For the New York Jets in 2015, running back Bilal Powell was a nice surprise towards the end of the season.
Nothing can hide how productive the backfield of the New York Jets was last season. Gang Green’s running backs racked up 1,564 yards on the ground, 724 yards through the air and 12 total touchdowns. Despite his late emergence, running back Bilal Powell was a huge part of the team’s offense in 2015.
The Louisville product had 313 of those 1,564 rushing yards, 388 of the 724 receiving yards and three of the 12 touchdowns. Since 30-year-old running back Matt Forte is now the featured back, Powell might have to do a bit more. Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey utilized him tremendously towards the end of the season, so a full 16 weeks of that same workload could do the Jets wonders moving forward.
In the first few games, No. 29 actually posted decent numbers even when Ivory was getting nearly every carry. He had 34 touches for 131 yards and 13 receptions for 76 yards. The first three contests were against weak defenses in the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles, but no one expected Powell to get the ball that much early on.
In Weeks 4 and 6, the veteran was barely on the field. He had a 12-yard catch along with no rushing attempts vs. the Miami Dolphins and four carries for negative two yards against the Washington Redskins. He also caught one pass for one yard in the match-up with Washington. His injured groin did have plenty to do with the lack of snaps and it eventually kept him sidelined until Week 11.
The Jets lost three of the four games he missed in that stretch and the backfield struggled mightily in his absence. New York’s running backs had 24 touches for 60 yards in Foxborough against the New England Patriots, 18 carries for 28 yards in Oakland against the Raiders, 24 touches for 29 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars and 21 carries for 98 yards vs. Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills. Add those all together and you get 87 for 215 (2.47 yards/carry).
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When Powell returned from his injury, things became much different for the offense.
He added four carries for 22 yards and five catches for 67 yards in Houston against the Texans.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t on the same page with his receivers at all, so Powell’s presence helped get the ball downfield.
The Jets lost the game, but they found themselves another weapon for the remainder of the season.
Powell had himself a slow outing in Week 12 totaling just 35 all-purpose yards on six carries and two catches, although the following contest was his best of the year. He had a mere six touches for 17 yards, however, he hauled in eight passes for 91 yards and a touchdown en route to a big victory over the New York Giants.
Gang Green needed that win desperately and it put them at 7-5 with a realistic chance at a postseason berth. Powell ripped apart the Tennessee Titans the very next week accumulating 36 yards on three carries and 46 yards on five catches. One of which went 16 yards for a touchdown to make the score 20-0.
He would then find pay dirt in the Saturday night showdown vs. the Dallas Cowboys to make it three straight weeks with a touchdown. He had 79 all-purpose yards in the match-up as well. Week 16 was similar to the game in Dallas for Powell minus the touchdown of course. Seven carries for 56 yards and five catches for 34 yards helped the Jets take down the Patriots and give themselves a golden opportunity to make the NFL Playoffs.
Unfortunately, things went downhill for Powell in practice later that week. He failed to suit up for the season finale and New York ended up leaving Orchard Park empty-handed. If he played in the game, the offense would’ve had their spark and Fitzpatrick would’ve had much less weight on his shoulders.
In the end, Powell’s health is what kept him from having an outstanding 2015 campaign for a No. 2 running back. He gave the Jets a reason to give him that three-year deal worth $11.25M, but Week 17 will sting for quite some time.