UNC Football: Michael Carter has breakout performance in Jets victory

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 31: Michael Carter #32 of the New York Jets runs the ball and is tackled by Eli Apple #20 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium on October 31, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 31: Michael Carter #32 of the New York Jets runs the ball and is tackled by Eli Apple #20 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium on October 31, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

Have the New York Jets finally figured out the best way to utilize former UNC football standout Michael Carter in their offensive scheme?

When the New York Jets selected former UNC football standout Michael Carter with their fourth-round pick in this year’s draft, the organization was ecstatic that he fell to their selection. General manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh often spoke of the pick during training camp, essentially saying that they were fortunate to have the opportunity to add Carter to their roster.

This wasn’t just another mid-round draft pick. This was a selection that the Jets organization felt could be a game-changer on the offensive side of the ball for many years to come.

On Sunday afternoon, Carter had a breakout performance, giving us glimpses of what we saw during his time in Chapel Hill.

In a game in which the Jets were without first-round pick Zach Wilson, it appeared as if Gang Green would be heavy underdogs against the Cincinnati Bengals. However, with Mike White making his first career start at quarterback, the Jets shocked the league by pulling off an 34-31 victory on their home turf on Halloween.

White has been the headline story, as it’s a feel-good story about a career backup who finally earned his opportunity to shine. However, as great of a story as White has been, Carter deserves a ton of attention for the victory as well.

The rookie running back was not only the Jets top threat out of the backfield, but also served as White’s top target in the passing game as well. Overall, Carter tallied a career-high 172 yards, 77 yards and a score on the ground along with 96 total receiving yards. The former Tar Heel had 29 touches, which was also a team-high for the contest.

Carter’s standout performance did, in fact, make some Jets history.

For starters, the 22-year-old became the youngest Jet ever to have 170 or more total yards in a single game. He also became one of just five Jets rookies to finish a game with at least 170 yards from scrimmage.

Additionally, Carter became the first Jet rookie to accumulate 100+ scrimmage yards in back-to-back games since Freeman McNeil accomplished the feat in 1981. For a Jets rookie running back, that’s some really good company to join on the list!

On Sunday, we saw first-hand how Carter can impact the game in multiple ways. He became the first running with at least 75 rushing yards and 90 receiving yards since Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints put together a similar performance in Week 2 of the 2020 season.

Since 2018, only four other NFL running backs have put together performances such as the ones Carter and Kamara had.

Those running backs you ask? The list is pretty darn good:

Saquon Barkley
Christian McCaffrey
Austin Ekeler
James White

Of course, it’s great that Carter is being talked about amongst the likes of the above-listed running backs. However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There is a bigger question to ask here.

Have the Jets finally figured out the way to get the most out of Carter within their offensive scheme?

Early on in the season, the Jets were focused on using a three-back rotation that featured Carter, Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson. As the season has gone along, Carter has seen a steady snap increase, and it appears as if he is emerging as the team’s No. 1 back.

After playing a season-high 59 snaps against the Bengals, Carter now leads the team in rushing attempts (73), receptions (26) and total yards (505). His three touchdowns are second-most on the team, as he’s just one score behind wide receiver Corey Davis.

One major adjustment the Jets made this week was having offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur call plays from upstairs in a coaches booth. In his prior coaching stops, it was common for LaFleur to not be on the field, and it was evident on Sunday that the play calling was much better than in previous weeks.

Additionally, the Jets ran an offensive scheme that should’ve been deployed early on with Wilson. You saw a bunch of short passes and screens, as the objective was to get the ball out as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

White did a tremendous job of following the game plan, as he threw for over 400 yards in his first- ever start. Often times, Carter (along with the other backs) were used in this scheme, and were able to gain good chunks of yards based on the play calls.

Whether it’s Wilson or White under center, the Jets should continue to follow a similar game plan. With star wide receiver Corey Davis also sidelined, Gang Green got great production from their skill players, and saw first-hand how Carter has the ability to be a true star player at his position.

The Jets will most certainly not want to burn out Carter, so you’ll continue to see guys like Johnson getting a good chunk of playing time. However, if Carter continues to play at this level, it will be very difficult for the Jets to take him off the field very soon.

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