The Battle at Running Back for the Jets

The New York Jets are clearly not giving up on the running game after moves this off-season. After the departure of Chris Johnson, the Jets added much depth at the running-back position. Chris Ivory was still the workhorse for most of last season and plans to retain those duties. Although, the acquisitions of Zac Stacy and Stevan Ridley, along with the re-signing of Bilal Powell, will make this an intriguing competition moving forward.The signing of two starting caliber running backs proves the Jets aren’t quite moving away from the ground-and-pound of the past, and this is a good sign. In order to help Geno Smith or whoever is given the starting job, a strong running game will be essential to lessen the load. It seems that there will be a battle from all four backs in training camp, and each player will serve some type of role in Chan Gailey’s new offensive system.

Chris Ivory is likely to remain the starting running back for Gang Green, barring any setbacks. Ivory has shown over the past two years that he can clearly carry the load and be very productive. Ivory is an extremely tough back that can run over just about anybody. He has also been regarded as “a poor man’s Marshawn Lynch.” Not a bad comparison. Ivory can be best described as a power back that can take it to the house at any time with surprising bursts of speed

Ivory should be able to hang on to the starting job, and will see many of the carries in most games. He has great field vision and his hard running style along with his size makes him exceptionally difficult to bring down. Ivory was also rated the fifth-most elusive running back in the 2013 season by Pro Football Focus. Expect Ivory to still be the workhorse in the running game; seeing around 15 carries a game.

Bilal Powell was given a new contract this off-season, and should be an impactful role player. Powell is most likely the only scat back that Gang Green has. Ivory, Stacy, and Ridley have similar running styles, but Powell is definitely the more unique back. He has been effective in the past for the Jets, especially on passing downs. Powell is one of those players who can make a lot out of nothing at times; taking a short screen pass off for a 15 yard gain.

Gailey will most likely choose to use Powell, once again, more on passing downs. He serves as a great check down target, and will certainly play a big part in that regard in the coming season. Ivory’s one downfall has been his pass catching ability in the flat, and Powell will surely be able to step in for those situations.

The Jets also picked up Stevan Ridley from the Patriots this past off-season. Ridley is a back that has had success in his young career. He is coming off an ACL injury that ended his season last year. The pickup was a bit of a gamble, coming off the injury and there were also some fumbling concerns. At the same time, the Jets don’t have much to lose with the acquisition, as Ridley did not cost too much, and they have many options at the position.

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Photo courtesy: newyorkjets.com

If Ridley can get back to his original form, though, he can absolutely provide another boost to the running game. When given the load of a starting running back, Ridley rushed for 1,263 in 2012 with New England. He has shown the ability to be a force in this league, but just needs to provide some consistency and limit fumbles. In New York, Ridley will most likely not be snagging the starting gig, but can be effective in shaking things up for the offense.

Zac Stacy was the latest acquisition by Mike Maccagnan and company. The Jets traded for Stacy with their 7th round draft pick in 2015. Stacy is also a very young player with a ton of talent. He wished to leave the St. Louis Rams after Tre Mason received the starting nod last year, along with the selection of Todd Gurley in the draft. There was no future for him in St. Louis, but Stacy will compete to play this Jets’ offense.

Stacy was very successful in his rookie campaign, rushing for 973 yards after earning the starting job. He had several flashes early in his career, and his bulldozing style could also be utilized in Gailey’s offense. He probably won’t be stealing the starting job, but Stacy has the potential to come in off the bench and move the chains. When Stacy gets going, he is a player that could see increased carries.

The Jets now have a plethora of running backs for Chan Gailey to plug into in the new offensive system. It would not be surprising at all for Gailey to use two back sets, utilizing the talent at the position. The ground-and-pound style seems to be sticking around for New York. With Ivory, Powell, Ridley, and Stacy, expect the Jets to have a scary rushing attack coming into the 2015 season.

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