The New York Jets‘ stable of running backs is becoming more of an issue by the minute. Chris Ivory has been hurt, Bilal Powell has been ineffective, Mike Goodson is in trouble with the law and Joe McKnight‘s training camp is getting stranger every day. Ivory should be able to play on Saturday, but his return is not all the Jets’ backfield needs.
McKnight has certainly had one of the more eventful training camps in recent memory. It began with a failed conditioning test, dehydration issues, a head injury that he refuses to call a concussion, an arrest for a traffic incident and now an absurd interview followed by a near collapse on the practice field.
When addressing the media yesterday, McKnight refused to answer any questions about either his arrest or his head injury, repeatedly telling reporters, “I’m not getting into that right now.” The strange events continued today, as McKnight had to stop three times to rest while jogging out to the practice field, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN New York. McKnight proceeded to only make it through 45 minutes of practice before leaving the field.
With McKnight becoming increasingly unreliable and Goodson still very questionable for the season, the Jets are now left searching for a receiving threat out of the backfield. The team added Khalil Bell to replace John Griffin, who broke his ankle in the Jets’ preseason opener. However, Bell is not a receiving threat, and he may not even make the team.
The free agent market is very thin at this point in the summer. Potential additions to fill the role the Jets are looking for include Ryan Grant and Mewelde Moore, but neither is the type of player the Jets want to be relying on. They will have to carefully monitor other teams’ rosters for cuts that could become a useful asset in New York. The West Coast offense relies heavily on backs who can catch the ball, and with McKnight and Goodson out, the Jets have no one who fits that mold.
The Jets could look into trading for a back such as LaMichael James, who the San Francisco 49ers appear to have no interest in using. However, GM John Idzik is unlikely to want to give up draft picks, meaning the Jets are going to be stuck searching through the free agent market for capable backs.
The Jets also need to decide if McKnight and Goodson are worth the trouble, especially considering the financial investment the team made in Goodson. The Jets are trying shed the circus reputation that has plagued them during Rex Ryan‘s tenure, and these two players are not helping achieve that goal. Both have proven to be effective players in the past, but if the Jets are serious about rebuilding with a high character locker room, then they face a difficult choice.
The Jets were counting on the run game to take the burden off of whichever quarterback ends up as the starter, but with the way training camp has gone so far, the running backs may actually be the anchor dragging down the offense. Ivory should help quite a bit, but the offense will struggle without a more explosive player to spell him. The Jets need to get this situation figured out before the season starts, or it will come back to haunt them.