FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Elijah McGuire’s phone blew up after he rushed for the winning touchdown Sunday, but the call that really mattered to him came from the Jets' sideline. He rewarded that trust when he punched it in from the 1-yard line with 1:17 to go in the 27-23 win over the Bills.
“It means everything,” McGuire said after Wednesday’s practice. “It really showed me that the coaches had confidence, not only in myself but in offensive line as well. I guess you could say it gave me a boost of confidence. But I’m doing what I do at the best of my ability, and that’s just showing that I can make plays and help these guys as much as I can.”
The second-year running back out of Louisiana-Lafayette had been waiting for his opportunity to show what he flashed as a rookie. But he broke his foot the first day of training camp in July and missed the first eight games of the season.
Now that McGuire is relatively healthy, he’s relishing the chance to do more and hopes it will continue over the final three games.
“If the opportunity presents itself, I ain’t going to back down from it,” McGuire said. “It’s something I got to take on and I’m more than ready for it. I look at it like I’m making up for lost time. I’m trying to do everything I can to help this team win and do things the coach wants me to do.”
As a rookie, McGuire totaled 492 yards and two touchdowns. In five games this season, he has 158 yards rushing and 90 yards receiving. He had his most touches against Buffalo, rushing 17 times for 60 yards and catching three passes for 23.
There is some question as to whether McGuire will be able to play Saturday against the Texans. He didn’t practice Tuesday because of an ankle injury. He was limited Wednesday, so he seems to be trending in a positive direction. But Todd Bowles said he needs to see him and Trenton Cannon, who also went from did not practice to limited, before they can play Saturday.
Lead back Isaiah Crowell suffered a toe injury Sunday and was in a walking boot Tuesday. It’s doubtful he will be able to play, so there’s an opening for one of the Jets’ young backs.
Coming into the season, McGuire was expected to be No. 3 behind Bilal Powell, who suffered a season-ending injury in Week 7, and Crowell. But the coaches saw something in him and were excited about McGuire’s potential. Last year, running backs coach Stump Mitchell compared McGuire’s skill set to Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson's. This season, offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates likened McGuire to former Patriots all-purpose back Kevin Faulk and couldn’t wait to get him back.
“He’s very consistent,” Bates said. “He was very impressive last year. He got hurt the first day. So we we’re excited to get him back. He’s going to get positive yards every time. He’s tough. He’s strong. He’s smart. He’s a good all-around football player.”
Bowles believes McGuire can be a three-down back. He said the “instinct and football savvy” McGuire showed last year have come back over the last few weeks.
McGuire just wants to finish the season strong and keep proving himself. He takes no credit for how Sunday's game ended, saying Sam Darnold did a great job driving the Jets down the field and that the offensive line did all the heavy lifting.
“I got to give credit to the O-line,” McGuire said. “Nothing happens without those guys. For those guys to make their blocks and have a crease for me to find a hole, my credit goes to those guys. If those guys wouldn’t have made their blocks, we would have lost that game.”