New York Jets – Exploring Potential Of Ivory/Goodson Backfield

Exploring the potential of Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson in the New York Jets backfield

The New York Jets haven’t had a flashy off-season but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been productive. There has been measured progress at a variety of positions but the most notable infusion of talent has occurred at running back. Plodding Shonn Greene was wisely allowed to leave in free agency and in his place the Jets added a duo of backs with immensely high potential, Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson. We’ve sung the praises of both here at TOJ but we wanted to dig a little deeper into the reasons for our excitement, so we sought out Pro Football Focus and a handful of writers who previously covered Ivory and Goodson. Let’s take a closer look…

Ivory projects to be the starting back so we’ll begin with him. In his rookie year (2010), Ivory climbed to the top of a New Orleans Saints depth chart ravaged by injuries and burst on the scene with 137 carries for 716 yards, at a whopping 5.2 yards per carry. Unfortunately, he ended the season on the injured reserve with a foot problem which carried through into the following year as he started the season on the PUP list. After being activated, Ivory had 79 carries for 374 yards at 4.7 yards per carry. Last year, his role diminished further as he only had 40 carries but still managed to rack up 217 yards at 5.4 yards per carry.

A violent, physical runner with the ability and speed to rip off big plays (6 career runs of 25 yards or more), Ivory has shown starter’s talent since entering the league but was perpetually in a crowded backfield in New Orleans. The negatives with Ivory are his lack of experience in the passing game (he only has 3 career NFL receptions and was rarely used on passing downs by the Saints) and his durability. He was banged up throughout his college year and had struggled with injuries throughout his 1st and 2nd season in New Orleans. Yet, if Ivory can stay on the field there is no reason he shouldn’t be highly productive behind a good run blocking Jets offensive line.

I reached out to Sam Monson, Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus about Ivory’s prospects with the Jets and he had the following to say –

Chris Ivory has always been at or near the top of our Elusive Rating, which combines missed tackles forced per touch and yards per carry after contact, but he rarely if ever makes the threshold in terms of touches to be included in the final study lists.

I think there is little to no doubt that Ivory is one of the most gifted natural runners in the league. The question mark with him is can he be on the field for passing downs. The Saints either didn’t think so or weren’t willing to give him the snaps over guys like Sproles, Thomas and Ingram, because almost all of his snaps were running snaps. So as a featured runner the Jets need to find out if he can pass block and if he can be a viable receiver out of the backfield if they intend to use him as a complete back, but even if they just expand the role he had on the Saints he should be a HUGE upgrade over Greene.

If you were thinking of rolling your eyes at the “one of the most gifted natural runners in the league” comment, watch the run starting at 31 seconds in this video package from last season.

I also briefly spoke with Chris Roling, the managing editor of Who Dat Dish which covers the New Orleans Saints. When asked if Ivory had the traits of a lead back and how Saints fans felt about trading him, Roling said –

He has everything you look for in a workhorse back, especially as a tough runner. His only issue is he has battled with injuries throughout his career. It’s hard to tell how his body will hold up as the featured back thanks to his physical running style

Ivory wasn’t that productive with the team because he was the 4th on the depth chart. He also isn’t very good at catching passes, which is a big no-no in the Saints offense. His lack of productivity is part of the reason the team was willing to part with him. The fan base is a bit split on the trade, but most realize it was a smart move to get another pick to put toward rebuilding the defense.

Ivory does still need to prove himself as a lead back in the NFL but he will be given that opportunity  in New York and provides a substantially higher ceiling and more running talent than Shonn Greene. He won’t be asked to carry the load alone though and may not need to have a large role on passing downs thanks to the Jets signing of Mike Goodson.

We broke down tape on Goodson here. Similar to Ivory, he has been stuck in crowded backfields his whole career. After minimal use during his rookie season in Carolina, Goodson received extended work in 2010 due to injuries on the Panthers and finished with 452 yards on 103 carries, for 4.4 yards per carry. He also racked up 40 receptions for 310 yards that season. After barely being used in 2011 behind DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, he was traded to Oakland. Last year for the Raiders, he had 35 carries for 221 yards (6.3 yards per carry) and 16 receptions for 195 yards, including this 64 yard touchdown against the Miami Dolphins.

