An interesting development from the Sunday Notes column by ESPN New York’s Rich Cimini suggests that the Jets might be exploring an area not widely seen as a priority:
This comes as a bit of a surprise, but I hear the New York Jets are exploring free-agent running backs — namely Donald Brown (Indianapolis Colts) and Ben Tate (Houston Texans).
Cimini goes into more detail behind their reasoning in his column.
Bent, TheJetsBlog.comThe 25-year old Tate has been backing up Arian Foster for three years in Houston and has been productive in that role, but I would have thought he would want an opportunity to start rather than compete for reps with the likes of Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. Tate has averaged 4.7 yards per carry and has been able to make the most of his opportunities when gets them. However, his best season was his rookie year where he rushed for over 900 yards with four 100-yard games and a career-best 5.4 yards per carry average. In 2013, he caught a career high 34 passes – an area the Jets will be looking for improved productivity from their backs – but only averaged just over four yards per catch.
Brown has been in the league for five years but has never fully established himself as a lead back, starting a total of 20 games. His 5.3 average per carry this year was a whole yard better than his career average and represented a career high as he responded well to the Colts going out and acquiring Trent Richardson. Brown has 83 catches in five seasons with a healthy average of 9.2 yards per catch.
The two veterans are both 5’11” and between 210 and 220 pounds. Tate is faster, having run a 4.34 forty at the 2010 scouting combine, over a tenth of a second faster than Brown’s 4.46 in 2009. Despite being the more explosive of the two, Tate is less experienced and efficient in pass protection.
You may recall that each of the backs the Jets targeted last offseason (Ivory and Mike Goodson) had typically fared well in PFF’s elusive rating, which combines the data for yards after contact and broken tackles to try and evaluate which backs are the most difficult to bring down. This fits in with the characterization of an ideal back for a Marty Mornhinweg offense being someone who can do damage if you get them the ball in the open field. With that in mind, it’s worth noting that Brown was number one in this metric in 2013, so I can well believe that the Jets have been considering him. For the record, Ivory placed 5th and Tate was 11th.