As the Jets get close to training camp, I am going to examine the roster and give you my top 25 players. Each weekday, we will reveal another person on the list, leading right into camp. I am not including rookies on this list because I do not feel it is possible to fully evaluate them before they play a game.
No. 10: Isaiah Crowell
Last year’s ranking: Unranked (not on team)
How acquired: Signed as a free agent to a three-year, $12 million contract on March 14
Years left on contract: 3
2018 Salary Cap figure: $2 million
Looking back at 2017: Crowell was the leading rusher for the 0-16 Browns last season. He had a career-high 206 carries for 853 yards with two rushing touchdowns, a career low. He also had 28 catches for 182 yards.
For the fourth straight season, Crowell played in all 16 games. He has started every game over the past two seasons. It is this kind of durability that appealed to the Jets when they were evaluating free agent running backs. Recent Jets backs Matt Forte and Chris Ivory struggled with staying healthy.
Pro Football Focus rated Crowell as 53rd out of 60 running backs they graded. He only averaged 2.6 yards after contact, per PFF. In pass blocking, he allowed two sacks, four quarterback hits and four hurries.
Despite setting a new career high in carries, Crowell said he was never sure of his role in Cleveland, where he split time with Duke Johnson.
“You just never knew,” Crowell said this spring. “Sometimes it was [an every-down situation], sometimes it wasn’t. You just never knew week in and week out. I felt like that was discouraging and annoying.”
Outlook for 2018: The Jets have some talented running backs, but Crowell is going to get the first crack at being the lead back. The Jets went out and grabbed him early in free agency because they feel as if Crowell can give their offense a dimension it’s been lacking.
Crowell showed flashes on a bad Cleveland team over the past four years. The Jets don’t have the greatest offensive line, but they are hoping the promotion of Jeremy Bates to offensive coordinator and the hiring of Rick Dennison as the offensive line coach can lead to an improved running attack.
Crowell believes he is an every-down back, but I don’t think he will be with the Jets. Expect to see plenty of Bilal Powell and/or Eli McGuire in passing situations. Both of them have shown they are good receivers out of the backfield, and I think they will still have big roles.
If Crowell falters, his playing time also would diminish with those two behind him. Powell always seems to find his way into a bigger role than expected and the coaching staff is high on McGuire, who is entering his second season.
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