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Former Pitt RB Israel Abanikanda in Interesting Situation Following NY Jets Signing of Cook



Pitt football running back Israel Abanikanda

The New York Jets chose to sign Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook Monday night, which might cause issues for former Pitt running back Israel Abanikanda.

The Jets drafted Abanikanda with the No. 144 pick in the Fifth Round of the 2023 NFL Draft in April. The contract is worth $4,176,380 over four seasons through 2026, with a signing bonus of $336,380 and guarantees of the same price.

With the addition of Cook, the Jets now have a plethora of running backs on the roster. This includes second-year and rising star Breece Hall, who will return this season following tearing his ACL in Week 7 last season. Hall finished last season with the most rushing yards, 463, despite missing the final 10 games of the season.

Michael Carter finished second on the Jets with 402 yards on 114 carries and three touchdowns in 16 games in 2022. Zonovan Knight also played in seven games for the Jets last season, making 85 carries for 300 yards and one touchdown.

With five running backs that will make the roster next season, where does this leave Abanikanda?

Cook and Hall, once he returns, should serve as the two running backs that make the bulk of the carries next season. Carter and Knight have experience from last season, but also likely find themselves wondering if they’ll make the 53-man roster once the season starts.

Abanikanda is a versatile running back and showed that as a junior for Pitt in 2022. He finished with 1,431 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns, 146 receiving yards and 228 kickoff return yards. His 1,805 all-purpose yards and his 164 all-purpose yards per game ranked fourth and second best in the FBS, respectively.

His game against Virginia Tech will rank as one of the greatest performances by a Pitt player ever. He ran for a program best 320 yards and tied the record for six rushing touchdowns in a game, leading Pitt to a 45-29 win.

He has also done quite well for the Jets in preseason play so far too. He ran nine times for 27 yards and a touchdown, while also making a catch for five yards in the Hall of Fame game against the Cleveland Browns on Aug. 3. Abaikanda then ran 12 times for 56 yards, while making three catches for 31 yards in a 27-0 win against the Carolina Panthers last Saturday. He led the Jets in rushing in both games.

The Athletic wrote that Abanikanda is a “safe bet” to make the roster prior to next season in a report on Monday. The Athletic also reported that the Jets believe in Abanikanda’s ability to compete right away.  Still, he is going from featuring as the No. 1 running back to start the 2023 season, to now fighting for carries behind a four-time Pro Bowler in Cook and a stellar Hall.

The positive side is that Abanikanda will relish the competition and work hard to compete with two great running backs. If Hall isn’t ready to go Week 1, then that gives Abanikanda a great chance to impress Jets head coach Robert Saleh and make an interesting running back competition throughout his rookie season.

If the Jets make the mind-boggling decision to waive or release Abanikanda, then almost any team in the NFL would have a great running back on their roster, if they choose to sign him.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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10 months ago

At the end of the day, whether with the Jets or not, Izzy will be fine. H2P !

10 months ago

He would look good in Black & Gold….
Need Omar magic to get him from the Jets…

10 months ago

Unfortunately he will most likely be stuck on special teams until Cook is inevitably injured

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