With Dalvin Cook, Jets are a dream team. Can they manage the expectations?


The New York Jets can’t stop, won’t stop. 

With help from Dalvin Cook, who agreed to terms on a deal with New York on Monday, the Jets are a freight train of Super Bowl ambitions.

Don’t say Dream Team. Don’t say Dream Team. Don’t say Dream Team.

OK, fine. It’s reminiscent of that 2011 Eagles squad that Vince Young (the backup quarterback) dubbed The Dream Team. If you don’t know the story, they went 8-8 and didn’t make the playoffs — despite having quarterback Mike Vick, receiver DeSean Jackson, running back LeSean McCoy, tackle Jason Peters, defensive end Jason Babin and cornerbacks Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha. 


They were stacked.

Not unlike the 2023 Jets, who have newly acquired quarterback Aaron Rodgers, running backs Cook and Breece Hall, receiver Garrett Wilson, cornerbacks Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and so many other studs.

They are stacked.

I’m not saying that the Jets are destined for mediocrity. I am merely saying that this team has an unusual amount of star power. Because of that, expectations are sky high. (And because of that, I’m a little worried for New York.)

[McKenna: Can young Jets deal with Aaron Rodgers’ propensity for the spotlight?]

It’s important for the Jets to manage their expectations. First and foremost, backup QB Zach Wilson can’t go around telling media that the Jets are the Dream Team. Now, Wilson has a habit of missing on easy throws, but I don’t think he’ll whiff with the media like Vince Young did. So they’re safe there. But in terms of attracting unnecessary attention? The Jets must be careful.

They are not shy about expressing how firmly a Super Bowl is set in their sites. That’s just fine. This team is built to win right now — and in February. The addition of Cook helps their cause, particularly in the beginning of the season when Hall, the guy they had hoped would be RB1, will take it slow in his recovery from ACL surgery. Cook can carry the load. He finished the 2022 season with 264 carries, 1,173 rushing yards, 39 receptions, 295 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns. 

[McKenna: Aaron Rodgers bringing unabashed confidence to long-downtrodden Jets]

Bayless: “I just don’t think this team can live up to this kind of hype”

Bayless: "I just don't think this team can live up to this kind of hype"

It’s fine for the Jets to celebrate signing a star running back. 

The Jets and Cook have long been in touch, with the team hosting him for a visit that went extremely well, even if the former Viking didn’t leave the Florham Park, New Jersey, practice facility with a signed contract. New York remained the front-runner, and finally, coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas (and probably Aaron Rodgers) convinced Cook to join the Jets. Rodgers, in particular, may have been tired of seeing Cook run wild. 

The two stars are leaving rivals in the NFC North to join forces in the AFC East. (And there was a chance Cook could end up with an AFC East rival in the Miami Dolphins or New England Patriots, per sources.)

“I’ve seen him first-hand a lot of times,” Rodgers said on Aug. 1. “We had a game against him early in the season. I think we were tied, and he changed the course of that game. We were kind of beating him up pretty good. On the first play of the second half, he went 75 untouched for a touchdown. 

“That’s his ability. He was always able to impact the game. Tough guy, but also elusive, a good one-cut guy, speed, power, good out of the backfield. I love the guys that we’ve got. Think there’s a lot of talent there, a lot of opportunity. But any time you can add a veteran player, you’d be excited about that, for sure.” 

For some coaches, it would be an embarrassment of riches to have the following depth chart at running back:

Michael Carter
Israel Abanikanda
Zonovan Knight
Travis Dye
Damarea Crockett

But Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett knows what to do with his running backs. In 2020 as the OC for the Packers — perhaps his best year in the position — Hackett had running back Aaron Jones totaling 1,459 yards from scrimmage with Jamaal Williams adding 741 more. They combined for 14 touchdowns.

New York should have a stop-gap solution for the first half of the season as the team brings Hall back up to speed. In the postseason, they could have the NFL’s best 1-2 punch. There is reason for some hesitation, however, about both running backs. Hall, of course, is coming off a major injury after playing just seven games his rookie season.

Cook is 28 years old and, last season, averaged 4.4 yards per carry, a respectable number but also the lowest of his career. In the past two seasons, his PFF grades have been his two lowest — but, again, he had a 67.4 in 2022 and 65.8 in 2021. He is showing slight signs of decline, but not much. He is also recovering from shoulder surgery, which will hold him out of practice for some time. 

So there are uncertainties, which is likely why it took so long for Cook to find a home.

But he has a good home — a particularly apt fit for Cook, who will get the chance to pursue a Super Bowl with Rodgers. By bringing Cook into the fold, the Jets only heighten their expectations for the season. New York is a pressure cooker. The Jets’ talent and star power are tremendous. If they struggle, they can’t let it lead to collapse. If they succeed, they can’t let it go to their heads. 

Because with these acquisitions — Rodgers and Cook — the Jets now have a target on their backs.

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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