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Jets rookie Michael Carter in a rush to learn new system, embraces studying history of West Coast offense

Jets running back Michael Carter stretches during training

Jets running back Michael Carter stretches during training camp at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, N.J. on Thursday. Credit: Noah K. Murray

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Michael Carter is in the NFL, but the Jets' rookie is back in school in a sense, studying more than he ever did at North Carolina.

The running back is majoring in The Shanahan Offense.

"I study crazy," Carter said. "This is what college should have been like. I get to major in football. It’s my everyday lifestyle. It’s my everyday job. It’s my passion."

The film study for Carter began in rookie camp in the spring. Jets running backs coach Taylor Embree gave Carter a list of teams to watch.

It started with Mike Shanahan’s teams in Denver. Next on the list was Washington, where Shanahan was the head coach and his son Kyle the offensive coordinator.

Carter watched other teams, including the 49ers where Kyle Shanahan is the head coach. Mike LaFleur was on that staff in San Francisco and is now the Jets’ offensive coordinator.

"When I got here, I had to learn the history of our offense," Carter said. "He wants you to just understand the background and different ways that the offense can work and what happens when you put different pieces in the offense. Being able to watch so much film is fun."

Carter feels the same about playing in this West Coast offense that features an outside zone blocking scheme. If it’s run right, it should take some pressure off of rookie quarterback Zach Wilson and won’t force him to have to do too much.

It’s a run-heavy system with plenty of motion and will rely on a back by-committee approach. That’s why the Jets have stocked up on running backs. Not many are household names, but the Jets believe they can be more effective if not dynamic running behind an improved offensive line.

The Jets already had La’Mical Perine, a fourth-round pick last year, Ty Johnson and Josh Adams. They drafted Carter in the fourth round this year. They also signed veteran Tevin Coleman, who played in the system in Atlanta and San Francisco, and Austin Walter, who was with the 49ers last year.

"That’s an unknown group," Jets coach Robert Saleh said. "People look at the names and they’ll assume there’s not much. But they all have a dynamic trait to them that could be pretty good in the system, especially with how the offensive line works and the way the zone scheme works, then working one gap at a time."

It also works because of how LaFleur will rotate in the backs, keeping them fresh against a defense that could be wearing down. LaFleur said that "freshness" is what puts a strain on the defense.

"Definitely the freshness, just having versatility amongst your skill group, and not having the same out of everyone is just key," LaFleur said. "A defense gets used to fitting something and then all of a sudden the tempo changes."

Coleman, Perine, Carter and Johnson have been working with the first team most often.

"We all got different skill sets," Coleman said. "Just having a fresh guy out there can definitely frustrate a defense when they’ve been out there for quite amount of plays. That will be a good advantage for us."

Since Coleman is the most experienced and accomplished back of the group, he gets a lot of questions about the system. Carter admits to picking Coleman’s brain a lot.

Carter dropped a couple of passes on Thursday, but he also caught a short pass in the middle of the defense and ran for a touchdown. He has impressed with how he finds holes and attacks them and runs with authority.

"I feel like I’ve been playing football my whole life," Carter said. "I’m from Florida so I’ve been playing contact football since I was 4. This is my whole life. Football’s been there for me when nothing else was. Whatever you put into the game you’re going to get out of it. That’s been the story of my life.

"I run with authority because I love football. That’s my lifestyle."

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