By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/thenyextra.com
Curtius Martin, Freeman McNeil, Emerson Boozer, Matt Snell, John Riggins, Johnny Hector, and Thomas Jones.
Over the past 50 years, they were among the best and most impactful Jets’ running backs.
Fast forward to 2020. The Jets need a stud running back.
The Jets’ have Frank Gore, the 37-year-old grinder who will someday be a Hall of Famer, but his days as a Jet may be over in three weeks.
Aside from Gore this season, the Jets’ running back cupboard has been nearly bare.
Fourth-ranked pick La’ Mical Perine has shown flashes of potential, but he hasn’t been able to shake ankle injuries from the summer to have a consistent season. He is expected to be back next week.
Le’Veon Bell never hit his peak due to a rather contentious environment, and he was shipped to Kansas City in October.
The Jets declined to re-sign Bilal Powell, who was reliable in his eight-year run and emerged as the team’s eighth all-time leading rusher.
Why they didn’t bring back the 32-year-old without wear and tear is still baffling.
This left the Jets with Gore, 23-year-old midseason pickup 23-year-old Ty Johnson, and 24-year-old taxi-squader Josh Adams.
Sam Darnold has rushed for 176 yards, and ironically he has the longest run from the line of scrimmage with 46 yards.
It has left plenty to be desired for the future.
The Jets will have a late Sunday afternoon kickoff against the Rams with Gore, Johnson, and Adams in the backfield.
Gore is ranked 18th among top league rushers with 546 yards, but his single game high is 74 yards this season.
LA (9-4) needs a win to clinch a playoff berth, and the Rams are ranked third in rush defense allowing an average of 94 yards per contest.
Johnson ran for 104 yards and Adams added 74 in their last-second loss to the Raiders.
Even though Las Vegas’ porous defense forced the firing of their defensive coordinator, head coach Adam Gase has been questioned about his heavy workload for Gore even when Perine was healthy.
Gase had connections with Gore when the two were in Miami, and Gase has leaned on Gore all season.
It will be interesting to see if Gase or offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains makes more options available for Johnson and Adams against the Rams.
GM Joe Douglas will be busy in the offseason trying to reconstruct the Jets’ running game. One possible quick solution would be to bring Clemson running back Travis Etienne — regarded as the best running back prospect — along with quarterback Trevor Lawrence to Florham Park next April.
Douglas will need to explore the free agent market, as the running back draft pool isn’t deep.
Perine, Williams, and Adams should be given every opportunity to grab a lead role in the final games of this year and next season.
Whatever happens, a Jets’ impactful running back should be a main priority.