The New York Jets traded a fourth round pick to acquire running back Chris Ivory from the New Orleans Saints this offseason, believing that he could become the workhorse back for their offense. Ivory spent the preseason and the first two weeks splitting time with third year player Bilal Powell, who the Jets drafted in the fourth round in 2011.
However, yesterday’s game against the Buffalo Bills ended any debate about who the Jets’ No. 1 running back is. Ivory opened the game as the starter, but he could only manage 5 yards on his 4 carries before leaving with a hamstring issue. The Jets then decided to turn things over to Powell, and it couldn’t have worked out any better. Powell had 27 carries for 149 yards, both career highs.
Powell showed impressive burst and speed, surprising considering he has been viewed as an average athlete for the position. Powell displayed excellent vision between the tackles, finding cutback lanes when they were there and making good decisions to bounce runs to the outside. Powell was gained positive yardage on nearly every carry, and he set up Geno Smith with easier 2nd and 3rd down situations.
Powell is now clearly the starter going forward, and expect him to receive close to 20 carries a game. Powell has show that he can be a very reliable and consistent running back, which is exactly what the Jets need to support their rookie quarterback. If the run game can produce four or five yards a carry and draw defensive attention, Smith has show that he can be very effective through the air.
The rest of the Jets’ running back situation is now very interesting. Ivory’s standing is completely up in the air, as the Jets chose to use Alex Green was effective when spelling Powell. It is hard to believe that the Jets would give up on a player they just traded for so quickly, but he has been very ineffective.
Further complicating matters is the impending return of Mike Goodson, who is about to serve the final game of his four game suspension. When he returns he will likely be given the chance to take over the third down role from Powell, adding an element of speed and explosiveness to the backfield.
Although the Jets would surely like to see better play from Ivory, they have to be thrilled with the production they have received from Powell. Powell looks like he is going to be the Jets’ top running back this season, and if continues to play like he did yesterday then he will be a very good option.