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Elijah McGuire wants to put Jets offense on his shoulders

Elijah McGuire was fully expecting to use his promising rookie year as a springboard to bigger and better things.

Then the springs gave out before his sophomore season really began.

The running back broke his foot on the first day of training camp in July and spent the first half of the season on injured reserve before finally making his debut last week against the Dolphins. For a team in need of any help it can get offensively, McGuire is hoping his fresh legs can provide a jolt down the stretch.

“I think I can do a very good job of sparking this offense, especially in the pass game,” McGuire said Friday as the Jets prepared for Sunday’s game against the Bills at MetLife Stadium. “They’re spreading me out wide, getting me mismatches with the linebackers I know I can beat. In the run game also, just hit a couple runs and then open up the pass game for the receivers on the outside.”

In his first game back, McGuire took six carries for 23 yards and caught three passes from Sam Darnold for 37 yards. He was thrown right into the fire, taking 36 snaps compared to starter Isaiah Crowell’s 23 and rookie Trenton Cannon’s seven.

The immediate heavy workload seemed to take McGuire by surprise, though he wasn’t going to complain.

“I felt like I was back,” the 24-year-old said. “The only thing I had problems with was my conditioning. That was tough. Playing a good bit of snaps that I didn’t expect to play, so I think my wind played a big part in it. I gotta get that up.”

McGuire said he is doing his best to get up to speed in that area, but coach Todd Bowles seemed to like what he saw.

“He moved around, he was healthy,” Bowles said. “He understood blitz pickups and everything else. His blocking was very good. Just looking forward to [him] getting more comfortable as it goes.”

The Jets’ rushing attack is in the middle of the pack league-wide — ranked No. 17 with 109.2 yards per game — but its numbers are largely skewed because of Crowell’s historic day against the Broncos. He ran for 219 yards that Sunday while the Jets picked up 323 rushing yards overall.

In the four games since then, the Jets have rushed for a combined 308 yards.

During that stretch, the Jets also lost Bilal Powell to a season-ending neck injury, making McGuire’s return two weeks later even more important.

“He can run the ball, he can do a lot of things,” Bowles said. “He’s a receiver, he can run the ball, he can block as well. He gives us another back that can do multiple things to go along with Cro and Cannon. We just look forward to him getting better from there.”

McGuire (who “has the skill-set to be LaDainian Tomlinson, if he was given that opportunity,” running backs coach Stump Mitchell said this summer) opened some eyes last season as a rookie out of Louisiana-Lafayette. His most memorable moment came when he sprung loose for a 69-yard touchdown in a win over the Jaguars, flashing his potential that he hopes to replicate now that he’s healthy again.

“It was very hard,” McGuire said of his injury. “I just wanted to build off last season because I thought I had a pretty decent season last year. I just wanted to add on to that coming into this year. It’s something I can’t control, something I gotta deal with. I just gotta be the best I can be throughout the rest of the season.”