WATCH: Ranking the five best running backs in New York Jets history
With the NFL season less than two weeks away, Jets fans are eagerly awaiting Week 1 when Le’Veon Bell will finally make his New York Jets debut.
It goes without saying but pure talent-wise, Bell is the best running back the team has had. He can do it all. Both toting the ball on the ground as well as catching the ball out of the backfield.
That being said the Jets do have a history of solid running backs. Here’s a list of the top five running backs in team history:
5. Thomas Jones (2007-2009)
Starting off the top five is Thomas Jones. Before joining the Jets, Jones had been on three teams in his first seven years in the league. However, he made the most of his three seasons with the team. A powerful and bruising back, Thomas didn't go down easy. He wasn't the fastest by any means however you needed to send more than one defender at him to slow him down.
Jones rushed for over 1,000+ yards in each of his three seasons. Although he only tallied one rushing touchdown his first season with Gang Green, he followed it up with a 13 TD season in 2008 and a 14 TD season in 2009. Those single-season TD totals are still tops among Jets running backs.
Jones is also one of two Jets running backs to have multiple seasons rushing for 1,300+ yards. 2008 was his best season as he not only posted the second-best yards per carry average of his career but also was selected to the Pro Bowl.
4. Johnny Hector (1983-1992)
The longtime backup of Freeman McNeil, Johnny Hector is surprisingly high up in many statistical categories in regards to Jets running backs. Drafted out of Texas A&M in the 1983, Hector provided a big boost to the team especially with all the injuries McNeil dealt with.
In 10 seasons with New York, Hector played in 126 games, which ranks third all-time in team history. However, he only started 36 of them.
Hector's 41 touchdowns is third behind Curtis Martin and Freeman McNeil and his 4,280 rushing yards places him at fifth in franchise history. Hector's best season came in 1989 where he rushed for 702 yards along with 330 receiving yards. It was the only time in his career he finished a year with over 1,000 yards from scrimmage.
3. Emerson Boozer (1966-1975)
Emerson Boozer was drafted by both the AFL and NFL, however, he did most of his damage with the Jets. The Super Bowl champion running back ranks third all-time in rushing in team history with 5,135 yards.
He's also got the second most touchdowns for a running back with 52. Boozer posted a career 4.0 yards per carry average in his 10 seasons with the Jets. Boozer is one of four Jets running backs to have multiple seasons with double-digit touchdowns.
2. Freeman McNeil (1981-1992)
Taken with the No. 3 pick in the 1981 NFL Draft, Freeman McNeil is still the longest-tenured Jets running back in team history having tallied 12 seasons with the team. McNeil's time with the Jets was marred by injuries as he only had one season where he started all 16 games.
If not for the injuries we might be talking about McNeil as the best back in team history. Needless to say, McNeil was no slouch at the position. He had great speed and a nice elusiveness. Missed tackles were not an uncommon sight whenever he ran the rock.
In team history, Freeman ranks second all-time in rushing yards (8,074) and rushing attempts (1,798). His eight playoff games are the most by any player in team history and his three career playoff touchdowns ties him with Martin and Shonn Greene.
1. Curtis Martin (1998-2005)
This one is a no brainer and one that every Jets fan can agree on. The Hall of Fame back was one of the staples of the Jets during the late 90s and early 2000s. Previously of the New England Patriots, Martin was signed as a restricted free agent in 1998 by New York and to this date is the best free-agent signing in team history.
In eight seasons with the Jets, Martin became the franchise's all-time leader in touchdowns (58), rushing yards (10,302) and 1,000+ yard seasons (7). On top of that, he holds the Jets single-season rushing record (1,697) in 2004 and is the only player in team history to average 100+ yards per game in a season (106.1) also in that same season.
During his tenure, Martin was a three-time Pro-Bowler and two-time First-team All-Pro. If there was a Mt. Rushmore of Jets players there would be a strong argument to have his face up there.