The New York Jets have seen their running backs deal with all sorts of problems this training camp, from injuries to legal issues to whatever strange event occurs next in Joe McKnight‘s life. The one player who has been a constant presence through the storm is Bilal Powell, the third year player from Louisville.
Powell has been the number one running back in training camp due to the Chris Ivory‘s hamstring injury, and he was one of the most impressive players for the team in Cortland. Powell struggled mightily in the Jets’ first preseason game, as he managed to total just 14 yards with his nine carries and one yard on two receptions.
Ivory returned to the lineup for the second preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, a development that many thought would relegate Powell to a backup role. Instead, Powell responded with a monster game, rushing for 68 yards on seven carries, good for a ridiculous 9.7 YPA.
Needless to say, he will not have that kind of average this season. However, the important thing is the explosiveness he showed and the ability to be a big play back for the Jets.
The Jets were very cautious with Ivory in his debut, and he only had six carries for 13 yards. Ivory is still working himself into game shape and shaking off the rust from his long absence, so the team is not too concerned about his lack of production. However, the performance of Powell could force the Jets to re-evaluate their plan to have Ivory be a workhorse back and instead lead the team to use more of a committee approach.
With Mike Goodson‘s status still completely up in the air and McKnight less likely to make the team everyday, Powell is becoming more and more important to the Jets’ offensive success this season. Ivory will still likely be the starting running back for the Jets, but Powell will see a much bigger role than was anticipated at the beginning of camp.
Powell has earned his playing time, and if he can continue to improve as a pass blocker and receiver, he could be the Jets’ main third down back this season. Powell is also a solid runner, and he will get his share of carries spelling Ivory.
The Jets have been looking for their recent draft picks to emerge this season, and Powell looks like he has responded to the challenge. If a few more young players like him show similar improvement, the Jets could see their rebuilding process accelerated significantly.