New York Jets running back Breece Hall is looking to pull off a comeback comparable to what Adrian Peterson did in 2014 with the Minnesota Vikings

After tearing his ACL that year, Peterson tore apart defenses in 2015. He finished his comeback season with 327 carries, 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns — an unreal recovery from an injury that could have ended the running back’s career or, at least, the dominant phase of it.

Hall tore his ACL last October. Prior to the injury, he was one of teammate Garrett Wilson‘s top competitors for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. In seven games in 2022, Hall had 463 rushing yards, 218 receiving yards and five total touchdowns. This year, he made his return in Week 1 after working with the first-team offense for much of training camp. 

Hall had his best performance yet in Week 5, which not coincidentally was the first game in which the team lifted his snap-count restrictions. He’d been dying to play more, but coach Robert Saleh stuck to the plan. 

Now, Hall looks good as new.

Against the Broncos last Sunday, he had 22 carries for 177 yards, career-highs in both categories, along with a touchdown. He also had three catches for 17 yards. It has hardly been a revelation. Hall has been terrific for most of the season, but he has been limited to a small number of carries. Because of his Week 2 performance — a four-carry, nine-yard outing — Hall’s season might have previously flown under the radar. But now, his case for the Comeback Player of the Year is underway.

“He’s a special back,” Saleh said of Hall on Sunday. “He’s kind of a deceptive runner. He’s just so massive it doesn’t look like he’s moving fast. You feel like you’re tracking properly and then all of a sudden you say, ‘Oh crap, where’d he go?'”

Retired running back and NFL analyst Tiki Barber has also called Hall’s speed deceptive. Apparently, Hall doesn’t feel the same way.

And it’s not just his 40-yard dash time that backs it up.

On Hall’s 72-yard touchdown run against the Broncos, he hit 21.50 miles per hour, according to Next Gen Stats. That’s the fourth-fastest top speed hit by a running back this season — behind only Miami’s De’Von Achane (who has two of the three fastest times) and Raheem Mostert. But the beauty of that run was the combination of Hall’s speed and the offensive line’s power. Hall went basically untouched and didn’t have to break a tackle.

“It’s awesome,” QB Zach Wilson said postgame on Sunday. “That dude is a stud, but I think it starts with the guys up front. I mean, those guys, some big holes right there. When you give Breece a chance to hit it like that, and he’s able to make some guys miss, he’s very explosive in the run game.”

After the play, Hall went over and thanked his offensive linemen for their hard work.

That’s a teammate and leader the team can get behind.

“It makes me feel more inclined to go in there and dig out safeties and to block corners and linebackers and stuff when I know that I’ve got a guy like him back there that can pop off a 72-yard run at any moment,” receiver Allen Lazard said this week.

Last season, New York was 5-2 when Hall was in the lineup. Following his injury, the Jets lost eight of their next 10 games. The offense scored 22.7 points per game with Hall in the lineup and 13.7 without him.

It’s not just the big plays. Hall converts would-be losses into gains, like he did against Denver on Sunday. On first-and-10 in the third quarter, Hall bounced a run outside after seeing linebackers in the gap that he was supposed to hit. It’s plays like that one that have Hall at 179 rushing yards over expected, the second most in the NFL, per NextGenStats.

The #RunningBacksDon’tMatter craze has gone too far. NFL owners and top-tier backs have been at odds in recent years — with this offseason being the peak of the financial conflict so far — but a player like Hall has reinforced the tremendous value of a player who is, first and foremost, a between-the-tackles thumper.

Certainly, Wilson is benefiting. His best throw of the game against the Broncos came on play-action, with Wilson faking a handoff to running back Dalvin Cook. Wilson, with all the room in the world to throw, hit Garrett Wilson streaking across the formation. The rushing attack made a big difference in giving Zach Wilson time and space to set his feet and deliver a beautiful ball to a tough location.

It’s no coincidence that Wilson’s best statistics come off play-action. The Jets have used it on 17.9% of his dropbacks, per Pro Football Focus. Wilson has completed 67.9% of his passes for 202 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. It’s clearly a situation that makes Wilson comfortable, and you can see why: The play-action can help neutralize the pass-rush and coverage, at least for an instant. 

Of course, it doesn’t always work that way. Play-action is bound to slow the quarterback’s time to release. So that gives the rush more time to sack the passer. The Philadelphia Eagles, New York’s Week 6 opponent, are the perfect litmus test for what the Jets are building. (Or they’re the absolute worst litmus test.)

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The jury is still out on Wilson. Does he have a future as an NFL starter? Does he have a future as a draft bust? He was trending toward being a massive bust prior to Week 4, when things began to change. He and the Jets have played well in the past two weeks against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Broncos. The Chiefs are putting up really good counting stats, with the sixth-fewest points per game (16) and a solid DVOA that’s 11th-best in the NFL. But the Broncos have the worst defense by just about every metric. 

It’s still hard to make sense of whether Wilson is beginning to transform into the quarterback the Jets drafted him to be — or whether the Jets have simply found ways to manufacture his success under offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. It’s probably a bit of both. The thing about Wilson, however, is that he tends to struggle as pressure mounts — both the psychological pressure and the pressure of the pass-rush. Again, that’s what makes this matchup against the Eagles so compelling. It’s a chance for Wilson to continue to prove his doubters wrong.

How will Hall and Wilson fare against a defensive line that features Haason Reddick, Jalen Carter, Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham and Jordan Davis? Even inside linebacker Nicholas Morrow has three sacks this year in four games. It’s a fierce front.

Wilson operates best when he has room in the pocket to operate. Well, the Jets just lost Alijah Vera-Tucker to an Achilles injury. That will only make life more difficult as New York attempts to contain Philly’s defensive playmakers.

But if the Jets can operate their offense against the Eagles, there might not be much question left as to whether their offense is functional without Aaron Rodgers. And it’s easy to see Hall’s impact not just on Wilson — but on the offense as a whole.

Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @henrycmckenna.

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