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Michael Carter: Power Back

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

Over the last few months I have heard it said over and over that the Jets need to find a power runner to pair with Michael Carter.

On paper this makes sense. In today’s NFL there aren’t many backs who play the full game. Most teams have a platoon, and there is logic in having a rotation with varying skillsets. At 5’8” and 201 pounds, Carter is a bit undersized. Your typical back is about 5’11” and 217 pounds. There could be some logic to having a bigger bruiser in tandem with Carter.

Here’s the thing. My almost every metric available, Carter had success as a power runner.

You can see it through some advanced stats.

But just as significant is situational football. Power running really comes into play in situations where the defense knows there will be a handoff. Can the back still find success in these spots?

Using the Stathead database I decided to take a look at how Carter fared in these power situations. The plays I looked at were third and fourth down handoffs when the Jets needed 2 yards or less to convert a first down and handoff on any down on the opponent’s 1 or 2 yard lines. Carter converted 7 of his 11 attempts successfully, a rate of 63.6%. That was roughly at the league average of 67%.

I also took a look at carries in the 4 minute drill. That is a critical game situation where your team has the ball with a lead of one score or less with under 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter. It is highly likely your team will run the ball to keep the clock moving. The defense knows it and usually sells out to stop the run. It isn’t easy to do, but if the offense succeeds it can end the game.

In 2021 Carter got 7 carries in these situations and produced 65 yards, an outstanding average of 9.29.

Now when we are dealing with a sample size this small, one big run can skew everything. Carter did indeed have a huge 38 yard run. Even if you take that out, he still averaged 4.5 yards per carry in these situations. Even if you take out his second longest run, he still averages 2.8 yards per carry. That might not sound impressive, but you have to remember this is a very difficult situation to run the ball. It almost exactly mirrors the 2.74 yard average across the league.

If you want to use success rate (40% of the yards needs on first down; 60% on second down; 100% on third and fourth down), Carter was successful on 5 of his 7 runs, a 71.4% rate.

Of course there are caveats here. You might argue the offensive line has more to do with success in power situations than a back. That might argue against the need for a power back, though.

You also might point out that these are extremely small sample sizes, particularly the runs in true power situations. That is valid, but when combined with Carter’s ability to produce after contact I think it’s difficult to see any evidence that Carter is a power liability.

Don’t get me wrong. The Jets could certainly use another back who runs with power. It isn't like you are limited to having one player with a useful skillset.

I’m just not sure it’s a pronounced need. Michael Carter might be a better power back than you think.