FLORHAM PARK, NJ — Dalvin Cook is almost back and Breece Hall is back in practice after a long layoff, creating a first-class problem for the backfield-heavy New York Jets.
“There’s only one football,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said Tuesday. “You always want everyone to want the ball all the time, and I think we have a lot of people who want the ball and deserve the ball.”
Less than 24 hours after agreeing to terms with Cook, the Jets welcomed Hall, who was activated from the physically unable to perform list. Their 2022 leading rusher, 10 months removed from ACL surgery, didn’t do much in his first practice – only light individual drills. The Jets are “very confident” he’ll be ready for Week 1, though, according to coach Robert Saleh.
The Jets plan to limit Hall’s workload early in the season, leaning on Cook as the primary ball carrier, according to a source. Also there are Michael Carter and Zonovan Knight, both experienced runners, and rookie Israel Abanikanda, a fifth-round pick out of Pitt.
“The room we have right now is nuts,” Carter said. “You can’t get it [many good players] in Madden.” Hall, who rushed for 463 yards and a 5.8 average in seven games as a rookie, is considered by the organization as a long-term feature back. But Cook’s contract size — a one-year deal for $7 million in base pay, a source said — indicating he has a significant role.
“We added a great guy to the room,” Hall said. “It’s going to be good for the competition, and it’s going to bring out the best in everyone.
“All of our reps can be reduced, and we have to work [Cook] in. This enables us to do as much as we can with our reps. It’s going to be fun. He’s going to come in and challenge us, we’re going to challenge ourselves and we’re going to challenge him.”
In the past, Hall and Carter have had moments when they’ve publicly pushed back against new running backs joining the team.
Carter recently admitted he didn’t embrace the midseason acquisition of James Robinson, who the team acquired in a trade when Hall was injured. Hall, in a tweet that has since been deleted, expressed disapproval in the offseason when the Jets were rumored to be interested in Ezekiel Elliott.
Both seem to work well with Cook. Carter said he would not have agreed to speak to reporters if it bothered him. The interview, he said, was something he couldn’t do last season.
“I am now an adult,” he said.
For the sake of transparency, Saleh called each running back after Cook’s deal was completed to explain the team’s plan and explain each player’s role. Saleh said it’s “very, very important to make sure everyone is on board.” He said each player is “comfortable in their role.” Carter said that he was touched by Saleh’s action.
Now the question is, when will Cook and Hall practice?
Cook, a four-time Pro Bowl selection with the Minnesota Vikings, remains at home in South Florida, waiting to become a first-time father any day. He’s also recovering from shoulder surgery in February and won’t be cleared to practice for another week, according to Saleh. It is possible that Cook or Hall will not play in the preseason.
“As a defensive coach, I just sit there and say, ‘God, you’ve got Breece and Michael and [Cook]and you’ve got two of the other guys in the backfield,'” Saleh said. “There’s a lot of different things you can do to create a bunch of headaches for defensive coaches.”
Saleh said the organization is fully investigating Cook’s pending legal matter. In 2021, a former girlfriend filed a lawsuit against him, alleging physical and emotional abuse. Then he filed a defamation case against him. Both cases are pending. The Star-Tribune reported last month that he offered her $1 million to clear her of wrongdoing despite her sworn abuse allegations against him.
“I think we all came to the agreement that we are very comfortable with the man and his situation,” Saleh said, declining to discuss specifics.
As for Hall, the Jets are targeting this week for his activation. Saleh said Hall is “aw freaking good” but added that they will “take our time with him.” Hall said he expects to be ready for Week 1, but he didn’t say it was a sure thing. According to him, it’s up to the trainers and coaches.
Admitting that he was an “emotional train wreck” during the most difficult periods of his rehab, Hall said his knee is fine, though he also said he still experiences occasional knee pain and is still wondering if he can make it. did he some cuts. He downplayed Tuesday’s return.
“One more step in the journey,” he said.