over 100 yards in two of the 49ers’ playoff games and 90 in the other. The Ravens ultimately got the win in Super Bowl XLVII despite Gore racking up 110 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

The following season was Gore’s final pro bowl appearance to date, but he still rushed for over 1,100 yards the year after that, in what was his final season with the 49ers at the age of 31. However, with most people expecting his career was winding down, Gore has continued to defy the odds and remained productive into his late thirties.

He spent three years with the Colts, rushing for over 960 yards in each year with 2016 representing his final thousand-yard season and also seeing him catch a career-high four touchdown passes.

Gore returned to Miami in 2018 to sign with the Dolphins and responded well to a reduction in workload as his 4.6 yards per carry average was his best since 2012. This included one hundred-yard game, although Gore had no touchdown rushes on the season for the first time in his career. His one total touchdown was also a career-low. He did set a career-high in yards per reception though (10.3) albeit only on 12 catches.

In 2019, Gore signed for Buffalo and got off to an impressive start to the season as he rushed for over 100 yards against New England and was averaging 4.4 yards per carry entering into week eight.

However, the Bills began to feature Devin Singletary more and Gore’s production dropped off. He averaged just 2.5 yards per carry over the rest of the season to end up with a career-worst 3.6 yards per carry average. He was then held to 22 yards on eight carries in the Bills’ postseason loss to Houston.

The Jets added Gore a few weeks ago and will be hoping he still has something left in the tank. Gore needs 1,381 rushing yards to move into second place all time and 3,009 to become the all time rushing leader. However, it’s almost unprecedented for a running back to play this late into his career. Marcus Allen retired at 37 and while Jim Thorpe played into his forties, that was almost 100 years ago and came at the end of a much shorter career.

Let’s move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Gore brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.

Measurables/Athleticism

Gore’s combine workout numbers are essentially irrelevant now because it was 17 years ago, but he posted excellent agility numbers and slightly below average explosiveness and strength numbers. He ran a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash.

Clearly Gore has lost a step or two since then, but still shows some burst and the ability to get to the edge.

His listed size is actually less than it was in college, where he was listed at 220 pounds.

Usage

Gore has almost exclusively been employed as a conventional back over the course of his career. He doesn’t line up in the slot or out wide very often and is rarely targeted in the passing game when he does. He has never had more than a few catches per season from the slot.

Running ability

Gore’s career numbers obviously speak for themselves and he’s still capable of generating production although he’s obviously not as dynamic as he was earlier in his career.

He doesn’t really possess breakaway speed any more with just one 40-plus yard touchdown since 2009 - a 52-yard run in 2014. However, he can get to the edge and hit the hole with good burst.

He’s effective because he’ll get his shoulders perpendicular to the line of scrimmage and hit the hole hard, but can also get skinny to fight through traffic and finish a run with power to fall forwards.

While he’s not as elusive as he once was, Gore still has quick enough feet to slip a tackle and will keep driving through contact.

Even last season, he was showing he still had the ability to get to the second level and bounce off tacklers.

In the open field, Gore displays a low center of gravity and good balance to stay on his feet and keep making forward progress.

Gore has proven capable of handling a big workload over the years with 30-plus carries in three games and 29 in four more. He’s also averaged over four yards per carry in six of those seven games.

Short yardage

Gore has 80 rushing touchdowns in his career, including 37 from inside the three-yard line so obviously he has a nose for the end zone.

He’s only rushed for two touchdowns since 2017, although both were one-yard runs. He was stuffed at the one in the Patriots game last year, though.

Pass catching

Gore wasn’t regarded as much of a pass-catching threat when he first entered the NFL but he caught over 60 passes in his second season as he soon emerged into a productive weapon, albeit mostly on dump-offs and checkdowns.

Over the years, Gore hasn’t been much of a downfield threat but can run some routes out of the backfield.

He doesn’t look like a natural pass catcher but will pull out the occasional one-handed or otherwise impressive catch. This memorable grab helped ice a win over the Jets after Sam Darnold had brought the Jets back from 20-0 down to within one score.

