Rookies Carter, AVT, Moore bright spots on offense for Jets
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Michael Carter has the swagger of a veteran. And it’s not about cockiness for the New York Jets rookie running back.
It’s all about supreme self-confidence.
So when Carter was asked if he still felt a bit like a rookie making his way through nine NFL games, his answer was hardly a surprise.
“I never did,” he said this week. “And all the guys know that. They’ll be like, ‘What’s up, rook?’ And I’ll say, ‘I’m not a rookie. It’s just my first year.’ That’s what I always tell them and I’m not joking, either.
“I never really felt like a rookie. Ever. They drafted me to play. There’s no redshirting in the NFL.”
Carter, a fourth-round pick out of North Carolina, leads the Jets with 367 yards rushing and four touchdowns. He’s also difficult to tackle, rarely going down on a first hit.
“It’s not because he’s Jerome Bettis, people bouncing off,” offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said. “He’s just a slippery dude with great contact balance and a will and a want to.”
Carter has also become a receiving threat, tying wide receiver Jamison Crowder for the team lead with 31 catches.
“He’s a guy, and I’m sure as you guys have gotten to know him, he’s a dude you root for,” LaFleur said. “And it’s cool to watch the production he’s having. I think there’s a lot of good days ahead for him.”
And Carter isn’t the only Jets rookie who’s made an impact.
Zach Wilson remains the focus, of course, and is still considered a potential franchise quarterback. The No. 2 overall pick will miss his fourth straight game while recovering from a sprained knee ligament, but there’s optimism he could return next week.
Meanwhile, a few other rookies on offense are providing some hope for the future while the Jets have struggled to a 2-7 start.
Left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, the No. 14 overall pick, and wide receiver Elijah Moore, a second-rounder, have joined Carter in making immediate contributions.
Vera-Tucker was taken 12 spots after Wilson when general manager Joe Douglas traded up to get him. And he has settled in as arguably New York’s best offensive lineman.
“When (Douglas) said he was going up to get a guard after I didn’t know Alijah that well, I was like, ‘A guard?’“ LaFleur said. “And now I get exactly why he did it. Because he was spot on with it.”
That’s even after the former USC star missed the entire preseason with a pectoral injury and then had an up-and-down start to the regular season.
“He’s probably as solid a rookie I’ve ever been around on the O-line, with all the things they have to do,” offensive line coach John Benton said.
Vera-Tucker’s decision-making was a bit off early on, but Benton said “he seems to have mastered that.” The young lineman has been dealing with turf toe recently and the Jets have been limited his snaps in practice, but he hasn’t been hindered in games.