Despite only having 51 touches last season in Oakland, Goodson had four plays over forty yards. In 2010, there were two games he received 20 carries or more and in both games he went over 100 yards. Goodson did have some fumbling issues in Carolina and many question whether he has the size to handle extended work over the course of a season. Yet, with Ivory in the fold, Goodson won’t need to be a workhorse back in New York. When discussing Goodson with Monson from PFF, he commented

Mike Goodson has a wonderful ability to make people miss, but it can come at the expense of just ‘hitting it up in there’ and getting three yards. Think of him as a very poor man’s Barry Sanders in that regard. (Behind Ivory) expect Goodson to act as more of a 3rd down back, taking the passing plays, the draw runs on passing downs and playing pass protector. 

I also spoke with Levi Damien of Silver and Black Pride which covers the Oakland Raiders about Goodson, his time with the Raiders and thoughts on his potential with the Jets

He was very good when he played, as evidenced by his 6.3 yards per carry average. He started out slow because of a big hit he took in camp that had him taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Once he got his confidence back, he was great. He was known for having fumbling problems when he came to the Raiders but he seemed to have fixed that issue. Raiders fans were a bit frustrated to see him go, yes. He was a great change up scat back for Darren McFadden. The one thing is, he is a great fit for the zone blocking scheme which the Raiders ran last season, but the team has switched back to power blocking so the Raiders not making a push to bring him back may have had something to do with them thinking he wasn’t a fit for their new offense. 

He has the skill set and talent (to be a 3rd down back and 1B option) but he may not have the durability. He is very small both in stature and in bulk which limits the punishment he can take. I see him as always having a complementary role in an offense much like Darren Sproles has had his entire career. He will offer a burst of speed an energy off the bench or in a two back set. 

Included for further reference on the two backs is a table sent over by Ben Stockwell from Pro Football Focus, breaking down the reps they took on the field and their elusive rating. (For further information on the elusive rating click here)


As you can see, the potential of a Ivory/Goodson duo likely has new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg ecstatic. If healthy, Ivory should be a bell-cow back taking the bulk of carries on early downs, while Goodson is the third down back and contributes on passing downs and for certain outside handoffs or stretch plays. In terms of talent, both exceed Bilal Powell substantially who should fall into the role of a swing backup. Monson believed that Powell “probably would spell Ivory rather than Goodson when he needs a rest on early downs” which is likely true, although Powell did get third down back experience last year and could fill in for Goodson if needed. As for Joe McKnight, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him not make the final 53 man roster especially with the Jets now kicking the tires on Josh Cribbs, who would bump him out of his kick return role.

With the additions of Ivory and Goodson and a quality run blocking offensive line in place, the Jets could very well have their best rushing attack since 2009. A strong running game coupled with a standard Rex Ryan defense could allow the Jets to be more competitive than many expect them to in 2012.

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the VP of Social Media at Whistle Sports

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    I love the way Idzik is signing guys with “potential” & “something to prove” rather than “big name” guys like Tanny did.

    Since Powell seemed pretty solid last year, I wonder if we’ll see a 3 man running back committee to keep Ivory & Goodson fresh & healthy.

  • blastingzone

    When the jets first signed Goodson I was really excited because he has 4.4 speed and
    is the first true breakaway game changing speed back the jets have had since Leon Washington! After seeing that 64 yd td run last year with Oakland and looking at all his
    college video with Texas A&M I knew we signed
    someone special but then I started hearing
    rumors that the jets were trying to trade for
    Ivory and the thought of both Ivory and Goodson in the back field got me really excited and after watching all the video I could find on Ivory and Goodson I’m convinced
    the jets will have the most explosive one two
    THATS A BIG IF!! Goodson is 6′ and over 200
    ilbs so he’s not that small and I could see
    both of them in the backfield at the same time a lot? Goodson has good hands and will catch a lot of passes out of the backfield
    like screens(remember what screens look like
    on the jets??) and dump off passes like when
    Sanchez is running for his life! Goodson is
    perfect for the WCO where the yards after catch are so important and besides if you only bring in Goodson as a third down back and use him a lot catching the ball out of the backfield the other team is going to know why he’s in the game and they will draw up a game plan to stop him!! Ivory is the perfect complement to Goodson and the defense will never know which back the jets
    are going to hand off or pass the ball too as long as Ivory improves his pass catching
    skills! As a runner Ivory runs over and thru
    people like a bowling ball and Goodson can
    runaway from people and make them miss! Two
    different styles but together create a nightmare for opposing defenses!!

  • blastingzone

    Sorry about that I ment to type 64 yd td pass!!

