Israel Abanikanda

AFC East Rumors: Lazard, Carter, Jackson, Montgomery

The Jets lost to the Dolphins today in Tim Boyle‘s first start since 2021, and while Boyle failed to provide the offensive spark the team has been searching so desperately for, his arsenal of weapons hardly set him up for success. Part of that was the absence of veteran wide receiver Allen Lazard, who, according to Mike Florio of NBC Sports, was a healthy scratch from today’s game.

Florio relays that Lazard reportedly believes that it is “a one-game thing,” but after only being target once last week, Florio isn’t quite as sure. The report claims that, despite his existing history with injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, “the internal assessment of Lazard is far from flattering.”

Still, without him, Garrett Wilson saw 10 targets. Jason Brownlee and Xavier Gipson were the only other wide receivers to see targets, while the rest of Boyle’s attempts targeted tight ends and running backs. With Randall Cobb already out for the past four games, New York can hardly afford more missed time from Lazard, as well.

Here are a few other rumors from the AFC East, with another coming from Gang Green:

  • New York waived a former starter in running back Michael Carter a couple weeks ago. The young rusher had been benched after getting penalized for a chop block and had been buried on the depth chart behind Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook. The hope was that rookie fifth-round pick Israel Abanikanda would be able to step into the third-down role and provide a spark with his speed, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini, but in today’s loss, Abanikanda didn’t register a touch. Hall instead took over the passing downs role, registering nine targets as the Jets were in catch-up mode for most of the contest.
  • A new update on the drama with Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson comes straight from Jackson himself, through Mark Daniels of Mass Live. After reports that Jackson failed to show up to the team hotel the night before their game with the Commanders and then subsequently was kept home during the team’s trip to Germany, Jackson explained the situation. Jackson tole Daniels that he had “missed multiple ‘bed checks'” on the night before the Washington game. He was told to stay home from Germany as a punishment, which he claims to have accepted, learned from, and apologized for. In fact, Jackson claims to now be even more appreciative of head coach Bill Belichick, as a result.
  • We saw New England pick up running back JaMycal Hasty off waivers a couple weeks ago, and with that addition, Mike Reiss of ESPN thinks veteran dual-threat back Ty Montgomery‘s job could be in danger. Hasty has a very similar skill set to Montgomery’s and is three years his junior. Montgomery, on the other hand, spent nearly all of last year on the team’s injured reserve and has seen his offensive contributions dwindle in 2023. Reiss could be right in thinking that Hasty has been brought in to replace Montgomery in the Patriots’ running backs room.

Jets Cut RB Michael Carter

The Jets have moved on from their former starting running back. The team announced that they’ve waived RB Michael Carter.

The 2021 fourth-round pick led the Jets backfield as a rookie, collecting 964 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. He was expected to take a back seat to Breece Hall in 2022 but was inserted back into the starting lineup following his teammate’s season-ending injury. While he started 10 of his 16 appearances last season, Carter wasn’t nearly as productive during his second season in the NFL, finishing the year with only 690 yards from scrimmage.

With Hall healthy and the Jets signing Dalvin Cook, Carter was buried on the depth chart this year. He saw most of his work on third downs, hauling in 15 receptions for 68 yards. Carter also had another 38 yards on the ground. As ESPN’s Rich Cimini notes, Carter was benched during Sunday’s loss to the Raiders after being penalized for a chop-block.

After that game, coach Robert Saleh hinted that changes could be coming to the offense. And as Cimini notes, cutting Carter sends a clear message to a struggling offense that no one is safe.

“We’re looking at some things, some different personnel changes, which I’m going to keep here with me, but we’re looking across the board to see if we can find a way to generate some offense,” Saleh said.

Still, considering Carter’s production during his rookie campaign, it shouldn’t take long for the running back to find his next squad. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets that Carter should have some suitors on the waiver wire.

With Carter now out of the picture, the Jets are likely going to give fifth-round rookie Israel Abanikanda any leftover snaps at the position. The Pitt product is known for his elite speed and could add a spark to an offense that’s struggling to find the end zone.

AFC Notes: Raiders, Pats, Jets, Bengals

As we inch closer to the start of the regular season, the Raiders‘ eventual 53-man roster is starting to come into focus. Two players in particular appear to be securing their positions for the team’s lineup come Week 1, according to Tashan Reed of The Athletic.

Wide receiver DeAndre Carter has definitely taken advantage of his opportunities throughout camp this preseason. In the team’s second preseason game, Carter started in the slot in place of Hunter Renfrow, who sat out for the game. He didn’t put up notable stats from the position, but he really shined in a special teams role. He had a strong opening kick return and was inches away from a punt return for a touchdown, as well. The coaches’ faith in him to start in place of Renfrow combined with his return ability has virtually cemented his spot on the roster, according to Reed.

Another player on the rise is veteran guard Greg Van Roten, who seems to have surpassed Alex Bars for the starting job at right guard. Van Roten started the team’s most recent preseason game at right guard for a single series before being replaced by Bars, signifying the changing of the guard, pun not intended. Bars, who started most of last season for the team at right guard, may be in danger of failing to make the 53-man roster if he keeps sliding down the depth chart.