Gore hasn’t had major issues with dropped passes, having had just five in the past four years, including this one in last year’s playoffs.

He had more drops in the past, including in 2011 where he was targeted out of the slot four times and dropped three. Obviously his reducing drop numbers could just be a by-product of being used less as a dynamic pass-catching option in the past few years.

Ball security

One encouraging sign from last season is that it was the first time Gore has gone the whole year without having a fumble. He only had one in 2018, too, which was the lowest total of his career to that point.

Gore can sometimes fail to protect the ball when breaking tackles down the field or in the hole, but his most memorable fumble as far as Jets fans are concerned was this costly blunder in 2015.

Blocking

Gore has plenty of experience of staying in to pass protect over the years and shows an ability to recognize, anticipate and pick up the blitz.

He generally doesn’t give up a lot of pressure with less than one pressure per game allowed every season. However, he did give up four sacks in 2016. He’s only given up two over the past three seasons, though.

Gore has never been called for holding in his career but has been called for five chop blocks and two face mask penalties.

Special Teams

Gore hasn’t contributed on special teams at the NFL level and didn’t do much in college either, although he did return two kick-offs for 48 yards in his freshman year.

Instincts/Intelligence

You don’t rack up the kind of numbers Gore has without being able to identify a running lane and take what the defense gives you. Gore obviously has excellent vision, both in terms of hitting the initial hole and also at the second level and down the field.

On this play, he shows his patience and vision to reverse his field and create a big gain out of nothing.

He also shows good instincts as a blocker and in the passing game in terms of leaking into an open area when a play gets extended.

Perhaps surprisingly, Gore reportedly had a poor wonderlic score at the scouting combine. However, it hasn’t affected his career.

Gore has had some focus issues at times, with a lot of pre-snap penalties, including 15 false starts. He didn’t have any penalties in 2019, though, and only had one in 2018.

Attitude

Gore brings the Jets a durable and tough player with a good work ethic who is going to lead both by example and by being a vocal teammate. He has also done a lot of work in the community over the years.

Gore has been fined once at the NFL level - for wearing his socks too low in a postseason game.

The biggest controversy he’s been involved in was when he was one of the targets identified in the Saints’ bountygate scandal. Clearly that’s in the past as he now finds himself on a team that has Gregg Williams on the coaching staff.

He’s been linked to a few other scandals during his career, including a party he threw which potentially broke NCAA rules, but hasn’t been involved in anything you would consider to be a red flag.

Injuries

Gore’s durability has been one of his best traits, which is remarkable considering how his draft stock had fallen due to durability concerns after he suffered two ACL tears in college.

At the NFL level, he’s missed time with various injuries over the years but hasn’t had to deal with anything serious, so clearly he knows how to look after himself. He missed two games with a groin injury as a rookie, two more with an ankle injury in 2009 and a handful with a hip injury in 2010.

Since 2010, though, he’s missed just two games at the end of the 2018 season when he suffered a sprained foot. He was also knocked out of a game with a knee injury in 2011, leading to him ending up with zero yards on six carries. He returned the next week though.

Scheme Fit

Gore will be a good fit for Adam Gase’s system, having already had experience of playing within it in 2018.

Not surprisingly, he has crossed paths with a lot of his current Jets teammates over the years, including Conor McDermott in Buffalo and James Burgess and David Fales in Miami. 10 of the former Colts currently on the Jets’ roster were also teammates of Gore’s at some point, although Jonotthan Harrison and Ross Travis were the only two offensive players on that list.

Conclusions

Gore brings the Jets an experienced player who can set a good example for young backs like LaMical Perine and Trenton Cannon and help to lessen Le’Veon Bell’s workload.

Over the past few years, he’s had some good performances that suggest he still has plenty in the tank, although his poor production in the second half of last year calls that into question.

Once again this is arguably a move that has more to do with changing the culture than it does in terms of providing a talent upgrade. However, Gore will be expected to make some key contributions to bolster his potential hall of fame credentials.