NY Jets: Analyzing running back situation heading into 2016
The NY Jets head into the off season with many questions to answer, especially at what to do with their running back situation.
Any conversation concerning the Jets’ running back position has to start with Chris Ivory. He has been the mainstay of the Jets’ running game over the past three seasons. In three years with the Jets, his attempts have increased every year.
In 2013, he played in fifteen games for the Jets and carried the ball 182 times. In contrast this year, he also played in fifteen games but carried the ball 247 times. Ivory was a workhorse this season to say the least.
One of the first decisions the Jets will need to make this off season is what to do with Ivory. He is eligible for free agency this year and the Jets will need to decide what they are willing to pay to retain his services. Ivory posted his first 1,000 yard season of his career in 2015 and might be tempted to test the open market.
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However, the 27 year old running back showed signs of fatigue during the course of the season and as many have noted was mysteriously absent at the end of the Bills game with the NFL Playoffs on the line.
Though a majority of Jet fans would like to see him return, it is not out of the realm of possibilities that they Jets may need to move on.
Bilal Powell is also due a contract in the off season. Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey became a fan of Powell’s versatility when he joined the Jets and a return engagement could be on the horizon. Powell represented $2 million of cap space for the Jets in 2015 and the team will need to determine his value on offense.
Powell was banged up this season, missing five games including the season finale when the Jets likely needed him the most. For the season, Powell posted 313 yards on the ground and added another 388 yards in the air. The Jets would like to have him back but price will likely be the determining factor.
Stevan Ridley was brought in by general manager Mike Macagnan last season and he appeared in eight games for the Jets. Maccagnan gambled that Ridley could come back from injury, but it became apparent this season that there is little left in his tank. Ridley only carried the ball 36 times this season and managed just 90 yards on the year. Ridley is only 26 years old, but after the way Gailey utilized him and the way Ridley produced, it is hard to imagine the former Patriot returning next season.
Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets running back Stevan Ridley (22) runs with the ball as Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Corbin Bryant (97) pursues during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Zac Stacy also came in this year under Maccagnan. Many fans were excited to see Stacy come on board, but the results were less than expectations to say the least. Stacy managed to appear in eight games for the Jets this season before ending his campaign on injured reserve. He saw the ball 31 times in the run game and produced 89 yards for his efforts.
He didn’t add much in the passing game either, producing nine catches for 65 yards. Stacy is under contract through 2016 and is scheduled to earn $675k. The Jets have a series of decisions to make at running back and if Stacy can get healthy, his inexpensive salary may prove enough to keep him around.
A lot of decisions will need to be made at running back before camp next summer, but two things are certain. If the Jets bring back Ivory and I think they will, they must find someone to help carry the load with him. Ivory slowed considerably this season as time went on and it was apparent.
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The second thing that is certain is their attempt to get quicker at the position didn’t exactly work out as planned. Gailey likes to have a change of pace back in his system and the Jets may be looking at the draft to provide it for him. The faces are likely to change drastically at the running back position come next season for Jets, making it a must watch situation as we go through the off season.
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