Merry Fitmas everybody! Only a few days left until the biggest event of the year…that’s right the annual Jets/ Patriots December showdown! For the first time in a long time, this match up actually means something outside of the usual bragging rights, as the Jets are involved in a heated race for the playoffs. Let us take a closer look at one of the aspects that have gotten the Jets to this point; the two headed rushing attack of Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell.
Chris Ivory came out of the gates absolutely on fire his first couple of games this season. Rushing for 460 yards in only four games the Jets and Ivory bulldozed opponents on their way to a 4-0 start! Then injuries started to pile up both for him and for the offensive line, and the Jets stumbled winning only one of their next 5 games. On the current four game winning streak, Ivory has looked better than he did during that middle stretch, but definitely not the same back we saw during the first month of the season. So what happened? Well, part of it can be attributed to the injuries on the offensive line. Mangold missed some time, master run blocker Willie Colon was lost for the season, and Ivory himself dealt with a variety of bumps and bruises. This is mostly due to his running style, which is run from point A to point B and if someone gets in his way, well….he’s getting run over. A great style for fans to watch, but it does tend to have a negative effect on his ability to sustain long stretches of above-average play. He has shown the ability to break runs to the outside this year after defenders have over-committed; but make no mistake, Chris Ivory is a battering ram for a running back. The Jets face an interesting predicament with him this coming off-season when he becomes a free agent. He is only 27, but because of his style of running the football, there is a lot of wear and tear on those tires. You also have to consider the evolution of the game going forward (progression towards a passing dominant league) and the question of resigning him becomes very interesting. Before we get to whether or not he is wearing green and white next season, let us take a look at the other part of the dynamic.
It could be argued that outside of Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall; Bilal Powell is the reason the Jets are on their current four game winning streak. While the rushing stats do not exactly jump off the page (24 carries for 106 yards), they are very solid in a limited role. His real contribution has come in the form of a receiving threat out of the backfield. In the current streak, he has caught 22 passes for 198 yards and 2 touchdowns! If you add the Texans game before the streak, it’s 27 for 265! He has definitely stepped up as a legit option in the passing attack, and you can bet Belichick is telling his defense to be on high alert when he is on the field this weekend. As luck would have it, he is also a free agent after the season. So is he ready to step up into a full time gig and be the back who gets 30 carries a game? Should the Jets even resign him? Let us make some predictions!
After the victory parades and white house visit in the next few months, I predict that the New York Jets will let Chris Ivory go and resign Bilal Powell for 2-3 years. I am a huge fan of Chris Ivory, so this is particularly hard for me to come to grips with. Since he brought his bulldozing, spine-crushing ways to the Jets, I have been a huge supporter. Ultimately I think it just comes down to the modern NFL and Mikey Mac being smart enough to know that running backs are replaceable and shouldn’t be paid very much money. Powell will be a younger, cheaper (unless he wins Super Bowl MVP or something) option that provides much more of a receiving threat than Ivory. The Jets have too many needs at O-line, Linebacker, even CB to tie up money in the run game when there are cheaper alternatives. They could go after someone like Ezekial Elliot depending on where they finish in the draft, or copy the Patriots and do a running back by committee approach that changes from week to week. Either way, do not worry about Ivory; some team will offer him a very nice contract that he probably will not live up to a la Demarco Murray in Philadelphia. Regardless of what happens in the next few weeks, it has been a good run with Ivory, but the Jets have a very serviceable back in Powell and will be able to spend that money to plug up other holes and resign guys like Wilk or Big Snacks. Now let us go beat the evil Empir…I mean Patriots and continue the playoff push!