Struggling Jets release backup running back Michael Carter in surprising move

FILE - New York Jets running back Michael Carter looks on against the Denver Broncos before an NFL football game, Oct. 8, 2023, in Denver. The Jets waived Carter on Tuesday, Nov. 14. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)

The New York Jets waived running back Michael Carter on Tuesday, a surprising move for a team searching for answers on offense.

Coach Robert Saleh hinted Monday that schematic and personnel changes could happen this week with New York off to a miserable start on offense.

And the first known move came a day later with Carter being cut.

Carter had a promising rookie season during which he ran for 639 yards and four touchdowns after being drafted in the fourth round out of North Carolina in 2021. But the shifty and versatile running back saw his role diminish in his second season even after rookie Breece Hall was injured.

Carter's playing time was reduced mainly to third down duties this season with Hall healthy and Dalvin Cook signed during training camp. Carter's departure opens a spot for rookie Israel Abanikanda, a New York native who was a fifth-rounder from Pittsburgh but has been inactive for the first nine games.

The 24-year-old Carter had 38 yards on eight carries and 15 catches for 68 yards this season. For his career, he has 1,079 yards on 269 attempts — respectable 4-yard average — and seven touchdowns, along with 92 receptions for 681 yards.

The Jets have gone 36 drives without scoring a touchdown, the NFL's longest active drought that spans 11 quarters and an overtime period.

Saleh said he was sticking with Zach Wilson at quarterback, insisting he's not the only problem on offense, and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett would remain the primary play caller.

“It's hard to make changes just to make changes, just to pacify something, especially when someone’s not deserving," Saleh said Monday. "If (Wilson) was deserving of it, I got you, let’s change something. That’s really for every position. That’s for a coach, that’s a player, that’s defensive play, it doesn’t matter. You’re always trying to look at ways to make sure that everyone is operating at full go.

“To say that one person is the reason for everyone failing, I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think that’s right, but again, it’s just one man’s opinion.”

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers supported Hackett, his former coordinator in Green Bay, and Wilson during his weekly appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show” on Tuesday.

“Yeah, I see it,” Rodgers said of the criticism of Hackett and the offense. “I won MVP twice in the same offense, so I’m a believer. I’m a believer in the offense. There are a lot of positions, you have to play better. But, yeah, it’s easy right now to throw it at the usual suspects, Zach and Nathaniel, but there’s a lot of positions that need to play better.”

Rodgers continues to rehabilitate in Los Angeles from the torn left Achilles tendon that cut short his season after just four snaps in his debut with the Jets. He has traveled to be on the sideline for the past few games, but said Tuesday he would rejoin the Jets on a full-time basis “soon."

NBC's Melissa Stark reported during the telecast of the Jets' 16-12 loss to the Raiders in Las Vegas on Sunday night that his goal is to return to the field by mid-December.

Rodgers said Tuesday he still has not set a firm date for a return, which would also be contingent upon the Jets (4-5) being in playoff contention.

“If I have a great week this week and next week, that could be accelerated,” he said on “The Pat McAfee Show.” "If we’re not in it in three or four weeks, that could take it a different way. But I expect us to be in it and I expect to come back.”