TOJ New York Jets Film Breakdown – What Is The Role For Elijah McGuire?

Joe Caporoso with a film breakdown of New York Jets running back Elijah McGuire’s rookie season…

Welcome back to another New York Jets film breakdown. Last week, we took a closer look at receiver Robby Anderson. This week we are going to focus on soon to be second year running back Elijah McGuire. Before the season, we broke down McGuire’s college tape here. In this article, we will review his rookie season for the Jets and what to expect from him going forward…

2017 Statistics

  • 88 carries, 315 yards, 3.6 yards per carry
  • 267 total snaps (average of 16 per game)
  • 1 rushing touchdown, 1 fumble lost
  • 26 targets, 17 receptions (65%), 177 yards, 1 receiving touchdown
  • 1 dropped pass
  • 10.4 yards per catch
  • 1 carry over 20 yards, 2 receptions over 20 yards
  • PFF Grades: 69.7 (Overall, Below Average). 62.7 (Run, Below Average). 73.1 (Receiving, Average)
  • Elusive Rating: 45.5 (43rd in the NFL)
  • 24 pass block snaps, 2 pressures allowed


One the primary reasons the Jets drafted McGuire was his ability to not just catch the football out of the backfield but to line up all over the formation as a receiving option. The Jets didn’t utilize this skill set as frequently as they should have with aging, cement foot runner Matt Forte gobbling up prospective reps and targets from McGuire in this role. Yet, when given the opportunity he demonstrated his potential. On both these nine routes from the split end position, McGuire shows an ability to beat his defender, get back on his stem and give his quarterback a window to drop a pass into. On the first one, he makes a terrific over the shoulder catch, on the second one, the throw is a little long despite McGuire beating a Pro Bowl caliber safety.

McGuire also flashed in the open field as a pass catcher out of the backfield, showing the ability to get himself open on arrow routes and screens, make catches on off target passes, then make a move to pick up additional yards after the catch. This is a role the Jets need to utilize McGuire more in going forward.

He didn’t get many opportunities to demonstrate it, partly due poor blocking and partly due to his own struggles running the ball, but McGuire has a second gear to create big plays when he can get past the first level of the defense. He isn’t thought of as a “home run hitter” at running back but with improved blocking, runs like this could happen more frequently.


Outside of his 69 yard touchdown run against Jacksonville, McGuire had 87 carries for 246 yards, which is only a 2.8 YPC. It was also his only run of the season over 20 yards. Yes, the Jets were not the league’s best run blocking team but McGuire’s YPC lagged behind both Bilal Powell (4.3 YPC) and Matt Forte (3.7 YPC), even if you include his touchdown run vs. Jacksonville. From a big picture perspective, McGuire struggled running the football throughout 2017 outside of one play. Most of his positive contributions were confined to the passing game, which is not shocking considering his college tape.

McGuire frequently got into a bad habit of getting happy feet or beginning to make a move behind the line of scrimmage. He struggled to hit the hole at full speed and be decisive with his running lanes consistently, a common problem for many rookie backs. The Jets regularly tried him on stretch or toss concepts throughout the season but he found little success. McGuire is not a tackle breaker so unless a run play, particularly an inside running play is perfectly blocked up, he is not going to produce many yards.

Projected 2018 Role

The Jets will get the most out of McGuire using him how they used Matt Forte in the passing game last season (45 targets, 37 receptions, 293 yards), with more of a vertical, outside the numbers element added to it. He is going to do most of his damage as a receiver and probably isn’t the type of back who should ever be getting more than 100 carries in a season. McGuire should be a complimentary piece to either Bilal Powell or another back the Jets add in either the middle rounds or free agency. If they could double his target number, keep his carry total around the same and improve the interior blocking upfront, his productivity and efficiency should notably increase. Overall, he feels like a player who will get between 125-150 total touches next season for somewhere around 650 yards with a few touchdowns.

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Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the VP of Social Media at Whistle Sports