New York Jets Positional Preview – Running Back

AJ Sicignano continues his New York Jets positional breakdown with a look at the team’s running backs and where they stack up in the AFC East and AFC as a whole. Don’t miss Monday’s edition on the quarterbacks…

Note: Regarding AFC Conference ranks, I have broken the 16 teams in the AFC into three tiers. The first tier being the top units in the conference, second tier being average and the third tier being among the worst in the conference and rookies.

Running Backs – Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell, Stevan Ridley, Zac Stacy, Daryl Richardson, Tommy Bohanon, JC Copeland

While the Jets don’t roster that big name superstar running back, talent wise this could be one of the deepest backfields in the league.

Early rumblings this offseason suggested that Chris Ivory isn’t a fit in the offensive system the Jets plan to implement this season but as we creep closer to training camp we’ve heard quite the opposite. According to Head Coach Todd Bowles, Chris Ivory will enter camp as the teams number one back. As Cole Patterson stated in yesterdays TOJ Roundtable, Chris Ivory tends to run better in wide open offenses and in Gailey’s spread attack Ivory should see much wider running lanes than he’s used to the past two seasons. Ivory’s “injury prone” label is a bit of a misnomer considering he’s only missed one game in the past two years due to injury. You tend to hear about his lingering issues and how banged up he may be through the course of the season but during his tenure as a Jet he’s been nothing but reliable.

Ivory posted career highs in both attempts and touchdowns last season despite some questionable play-calling down in the redzone. Even though the backfield looks to be much more crowded this year Ivory should be called on a lot more this season to get those goal line touches and add to his touchdown total.

Bilal Powell chose to remain a Jet rather than follow Rex Ryan up to Buffalo this offseason when he re-signed with the Jets on a one year deal. Powell is the most versatile back on the roster as he can run between the tackles, pass protect and catch the ball out of the backfield. The current staff seems to be high on Powell and believes he was completely underutilized by the last regime. After nearing 700 yards in 2013 the Jets opted to hand the ball to Chris Johnson in relief of Ivory last year leaving Powell with just 33 attempts. It’s safe to say that Powell should see the field much more this season especially as the team’s primary third down back.

The Jets brought in two veteran backs who have both led their former teams in rushing in the past. Stevan Ridley and Zac Stacy, both talented running backs but not without some concerns. Ridley’s biggest concern being if he’ll be able to bounce back and return to form after reconstructive knee surgery. Ridley would be able to provide fresh legs and help wear down a defense while giving Ivory a breather in between drives if healthy. Ridley’s primary goal is to be ready by week one, if not look for him to start the season on the PUP list in the meantime.

Stacy found himself traded on draft day after the Rams selected Todd Gurley in the first round. Stacy will provide the Jets some insurance if Ridley has a setback in his return from injury. Acquired for just a 7th round pick Stacy had an impressive rookie season but lost out on carries last year to Tre Mason. Stacy isn’t as big as Ivory but has a similar, physical running style.

AFC East Rank: 2nd (ahead of New England and Miami)

AFC Rank: First Tier

Question: Should the lack of a superstar running back drop the Jets into the second tier of running backs in the AFC?