Running Backs Will Carry The New York Jets In 2014
By Nick Mamary
Five years ago, when Rex Ryan took over as New York Jets head coach, he brought an old-school attitude with him. “Ground and Pound,” as it was called, centered on a strong running game and an aggressive defense. Such principles scoffed at a popular notion that the NFL is now a “passing league”. After former Jets QB Mark Sanchez finally hit rock bottom in 2012, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg arrived to help this floundering offense.
Mornhinweg’s West Coast scheme focused more on throwing the football downfield. While there were moments of rushing success last season, then-rookie QB Geno Smith sometimes had to shoulder too much burden because of play-calling. That being said, Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell helped lead New York to the NFL’s sixth-best rushing offense.
Ivory brings power and enough speed with him when hitting holes. Powell has more explosiveness, but tailed off somewhat down the stretch. More assistance came this off-season as general manager John Idzik added former Tennessee Titans star Chris Johnson. In each of his first six seasons, Johnson has gained at least 1,000 rushing yards. Doubling this output annually constantly serves as a priority. While that original burst may no longer exist, he can still break off big gains.
Joining New York may benefit Johnson from a longevity stand point. He has never recorded fewer than 251 carries in a season. This kind of beating eventually takes its toll. Decreasing touches can add years onto the back end of his career. Rex Ryan has already established a vision where Johnson is part of a collaborative attack. His pass-catching ability will also add value, as he brought in 42 receptions along with four receiving touchdowns in 2013. Ivory on the other hand has only caught five passes in his four-year career. Powell had 36 receptions last year so he is also a dual-threat back. These three players together will create balance for whoever starts at quarterback. Lining up Johnson occasionally with Ivory or Powell could keep defenses guessing. Of course, fullbacks also serve as a vital component.
Second-year man Tommy Bohanon impressed as a 2013 seventh-round selection out of Wake Forest. Though he had just 12 carries on the season, an average of six yards per carry is encouraging. Bohanon can also provide blocking support during both running and passing plays. Size and strength make him a key player on short-yardage situations. With a stable of backs, it is hard to expect the fullback to get a significant increase in carries, but each chance will likely count.
Recent pickup Daryl Richardson will probably serve strictly in a reserve capacity. He does, however, bring an ability to run between the tackles. This skill is something that Ryan likes. Last year, he gained 215 yards on 69 carries with the St. Louis Rams. Training Camp may feature competition between Richardson and Alex Green for a roster spot. Whoever makes the roster will likely will not get too many touches, but this entire group appears deep.
Excellent defense figures to keep the Jets in most games, so if offensive execution follows suit, then Gang Green could contend for a playoff spot.