A handful of thoughts on the New York Jets collection of running backs for 2014. The position is deeper than it has been in recent years but how effective will the group be? Let us know your projections in the comment section below, on Twitter or Facebook…
The Workhorse, if Healthy – Chris Ivory is the team’s most talented runner but has lingering durability issues and isn’t a factor as a pass catcher. If healthy, he is likely to lead the team in carries, rushing yards and be the go to guy in the fourth quarter if the team is holding a lead. Ivory had a strong 4.6 yards per carry last season and eight runs of 20 yards or longer, although he only had three touchdowns. He is most likely to see the majority of reps on 1st and 2nd down and is probably the closest thing the team has to a “starting” running back. In 2013, Ivory’s usage totals were all over the place. He had five games with 4-6 carries, five games with 9-14 carries, and five games with 15+ carries. It will be interesting to see if there is more consistency to those numbers this season.
The X-Factor – Chris Johnson is the biggest “name” in this group. He has never replicated his monster 2009 season and there are questions about his effort, ability to run with enough physicality and he is coming back from offseason surgery. It is hard to project any numbers for him in this offense, outside of being a major factor in the passing game. Considering Marty Mornhinweg’s love of the screen game and Johnson’s ability to catch passes out of the backfield and speed in the open field, it would be surprising if he didn’t log 40-50 receptions in 2014. Johnson is likely to be the team’s primary third down back and also take a few series each half, hopefully there will be at least a few games where he gets the “hot hand” and rips off a big run or two. Johnson’s streak of 1,000 yard rushing yard seasons is very likely to end this year but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a valuable piece of the offense.
The Forgotten Man – Bilal Powell is an underrated piece of the Jets offense. A versatile back, who excels mostly in-between the tackles as a north/south runner but has the ability to pass protect and catch the ball out of the backfield, he provides terrific value. Is Powell going to hit 176 carries (11 per game) and 36 receptions again? Probably not. However, he is going to be able to spell Chris Ivory on early downs, fill in for him when a likely injury occurs at some point and also be an option on third and passing downs alongside Johnson. There were too many times last year when Marty Mornhinweg used sets featuring two running backs as viable pass catching options and he was forced to use Tommy Bohanon in one of those roles…that won’t be the case this year with Johnson and Powell on the roster. He isn’t a flashy player but Powell will be a useful one for the team in 2014.
The Late Addition – Daryl Richardson was an intriguing addition off the waiver wire in May. In two seasons in St. Louis, he racked up nearly 1,000 yards of offense and flashed big play ability. When discussing him with our friend Will Horton of Rams Herd and looking at his game a bit closer, Richardson is a somewhat comparable player to Powell. Richardson is more of a home run threat but Powell is a more complete and reliable back. It will be interesting to see if Richardson finds a way to stick on the final 53. Considering how run heavy the Jets are likely to be and potential injury issues with Ivory and Johnson, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if he did.
He Gone – Alex Green worked himself into a little playing time last season but it is very hard to see him sticking on the 2014 team. It would take a monster pre-season and a serious injury or two in front of him. Green had 43 total yards last season and prior to that had a 464 rushing yard season in Green Bay (although with a 3.4 YPC).
The Incumbent vs. UDFA fullback battle – Tommy Bohanon was the team’s fullback in 2013, finishing with 11 receptions for 69 yards and 17 carries for 62 yards. He was a generally below average blocker and his usage began to dwindle down the stretch. Chad Young is an undrafted free agent who is generating some buzz because of his style of play and a good showing catching the football out of the backfield in at OTAs and minicamp. It helps that Bohanon knows the offense already but Young may be able to push him off the roster with a strong preseason.