The New York Jets are looking to have a dominating rushing attack this upcoming season but the real question remains, can running back Matt Forte make us all forget about Chris Ivory?
The running back situation of the New York Jets has taken on a variety of styles and approaches over the past few years. One in particular had a catchy nickname, “ground-and-pound,” which perfectly suited the philosophy of former Jets head coach Rex Ryan. During the Ryan era, one could hear “ground-and-pound,” all the time. Get ready for “ground-and-pound!” “Here it comes.” Okay, you get the point. Yes, it sounded catchy, and the words rhyming made it fun to say repeatedly, but most importantly it worked.
As hard as it seems to believe now, the Jets were actually the No. 1 rushing team during Ryan’s first year (2009). The following year they ranked fourth. Both those were the years the Jets went to the AFC Championship game. Ryan’s third year, they ranked 22nd in rushing, didn’t make the NFL Playoffs and the early signs of struggles were beginning to show. See a pattern?
Of course, there were other reasons the Jets started to slip in Ryan’s third year, but he always emphasized the need to get back to his bread and butter, the “ground-and-pound” style that befitted the team’s identity. He sensed that his team was losing its identity when the Jets didn’t run the ball effectively. Ultimately, the team could not quite get back to that elite rushing attack that defined Ryan’s first two years as head coach, and as we saw later on, it let to his demise and eventual firing.
Fast forward a few years later from the early Ryan years to the Chris Ivory era. Ivory, in many respects, typified the “ground-and-pound” style. Just a tough, physical, bruising style, Ivory would literally plow into defenders and leave them behind in his tracks. In fact, Ivory is as fierce, tough, and grinder of a running back as you’ll see in the game today. But Ivory is gone now.
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Football being the business that it is, Ivory thanked the Jets for letting him flourish by signing a three-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
So, where does that leave the Jets’ running game now?
What’s the 2016 version of the Jets’ running game philosophy?
If they’ve moved on from “ground-and-pound” then what is it?
The Jets decided to sign Chicago Bears’ free agent Matt Forte with a three-year, $12M contract.
But is the signing of Forte enough to make fans forget about the popular Ivory?
The short answer is no, Forte will not carry Ivory’s torch—or, Ryan’s for that matter—as a ground-and-pound style running back. In fact, maybe we need to declare the relationship between ground-and-pound and the Jets officially over? Let it go, Jets fans. It’s been a good run, but the time to usher in a new era, and with that a new offensive philosophy that does not center exclusively with the running game.
So in offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s dynamic offense, Forte will be asked to complement these other pieces. Which suits Forte perfectly fine since he doesn’t have to be the “bell cow” like some other running backs of the recent past, who all needed to be ground-and-pounder types to fit the Jets style.
And even though he’s missed most of training camp, and most likely a good amount of preseason football, let’s not be quick to discount Forte just yet. As he has long proven himself to be one of the best—and more durable—at his position in the NFL, racking up five 1,000 yard seasons, just missing a sixth, and coming within a few good runs in the other two seasons. When his number is called, he’ll be ready, and soon enough Jets fans will be asking, “Chris who?”