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Chris Ivory has been the primary back for the New York Jets for the last two seasons. He’s been the reliable leader of a rushing attack ranked 3rd best in the National Football League in 2014. The running back position is the silver lining through the Jets’ offensive struggles.
Posting over 800 yards per season so far in New York, Ivory is set to once again lead the Jets on the ground in his third season with the team. He’s an explosive back who can break out for long runs at any moment and still the best option for the Jets to start at the position.
As the team installs its offense under new coordinator Chan Gailey, Ivory will play an important role in insuring Geno Smith can find success both on the ground and through the air. Here are 5 things to expect out of Ivory heading into 2015.
Next: 5. Premiere Starting Option
5. Premiere Starting Option
First and foremost, expect Ivory to be the starting running back coming September 13th vs. the the Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium and for the rest of the season. There may be competition at training camp with newcomers Stevan Ridley and Zac Stacy, but this is Ivory’s job to lose and chances are he won’t.
Ridley is a proven back with a 1,200+ yard season in 2012 with the New England Patriots. He’s coming off an ACL injury as his health and durability will be a concern through the season given his history with injuries.
For the St. Louis Rams in 2014, Stacy wasn’t much of a threat. He did have a great season in St. Louis in 2013 when he ran for 973 yards and 7 touchdowns. Ridley and Stacy bring plenty of additional power running but will provide their services behind Ivory.
Next: 4. Sharing Time
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4. Sharing Time
Smith will have plenty of help on the ground in 2015. Ivory will start but his usage will continue to be among the lowest in the league. He only saw 39% of rushing attempts last season, 25th among 32 leading backs across the league.
Ridley and Stacy, if both remain healthy will see their fair share of snaps. Opposing defenses are well aware of Ivory’s lack of skill in the passing game so he’ll be targeted often if he’s on the field, limiting is opportunity to run up the stat sheet. This will lead to Ridley and Stacy on the field, who both provide, even if only marginally, better pass protection and receiving than Ivory.
Bilal Powell will remain the third down back for the Jets and if Smith continues to struggle at quarterback, we’ll see plenty of third downs because of continued reliance on the running game. The Jets will definitely deploy a solid running game thanks to all the depth at the position.
Next: 3. Pass Protection Struggles
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3. Pass Protection Struggles
Outside of running the football, Ivory lacks in a few areas necessary to be considered a top back in the league. He doesn’t offer much in pass protection or even as a receiver. This makes him one-dimensional in the grand scheme of things.
Over his first two seasons with the Jets, he’s only been targeted 39 times through the air for 165 yards. Don’t expect him to have a breakout season in that aspect, it’s just who he is. That’s not anything bad on Ivory, it’s just he’s more of a traditional running back than a dual-option one.
Where we should see improvement, although we shouldn’t hold our breath, is in pass protection. In 44 plays as a pass blocker, Ivory was responsible for 11 pressure plays on the QB. That’s a rate that needs to decrease, even if he’s being used minimally in that particular role.
Next: 2. Breaking Tackles
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2. Breaking Tackles
One thing is certain when it comes to Ivory, he breaks a whole lot of tackles. He came in at #8 for most broken tackles last season with 33, according to Vincent Verhei on Football Outsiders.
Ivory is a consistent presence in top broken tackle lists and his ability to evade the defense is an important component in the Jets’ offensive strategy. If he can continue to eat up yards after contact, he places Smith in a good position to run an effective offense.
Expect this part of Ivory’s game to remain consistent. It’s his most important strength and has proven to be durable enough to sustain that part of his game.
Next: 1. Productivity
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Ivory will continue to flirt with 1,000 yards but will come up short yet again in my opinion. With two seasons just over 800 yards, expect more of the same from Ivory. He’ll get close to it but just miss it slightly.
His lack of receiving and blocking prowess combined with shared snaps with significant depth at running back, Ivory will once again remain in the 800 range, just over or under again in 2015.
The running game of the Jets continues to stay solid without 1,000 yards from any of its backs so not getting their isn’t that much of a big deal. Ivory will still contribute heavily and produce for the Jets’ offense with his consistency. That is what truly matters most for this team.