Here are a few more roster rumors from around the league as the preseason begins its close:

  • The Patriots have struggled as of late with drafting wide receivers. They’re looking to buck that trend this season. In a room that was originally looking weak when the team missed out on free agent De’Andre Hopkins, New England is newly flushed with possibilities. The team lacks elite top end talent, but behind JuJu Smith-Schuster and DeVante Parker, the Patriots have a surprising number of options. Kendrick Bourne has seemingly secured a role as the team’s third wideout with a great camp, according to Ben Volin of The Boston Globe, and behind Bourne, rookie sixth-round picks Demario Douglas and Kayshon Boutte have made strong cases for roster spots themselves with impressive camps. Even undrafted rookie quarterback Malik Cunningham has reportedly shown enough versatility and promise on offense and special teams to make a case for a roster spot.
  • With the recent acquisition of free agent Dalvin Cook, the Jets top-two running backs are clear as day, but in the process, the extra body has made things a bit crowded in the position room. Brian Costello of the New York Post believes that rookie fifth-round pick Israel Abanikanda is likely safe, leading to a battle for the likely last roster spot between Michael Carter and Zonovan Knight. Seemingly, Carter is safe. He’s got more starting experience on the team than Knight and didn’t suit up for the Jets’ most recent preseason game, a likely indication that the coaches have seen what they need to see. Knight played last week and fumbled. He’s had good moments throughout training camp, but his future may lie on the practice squad this season.
  • The Bengals have a clear TE1 and a likely TE2 coming into the end of the preseason in Irv Smith Jr. and Drew Sample, but there’s a chance that TE3 isn’t on the roster, according to The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. Last season’s TE3 Mitchell Wilcox has a decent shot at a roster spot, as does the undersized Tanner Hudson, who has impressed with some nice hands throughout camp. Devin Asiasi, Nick Bowers, and Christian Trahan remain as options, as well, but don’t have the strongest chances at a roster spot. Dehner predicts that Cincinnati may take to the open market after cut day, aiming to pull in any of several experienced tight ends that may find themselves on the roster bubble.

Jets Set To Hold RB2 Battle

The Jets are working with a deep, young running backs room, forcing each back to prove his mettle early and often. Michael Carter answered that call as a fourth-round rookie in 2021. Last year was supposed to be the takeover of rookie second-round pick Breece Hall, but a torn ACL ended his season after only seven weeks. Hall should return to the starting role, but with their No. 1 coming back from a serious injury, the RB2 spot becomes that much more important.

Despite falling off a bit in production last season after a strong rookie year, Carter is currently in line to enter training camp as the No. 2 back, according to Brian Costello of the New York Post. Carter started 11 games in his rookie year, racking up 639 rushing yards and four touchdowns, along with 325 yards receiving. He had seized a lead-back role, and many expected him to take a step forward in his sophomore season. This led to a bit of a surprise when New York took Hall 36th overall in last year’s draft.

Carter started off the 2022 season splitting carries with Hall but taking the majority of the workload. Eventually, Hall took the reins and became a bell-cow back for the four remaining healthy games of his season. Hall’s injury opened the door for Carter to return to the spotlight. Instead, Carter’s usage stayed stagnant as backs like James Robinson and Ty Johnson were given opportunities to split the load with him. Eventually, undrafted rookie Zonovan Knight was elevated from the practice squad and took the majority of the carriers for the final seven weeks of the season.

Knight should be one of Carter’s competitors for the primary backup role. Knight came in last year and, over his first four games, ran the ball 59 times for 253 yards, ending his season with 300 total rushing yards and a touchdown. Costello posits that Carter’s confidence was shaken a bit when the team traded for Robinson and then turned to Knight. Regardless, Knight outperformed Carter in that final stretch of the season, and if that’s any indication of how the position battle will go, Carter has his work cut out for him.

The other name competing for the spot is a newcomer. The Jets selected Pittsburgh running back Israel Abanikanda in the fifth-round of the draft this year. Abanikanda declared for the draft after a breakout junior year in which he rushed for 1,431 yards for an incredible 20 rushing touchdowns for the Panthers. He’ll be green to the game at the professional level, but he’s got plenty of tread left on the tires after only starting 17 games in his college career.

Carter should have a bit of a leg up on Knight and Abanikanda. He has more experience than Knight and Abanikanda to begin with. He also offers a bit more to his game. Throughout their careers, both college and NFL for Knight, the two younger backs have not had near the success receiving out of the backfield as Carter has. Carter’s ability to catch the ball may have pigeon-holed him into a third-down back role only in some situations, but combined with his early success rushing the football in New York, it should set him up nicely for a solid chance to regain his footing as the team’s No. 2 back.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/5/23

Here are a few more mid- to late-round draft picks who signed their four-year rookie contracts today:

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

  • CB Darius Rush (fifth round, South Carolina)
  • S Daniel Scott (fifth round, California)
  • DE Titus Leo (sixth round, Wagner)
  • CB Jaylon Jones (seventh round, Texas A&M)
  • T Jake Witt (seventh round, Northern Michigan)

New York Giants

New York Jets