NY Jets: A major running back problem is developing


The NY Jets are supposed to be a true “Ground and Pound” team featuring several running backs getting the job done, however, a major problem at the position is developing so far this season.

In the Jets’ hot start to the season, “Ground and Pound” was brought back in full force. After 4 games, Chris Ivory – the Jets’ workhorse – was on pace for 1,840 rushing yards for the season. Of course, it was unexpected that this pace could be sustained, but the sudden halt to the run game leaves the Jets between a rock and a hard place given the question mark of efficiency at the quarterback position.

Ivory hasn’t been healthy in a few weeks. It’s quite clear. We know that he has been dealing with a hamstring injury – which would obviously hamper his numbers – but someone needs to be able to pick up some of the slack if or when he goes down again. The Steelers are a prime example of this, easily being able to insert DeAngelo Williams into the starting lineup after LeVeon Bell was put on IR. Williams is a starter-quality running back. Not too many teams have this luxury, and not too many of these running backs are on the market.

With the possibility of a Bryce Petty or a Matt Flynn (if he is signed) starting in the future depending on how Ryan Fitzpatrick handles his thumb injury, the Jets will need to simplify the offense for a quarterback being thrown into a fire. It doesn’t matter that they’re playing the Jaguars. The Jaguars do have an NFL defense, and neither of these two quarterbacks have a ton of experience running the Jets’ NFL offense in a game that counts if Fitzpatrick struggles. They need to be able to give the ball off to a healthy, effective running back frequently.

There are several options the Jets need to evaluate and explore both internally and externally. Neither Zac Stacy nor Bilal Powell are getting the job done as second fiddle. Combined, they have rushed for just 215 yards on 68 carries. That’s just 3.2 yards per carry, which doesn’t get it done in the NFL.

Of course, Powell has been dealing with some injuries, and for some reason Stacy – who is the size of a fullback – has been assigned kickoff return duties, both hampering their viability in the run game. Either the team needs to bring in some fresh legs from outside the organization or they need to give one of these guys the ball for a solid 15-20 carries on Sunday.

Oct 4, 2015; London, United Kingdom; New York Jets running back Zac Stacy (30) is pursued by Miami Dolphins i left end Derrick Shelby (79) in Game 12 of the NFL International Series at Wembley Stadium.The Jets defeated the Dolphins 27-14. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Stevan Ridley has been another mystery for the Jets. While he was deemed healthy for the matchup against the Raiders, he touched the football zero times. This clearly means he wasn’t healthy, or that he is wasting a roster spot. Ridley, who ran for over 1,200 yards as a Patriot in 2012, could be a help for the Jets’ running game. Of course, he’d have to be healthy for that to happen. He’s been dealing with a knee injury, which is kind of a big deal for a running back.

In terms of options outside the organization, there are several ways they could go. To me, I think the Jets do not have a choice at this point as they need to look for someone who can readily relieve Ivory. Some names to consider include Ben Tate, Joe McKnight or Peyton Hillis.

Tate is just 27, and had a prominent role as Arian Foster‘s backup in Houston. Having someone who has experience in a relief role could be beneficial to the Jets’ run game. With 4.4 yards per carry on average over his career, Tate has explosiveness that the Jets run game needs. He’s clearly available, as he recently worked out for the 49ers. I imagine that the organization cringes every time Chris Johnson breaks another run in Arizona. Clearly his situation was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with Gang Green. He would be the perfect fit.

McKnight is a former Jet who is still just 27 years old. I understand that this name being thrown out there may come as a surprise, but he could fit the bill on a variety of fronts. He could be the speed back that the Jets need to compliment Ivory’s bruising style, or at the very least he could handle kickoff return duties, which would leave Stacy more available in the run game.

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McKnight hasn’t legitimately played in the NFL since 2012, and tore his achilles in 2014. However, our friends at KC Kingdom mentioned the possibility of the Chiefs bringing him back prior to the start of the season, so he is clearly available.

Hillis, featured on the cover of Madden 2012 after a breakout season with the Browns, has not been the same since he left Cleveland. He has not had more than 85 carries in a season since then, despite a career average of 4.1 yards per carry. He is still on the right side of 30, and has little wear and tear. He is a tank of a human being, and could be a low-risk high-reward pickup. Who is to say what would happen if he routinely received carries?

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