The Jets made a win-now trade in October.
As if any more evidence was needed that things are changing for this franchise, Jets general manager Joe Douglas completed a deal Monday that makes it clear: Even after some devastating injuries, the Jets will not be resting on their laurels. They are 5-2, with their sights set on the playoffs.
They lost running back Breece Hall (torn ACL) for the season on Sunday, and Douglas found his replacement in short order: The Jets acquired running back James Robinson from the Jaguars, a person briefed on the trade but not authorized to speak publicly about it confirmed to The Athletic. According to reports, the Jets traded a sixth-round pick that will become a fifth-round pick if Robinson rushes for 600 yards this season.
Robinson has already rushed for 340 yards this season, so as he takes on a significant role in a run-heavy offense, he’ll likely sail past that number.
And that’s why this deal — and making a move for a running back in general — was so important. The Jets are on a four-game winning streak, and most of that streak has been powered by a dominant rushing attack. Robinson is far from the explosive weapon Hall was as a rookie this season, but he’s a proven, productive running back who should fit nicely with Michael Carter.
Jets trade for Jaguars RB James Robinson
The Jets started the season with a 50/50 split at running back: In Week 1, Carter had 17 touches and Hall had 12. They’ll likely go back to that with Robinson in the fold, with Ty Johnson also working into the rotation as an option on passing downs.
But really, this trade is about Robinson — and Douglas. It has been a long time since the Jets were a team looking to add talent before the trade deadline, but that’s exactly what happened here. In the past, if the Jets had lost a key player right before the deadline, they would’ve simply plugged the hole with someone already on the roster. But they are still playing meaningful games, in Week 8, and Douglas saw an opportunity to add a useful piece without giving up too much.
Even better: Robinson is only 24. He’s in the last year of his contract, but since he signed with the Jags as an undrafted free agent, he’ll be a restricted free agent this offseason. That makes it easier for the Jets to hold onto him if Hall isn’t ready to go when training camp begins next year.
The Jets are hoping to get the version of Robinson who started off his career in 2020 with 1,070 rushing yards, 344 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns. He followed that up in 2021 with 989 total yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games before suffering a torn Achilles in Week 16.
He recovered quickly, though, and was ready for Week 1 this season. In the first three weeks he rushed for 230 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 4.51 yards per carry. Travis Etienne — a first-round pick last year — took over as the top running back last week, though, and Robinson barely played in Week 7.
When reporters asked Jaguars coach Doug Pederson why Robinson had just one target against the Giants, he said: “We just have to make sure he is 100 percent before we move forward.”
Robinson hasn’t appeared on the injury report this season.
This just in: @Robinson_jamess is good at football.#JAXvsLAC on CBS pic.twitter.com/OGbfWq7Vlg
— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) September 25, 2022
So what kind of running back are the Jets getting in Robinson?
Here’s what The Athletic’s Dane Brugler wrote about Robinson, coming out of Illinois State, in his 2020 draft guide: “Robinson is quick to and through lanes with the toughness to wear out the defense, setting the tone with his physicality. However, he has taken plenty of punishment over his career and his elusiveness rating is below average by NFL standards. Overall, Robinson is a proven workhorse who consistently picks up positive yardage with his vision and determination, although his quicker-than-fast run style could be an issue vs. NFL-level speed.”
Brugler also wrote that Robinson is an “attitude runner and his NFL-level toughness shows in his blocking.”
It hasn’t been a perfect season for Robinson, though some of that could be attributed to his coming off the Achilles injury. Per TruMedia, among 20 running backs with 80 or more carries, no player had a higher percentage of his carries go for negative or 0 yards than Robinson (28.4 percent). It’s not as if Robinson was running behind a great offensive line, either: The Jaguars’ offensive line is ranked 27th in adjusted line yards, which Football Outsiders uses to measure run blocking, whereas the Jets rank 17th.
And Robinson is also a useful pass-catcher, though the Jaguars got away from that this year (seven targets in seven games). In his first two seasons, Robinson had 80 receptions (on 106 targets) for 566 yards and three touchdowns. Per TruMedia, among 28 running backs who have run 500-plus routes since 2020, he ranks 13th in EPA per target (0.02) and 19th in first downs per target (23.9 percent).
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The Jets are likely hoping Robinson can get acclimated in time to play against the Patriots on Sunday. Carter — averaging 3.5 yards per carry this season — will likely start, the two of them working together as a one-two punch.
Robinson might not provide the same electricity Hall did every time he touched the ball, but bringing him into the fold lessens the sting of losing such a vital part of the Jets offense.
The trade deadline is 4 p.m. ET on Nov. 1.
Maybe Trader Joe isn’t done yet.
(Photo: Rob Carr / Getty Images)