  • Very excited about what will be one of our strong spots. A solid and well rounded run game! Ever since I heard the trade rumors for Ivory (on this site first of course.) I was praying it would happen. And as blastingzone mentioned above Goodson is threat every time he touches the ball. Not to mention we have one of the best d lines in the game now too. We still have a lot of holes but this certainly will help us to have a solid run game.

  • matr dontelli iii

    all we need is acceptable ‘c’ level quarterback play to go with what should be an improved (from number 8 overall, which isn’t that shabby) defense and what should be a vastly improved running game. the future is bright. imagine if we somehow got ‘good’ quarterback play. what will espn talk about then, especially if tebow is not on an nfl roster? they should be concerned for their jobs.

  • @ matr, espn and every other sports writer in nyc would be crying in their cheerios. lol, lets not get to crazy yet, but I’m a lot happier than I was 2 months ago. Although I m still far from sold on Geno Smith.

  • matr dontelli iii

    i’m not saying i’m sold on smith. he gives us another option, and given that he was widely considered the best qb in the draft and we got him in the second round i have no problem with the pick. it’s not what i had hoped for in the second round but since we were looking at choosing between sanchez, garrard and mcelroy i think it was probably a smart move. it seems idzik has a lot of them up his sleeve. things are not nearly as bleak as many would have you believe. would it really be much more shocking to see rex bring this team to the playoffs than it was in ’09 with rookie sanchez, especially given what the majority think of mark today?

  • Circles26

    I love this Ivory pick up. I hope he stays healthy. He did do well in the limited time he blocked, or ran a route so I have hope there. I still don’t think Greene was plodding. He just really seemed to run into tacklers, and then he expected to be tackled so he wouldn’t keep his balance. Ivory never expects to go down. He can split 3 guys and stay on his feet. Things have gotten a whole lot more interesting around here. Can’t wait for the season.

  • Mark Phelan

    Informative, balanced report. Thanks.

    Just wonder if either can pick up a blitz.

  • Circles26

    Ivory pass blocked 27 times, and didn’t give up any pressure. One time he had to dive to get to the blitzer, but got just enough so Brees could get the ball out. Seems like he can do it, but they just didn’t put him in that spot often. Here’s to hoping.

  • Keith

    I don’t see Mckight getting cut he is a better Kick returner now that Cribbs is aging. The Jets need help at WR badly but when your starter has been injuried every year in the league you might want to consider keeping the 4th HB around.

    The Jets running game looks like it could be great this year. I love the Ivory trade. I still think you have to keep insurance lets face it this team doesn’t win passing the ball. The Jets win by pounding the rock and playing Great Defense. McKnight has the speed to take a short outside strech run on 3rd down 80 yards for a TD.

  • Keith

    Kind of reminds me of the Giants Rushing Attack in 2008. Ivory & Goodson of the Jets like Jacobs & Bradshaw both guys were backup’s until Diva RB Tiki Barber walked away they led the league in rushing in 2008 with a 3 headed monster. No feature back like CJ2K or AP. Just good RB’s following solid blocks by the O-line

  • KAsh

    I doubt the Jets would keep anyone just because he is a KR. The reality is that KRs are a dime a dozen and many late-round picks and UDFAs need to contribute on special teams just to make the final roster. There are several rookies that the team picked up this year who will be gunning for McKnight’s KR spot.

    So, if the team feels that they cannot use McKnight as a RB, the odds of him being cut and replaced by a rookie skyrocket. McKnight needs to step up and show he can be used in the run game for them to consider keeping him.

  • KAsh

    By the way, same goes for Cribbs. Why spend money signing a KR or a PR? He needs to be looked at solely as a WR. If he cannot at least challenge for a starting spot or backup our starters/show either a new look or some sort of competency – I’m going to be harsh – he is useless.

  • matr a. dontelli iii

    additionally on the KR issue, if you look at the jets return game over the years since westhoff was the coordinator it was clear that it was the system more than the returner hopefully kotwicka learned the trade well. we’ll need it.

  • John C

    The Jets would be foolish to give up on McKnight. He’s not much different than Goodson/Ivory – no chances, a couple small injuries. His career avg is 4.5. The one game he started in 2010, he rushed for 159 (4.9 per). Add his K return, and WR capabilities (not to mention emergency DB), and they’ll be sorry if they get rid of him and Goodson gets hurt in Game 2

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