The Jets were eagerly awaiting the return of running back Breece Hall.
It looks like Gang Green won’t have to wait much longer to see Hall practice with the rest of his teammates.
Although the Jets are taking it slowly following his ACL injury last October, Hall has been in rehab, working on the side during OTA workouts this spring.
“It’s going well, it’s good to get back on the court, run around doing exercises, start cutting and everything,” Hall said Wednesday. “I feel like myself again, I am improving every week.
“Its been good.”
After the teaser selected him in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft, Hall had a positive impact on the Jets’ offense. Hall rushed for 463 yards and four touchdowns in seven games last season. He also caught 19 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown.
However, Hall’s season ended prematurely after he tore his ACL in a win over the Broncos last October. Coming off their win over Denver, Gang Green was 5-2 and looked set to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
But after Hall’s injury, the Jets’ offense struggled to move the ball in passing and rushing games, leading them to win just two of their last 10 games, finishing 7-10.
Seven months after the injury, Hall’s speed appears to be back to what it was before his injury. According to Jets coach Robert Saleh, Hall measured more than 22 miles per hour on his GPS, a tool inside a player’s helmet that tracks his speed. Hall’s speed before the injury was estimated to be around 22-23 miles per hour.
Saleh and the Jets coaches have been so impressed with Hall’s progress that they’re optimistic he’ll be ready to play in the season opener against the Bills on Sept. 11.
“He’s one of those kids that we had to hold back because there’s a process,” Saleh said. “It’s weird to say it, you don’t want to heal too quickly in an ACL.
“You have to be able to balance that with strength. He looks strong, he looks powerful, he learns. I mean, I’m glad he’s back on the pitch. I have a feeling he won’t need to be restricted in training camp, although we always will, just to be conscientious and careful with him, but he looks great. Traditionally, running backs have struggled to return to their previous form the year following an ACL injury. The average return to play after an ACL injury is nine to 12 months. If Hall is active for the Jets’ season opener, he would have played 10 months after his injury.
Since 2010, only two running backs have had outstanding seasons following an ACL injury. Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson both had 2012 All-Pro seasons a year after suffering ACL injuries. Charles rushed for 1,509 yards and five touchdowns for the Chiefs and Peterson finished with 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns en route to winning the 2012 NFL MVP award.
Of course, cases like Charles and Peterson are outliers for running backs as Giants running back Saquon Barkley struggled on his return from his ACL injury in 2021 as he rushed for 593 yards and two touchdowns in 2021. Barkley finally returned to his Pro Bowl form during the 2022 campaign as he finished with 1,312 yards and 10 touchdowns, helping the Giants reach the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
“I spoke to Saquon [Barkley] for a while after he first got hurt he and I had a few long conversations,” Hall said. “When we were texting, we had gotten to a point where we were sending long voice memos and chopping them up.
“Christian McCaffrey hit me. I spoke to Derrick Henry about a month or two ago at a signing, he was talking to me about some things. That’s a lot of guys who’ve been cool. Just to talk to these guys about how they’ve come through injuries and how to keep their minds up and how to keep moving forward.
Anytime Hall returns, he won’t have the burden of carrying the Jets’ offense this season. Gang Green acquired Aaron Rodgers in April, who won four NFL MVPs and threw for 475 career touchdowns.
The Jets also signed former Pitt running back Israel Abanikanda to a unit that includes Hall, Michael Carter and Zonovan “Bam” Knight. With the additions of Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman Jr. and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, the Jets offense should improve from 29th in points per game.
“The expectation is to be the best me you can be,” Hall said. “Just knowing that I’m one of the most dynamic playmakers on the team when I’m completely healthy, I expect to come back to myself at some point.
“I really want to be the same Breece.”