Coffee ‘n’ Jets: RB Roster Battle – Zonovan Knight

August 16, 2022

With a good camp, and a strong outing against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first pre-season game, has UDFA Zonovan “Bam” Knight done enough to play himself into the Jets final 53 man roster.

The Jets Running Back Room

The battle to make the roster as part of the running back core for the New York Jets has essentially been a battle for 4th place. 2nd round Rookie Breece Hall, and 2021 stand out Michael Carter have been any betting human’s favourites for spots 1 and 2, and veteran Tevin Coleman seemingly a favourite of the coaching staff that only really leave one spot available. Knight is up against former 3rd round pick La’Michal Perine, and 2021 Dropsies champion Ty Johnson for the final spot.

We covered the RB roster battle here at Jets Joint already this offseason, but with a pre season game in the books, and the first phase of roster cut downs having taken place it’s time to take a closer look at what Bam could have to offer to the Jets in 2022.

Zonovan 'Bam' Knight - UDFA Pickup by the Jets in 2022 - image courtesy of USA Today
Zonovan ‘Bam’ Knight – UDFA Pickup by the Jets in 2022 – image courtesy of USA Today

College

Knight was a four star recruit out of high school; he had several offers but settled on the NC State where he played from 2019 to 2021. In his three years with the Wolfpack he racked up 2286 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns. He was instantly productive in his first year and putting up 753 yards on the ground on 140 attempts.

Watching Bam Knight’s highlight reel on Youtube it’s not difficult to see where the nickname comes from. He has a physical, hard hitting running style and just seems to pinball off defenders as he fights through contact, and drops the shoulder against DBs to gain those extra few yards.

Despite having an impressive first two years, that breakout year seemingly didn’t follow in 2021, and he finished with the lowest statistical season of his college career. This led to Knight not featuring at the top of anyone’s RB rankings going into the 2022 NFL draft, with most having him as a day 3 draft pick with value as a fringe roster player.

The 2022 NFL Draft

Draft profiles leading up to the 2022 NFL Draft for Knight are pretty consistent in praising his overall game, but noting that he never quite managed to crack the next level of his potential. His common strengths and weaknesses noted were:

Strengths:

  • Fights through contact
  • Balance
  • Explosiveness
  • Footwork

Weaknesses:

  • Pass pro is a work in progress
  • Needs development as a pass catcher
  • Some issues with ball security

Knight ultimately watched the draft go by and never heard his name called but he didn’t have to wait long until his was picked up by the Jets on a UDFA contract worth $705,000 in year 1.

Jets 2022 Pre-season

The best thing a fringe roster player can do for himself is ball-out every chance his gets. Last Friday was the first opportunity the Jets coaching staff had to see a lots of these guys play real football after getting to work with them in camp.

At first glance the statistics for Knight (or for any of the Jets rushing offence for that matter) weren’t especially impressive; 6 carries for 13 yards with 1 TD, but when you watch the game you get the picture of how hard those yards were earned. The TD itself, Bam was initially stopped on the run but the second effort, as well as a helpful shove from Mr Dan Feeney, got the ball over the line.

Knight’s most memorable contribution of the night came though on special teams. After the Eagles forced in a touchdown on their final drive of the game, it left the Jets needing to drive the field in under 2 minutes and get the TD to win the game. Bam stepped up, returning the kick off for 52 yards and putting the Jets in prime position to win the game.

The X-Factor

One thing that Bam has going for him some of the other roster bubble RBs don’t is what he can offer on special teams. Knight was a skilled kick returner for NC State during his college career; averaging 31 yards per attempt and returning 3 for a touchdown. The Jets do already have pro-bowl special teamer Braxton Berrios on the squad already; but as recent history has taught us you can never have too much depth, so having another good returner on the roster could be the thing that tips the scales in Bam Knight’s favour come Tuesday 30th August.

Decisions, Decisions

If the Jets only choose to carry three RBs on their 53 man roster it is unlikely we’ll see Bam Knight’s name on that list. Coleman has the advantage of bringing experience to a very young RB room, as well as familiarity with the coaching staff and the system. The Jets would try to keep Knight on the practice squad but I wouldn’t imagine he’d last too long on waivers and likely he’d get picked up by another RB needy team before the Jets get the chance.

If the team do decide to take four RB into the season though, Knight should be a no-brainer. NC State ran a zone scheme which means Bam should feel right at home with what the Jets are running, and what he offers both in terms of potential and special teams makes him an easy choice over Perine or Johnson.

I’m looking forward to getting a couple more chances to watch Bam along with the rest of the players battling for roster spots over the next few weeks. I’d love to see him make the team; we all love a UDFA story, but so few of them make it through camp and pre-season, and often not on the team that picked them up to begin with. But every now and again, you get a Bryce Huff or a Robbie Anderson who makes it onto the roster and makes a real impact. There’s nothing to say that the next one couldn’t be Bam Knight.