Breece Hall gives NY Jets the best RB room in the AFC East (2024)

While the running back position has seen a devaluation over recent years, stars and productive committees can still be a team's offensive engine. The AFC East is loaded with intriguing running backs who can be difference-makers in the race for the divisional crown.

The division features a variety of different running backs including bonafide superstars, bruising power backs, receiving specialists, and speed merchants. This all makes for an interesting analysis.

As we previously did with the quarterbacks, we're going to rank the units from worst to first with all names on the depth chart considered. Unlike the QBs, the names further down on the depth chart will have significant roles and expectations to contribute this year beyond simply as an injury fill-in.

With that said, let's take a deep dive into the pros and cons of each unit and come up with the definitive rankings of where each team stands.

The depth chart: Rhamondre Stevenson will once again be counted upon to be the lead back. Antonio Gibson will also play a big role, especially as a pass catcher and third-down back. Kevin Harris provides depth and Ja'Mycal Hasty is more of a special teams contributor at this point.

The powerful Stevenson looks to bounce back after a somewhat poor 2023 season in which he was limited to just 12 games due to an illness and a couple of leg injuries. In fact, an ankle injury ended his season after Week 12.

2022 was a different story for the former fourth-round pick. Stevenson rushed for 1040 yards, averaging 5.0 yards per carry along the way. He also added 69 catches for 421 yards. His rookie season in 2021 saw him play in a smaller role, but he still averaged 4.6 yards per carry.

Entering 2023, he looked like a burgeoning star. A big, powerful back who also possessed some receiving chops, he looked to be a weapon that New England could rely on given their shaky QB situation. His yards per carry dropped to a career-low 4.0, and save for a couple of big games he was largely ineffective both as a rusher and receiver.

Given the landscape of the AFC East's running back units, the questions raised by his 2023 performance won't allow him to raise this group any higher at this point with Stevenson as the lead back.

The Patriots made a sizeable investment (when scaled to the running back market) in former Washington Commanders back/gadget player Antonio Gibson. Gibson, known primarily for his receiving skills, looks to fill a crucial role in the New England offense.

Historically, the Patriots have favored a committee approach with a pass-catching running back as a focal point. Over the past several years, the NY Jets faithful have watched players like Danny Woodhead, Dion Lewis, and James White tear them apart in the passing game.

They've often paired those players with a bruising power back, just as they have now with Stevenson and Gibson. Gibson, a former third-round pick out of Memphis, was actually a wide receiver in college, who occasionally got touches running the ball as a running back and in other alignments. It wasn't until he entered the NFL that he converted to the position full-time.

During his four-year career, the results of this experiment have been mixed. While he looked the part of a lead back in 2020, his rookie season, rushing for 795 yards and 11 touchdowns on 4.7 yards per carry. The following year as the lead back in Washington he topped 1000 yards but saw his yards per carry drop to a pedestrian 4.0.

2022 saw Washington draft another running back, Brian Robinson Jr., in the third round intent on replacing Gibson as the lead back. Those plans were delayed on August 28th when Robinson was the victim of a gunshot during an attempted robbery attempt.

Despite his injuries from the gunshot, Robinson did eventually take over for Gibson as the starter, and Gibson saw his worst performance to date, averaging just 3.7 yards per attempt. In 2023, he was full-on relegated to the third-down back role, logging a career-low 65 carries but posting a career-high 48 catches.

Secondly, he was learning the running back position on the fly and has an interesting combination of speed and size. If New England can unlock him as a receiving and change of pace back he could be a deadly weapon, however, if Washington is proven right and he continues his inconsistent play the Patriots may regret this signing.

Rounding things out we have former sixth-round pick Kevin Harris. At 5-foot-10, 225 pounds, Harris has the build of another power back, however throughout his two-year career he's managed just 34 carries and averaged just 3.4 yards per attempt. He seems to be at best a very low-end backup to Stevenson.

Then there's JaMycal Hasty. A four-year veteran, Hasty got most of his run during his first two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, a team that favors the wide zone run scheme, which makes him an odd fit for New England's gap/power scheme. More likely, he's a special teamer as that is where most of his snaps have come over the last two seasons.

All in all, the Patriots could have a dynamic attack out of the backfield with Stevenson and Gibson, but that will depend on whether or not those two reach their full potential. Even if they do, it's questionable how much better they could rank given the quality of their division rivals' backfields.

Breece Hall gives NY Jets the best RB room in the AFC East (2024)
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