FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP)Breece Hall hasn’t watched the video of the worst moment of his young NFL career in a while.
The New York Jets running back doesn’t need to anymore. He’s focused on creating big plays these days, not dwelling on that game in Denver nearly a year ago that cut short his promising rookie season.
“I’m honestly just blessed to be back on the field, you know, and really being able to play good football again,” Hall said Wednesday. “I don’t look like I really lost a step.”
It’s true and somewhat amazing for Hall to be able to say that, considering he tore the ACL in his left knee in the second quarter of the Jets’ 16-9 victory over the Broncos in Week 7 – on Oct. 23, 2022.
He’ll return to Denver on Sunday for the first time since he and Alijah Vera-Tucker – arguably the Jets’ best offensive lineman last season – were lost for the year with injuries.
“It’s just another football game to me,” Hall said with a smile. “It’s not that big of a deal.”
One thing that is significant, though, is the fact Hall is no longer being eased back into the backfield by the Jets.
“From an opportunity standpoint, there is no pitch count with him anymore,” coach Robert Saleh said. “We would love to get him going. But at the same time, we’ve got a lot of guys that we want to get involved.”
That comes after Hall checked off an offseason filled with physical goals, was ready for the season and then shared carries with Dalvin Cook through the first four games.
Hall leads the Jets in rushing with 210 yards on 32 carries, a 6.6-yard average. That includes his 83-yard scamper in the season opener, when he emphatically announced his return.
He ran the ball 10 times in that game and has carried it four, 12 and six times in the three games since.
“I never really did think about it, to be honest,” Hall said of his early-season snap count. “He’s just letting y’all know.”
But Hall is reminding everyone of what he can do when he’s healthy.
“I’m able to go out there, be myself every day,” he said.
With the game tied at 20 in the third quarter last Sunday, Hall had a 43-yard run against Kansas City during which he nearly scored – and thought he should have gotten into the end zone instead of getting caught at the Chiefs 42.
“After the game, I was really frustrated and beating myself up about that because running backs are like human erasers and game changers,” Hall said. “So I felt like if I score a touchdown, that kind of changes the whole momentum of the game.”
The low number of carries for Hall has been not only a product of him returning from the injury, but the Jets’ offense being unable to establish the running game.
Cook, who was signed late in training camp, has 74 yards on 30 carries – 2.5 yards per attempt. The offensive line has been unable to consistently clear lanes and help set up the passing game for Zach Wilson.
This week could be a good opportunity for the running game to improve. The Broncos’ run defense is the worst in the league.
“You definitely can’t take them for granted and can’t go in there like this thing is going to be easy because they were one of the best defenses just last year,” Hall said. “They’re just adjusting to their new system and that’s always going to take a little bit of time. So we just hope that we can go in and execute what we do.”
For the Jets, that means potentially seeing Hall burst out of the backfield and zip into the end zone for the first time this season.
“He’s in a great mindset,” Saleh said. “Everyone loves him, he’s been working hard. I will say this: He ran violently last week in practice and I felt like it carried over in the game. You can tell he’s starting to get his legs underneath him.
“Even though he’s had production, he still hasn’t reached what we know he’s capable of and what he’s shown in the past. But he’s another one that’s trending in the right direction.”
NOTES: CB D.J. Reed is in the concussion protocol, but Saleh was “optimistic” he’ll play Sunday. … CB Brandin Echols is out with a hamstring injury. … Rookies OL Carter Warren and DB Jarrick Bernard-Converse returned to practice, activating their 21-day windows to be added to the active roster. Warren is on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury, while Bernard-Converse is on the physically unable to perform list with a foot injury.
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