New York Jets UK Chronicles – The 2015 Backfield

Dave Balcombe and Nikki Charlesworth with a look at the New York Jets backfield. Are they better than their recent ranking on NFL.com?

A recent article published on NFL.com ranked the Jets running back group at 20th overall in the league coming into 2015. The article seems to give most credence to teams with one ‘star’ back but football is the ultimate team sports and the Jets, although with injury concerns, are building a potentially competitive group at this position.

Considering that the Jets backfield finished 2014 with the 3rd highest combined rushing yards, this ranking coming into 2015 seems a little harsh despite the fact that changes have been made. Chris Ivory doesn’t spring to mind alongside the likes of Demarco Murray or LeSean McCoy but he has put in solid performances in his last two years as a Jet. A short yardage back, Ivory put up a 871 yards in 2014 for six touchdowns to slightly improve on his 833 for three TDs in 2013 so he has been consistent and improving.

Of course, you don’t finish 3rd overall with stats like this from one player, but a combination of Ivory, Johnson (and a couple of hundred from Geno) showed that although without one big star putting up the big yards, the Jets could still move the ball through the running game. There are other reasons too; Geno’s propensity for throwing wayward balls led the team to lean heavily on the run game and this may continue to be a consideration in 2015. Bilal Powell is re-signed for the new year, choosing to stick with the Jets rather than follow Rex upstate.  Although he was quiet last year, Powell has in the past exceeded 500 yards in a season and shouldn’t be written off.

chris-ivory

With CJ2K gone, Mike Maccagnan swiftly moved to shore up the backfield. He has chosen players keen to replicate their past successes, which has created a competitive and hungry group. Stevan Ridley, a former starter, who peaked in the 2012 season where he finished with 1,263 yards for 290 carries wasn’t a bad start. His yards have depleted somewhat since, be he still went on to provide solid totals leading up to his injury last year. Still to reach full potential and to prove himself in training camp, Ridley remains an interesting prospect. If he manages to clear his injuries and stay fit he will be another weapon. The last minute draft day trade acquisition Zac Stacy will have to battle his place on the depth chart. Like Ridley, Stacy also has one solid season followed by a disappointing one on his books. With only a limited number of spots on the final roster, Stacy & Ridley as similar players, look likely to go all out fighting for their spot. It’s going to boil down to who impresses most in camp.

Changes elsewhere on the team will also aid the backfield. The vastly improved defense will provide the offense with more on-field time. If Geno proves again to be inconsistent then running plays will be vital and if not, as long as the offense are making gains and scoring touchdowns, who is making this happen is of little importance.

Geno & RBs

Of course, experience and past achievements among the new recruits will not guarantee success in 2015 and there are other considerations too. Chan Gailey probably hoped for a deal with his former back CJ Spiller who seamlessly slotted into his system but he will not have it that easy this year. He’ll have to find a way to work with this current crop, who fit less naturally, to make his system work. Injury is still a big question mark which cannot be completely ignored. Ridley may end up regretting his ‘Jets’ tattoo if he is unable to take the field.

In 2015 the Jets are unlikely to have a player who is suddenly going to project themselves into a 1000+ yard back but there is a lot of potential in this group of experienced players.  Not only this, but the Jets are not the only team with question marks surrounding their backfields and shouldn’t be devalued below others purely for injury questions. The Rams (ranked 19th) have Todd Gurley; but he too is injured as well as untested in the NFL. The Chargers (12th) who lost Ryan Matthews in the offseason also have a rookie in Melvin Gordon. Although apparently a ‘strong candidate for Offensive Rookie of the year’, he again is yet to step on an NFL field. Carolina (18th) relies on Cam Newton for big yards and there are question marks about the durability of big names like Frank Gore (Colts – 11th). The Jets do certainly rank amongst these teams but to say they are below seems to ignore the depth which others are lacking and the fact that all are relying on ‘potential’ too. Considering this, being ranked 20th seems a low estimation. Sure the question marks are there but if all the cogs drop into place in terms of injury and offensive performance then the NFL may see the Jets towards the top of the rushing rankings once more.

Bowles & Ridley