Battering Ram RB Has Potential To Be A Star, But Must Stay On The Field

By Jeff Capellini,



McKnight’s head.

Goodson’s sabbatical.

Rex as he lives and breathes.

Those have been the five overriding story lines since Jets training camp opened, and if you are absolutely sick of reading about them, I’m with you 150 percent. The national media has also had just about enough of hearing about a team that many believe will be lucky to duplicate its six-win total from last season, especially as it will be impacted by the lightning rods mentioned above.

I can’t say I blame them. Sooner or later the focus has to shift to something else, something of actual substance.

While I’ve been one of many who has totally overemphasized the importance of the Jets finally getting the quarterback situation squared away, when push comes to shove all the writing and inquiring in the world is not going to speed up Ryan’s glacial decision-making pace. At the end of the day, Rex will decide what’s what when he and general manager John Idzik think the time is right. I applaud them for being thorough, and for constantly feeling the need to prove to the media that they are not beholden to reporters.

Trust me, most of us get it at this point.

McKnight, for all of his athleticism, clearly has issues that go beyond his play on the field. It’s time to just leave him alone. Because at the end of the day the guy’s health away from football is more important than the few touches he will probably end up getting on the field.

Goodson’s situation is odd indeed. Nobody besides the Jets’ hierarchy knows where he is and when or if he will return. But with the way the media has been pursuing this story only to get no answers you’d think they’d instead try tracking him by GPS or assigning agents like in the KGB. Again, leave the guy alone. He’ll return when he returns, not a moment before.

As for Rex and the fascination the world seems to have with his every move and word, he can’t be the story every single day. I mean, sooner or later folks just have to chalk Ryan up to being Ryan. What he says or does now will have no impact on whether he returns next season. Only wins and losses will dictate that, and last I checked the Jets have yet to win or lose a game that matters.

The idea, to me at least, is to attempt to focus on aspects of this roster that will determine what the Jets will end up being. And from where I’m sitting, after the quarterback situation the onus falls on the extremely wide shoulders of one Chris Ivory.

I was a big fan of trying to acquire Ivory last season and when the rumor mill starting heating up in the offseason that the Jets had interest in the oft-injured but undeniably talented running back I started to envision this franchise having a power back with the type of production potential not seen since Curtis Martin’s best days in green.

Just to clarify, I’m not saying Ivory is Martin, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say his statistics, if he remains healthy, could rival what Martin did during his better seasons with the Jets. He’s that big, that explosive and, potentially, that dangerous.

Ivory had the skills to be the starter in New Orleans, but constant injuries forced the Saints to go in several directions, including drafting Mark Ingram late in the first round a few years ago. By the time last season ended, Ivory had become expendable. The Saints are going to throw the ball 70 percent of the time anyway, and the backs they do have, notably Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, are more than sufficient to supplement the Drew Brees air show.

Now, again, if he can stay on the field, Ivory could be with the Jets what the Saints originally envisioned — a bulldozing horse of a running back with both the ability to get the tough yards and to run away from defenses at a moment’s notice.

If you appreciate Ivory’s skill set and couple it with what the Jets’ offensive line should morph into at some point with Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Willie Colon, Austin Howard and, eventually, rookie Brian Winters, you have the potential for a killer running game, a ground attack that could very well make up for many of the shortcomings of the quarterback position.

You could have something like what the Jets had back in both 2009 and 2010, when Sanchez was in the process of learning how to play at this level — a running game among the best in the NFL.

Sanchez’s failure to mature over the last few seasons was amplified because Shonn Greene never became more than what he ended up being and because LaDainian Tomlinson, though still productive, really wasn’t the ideal compliment anymore in a league that largely views the two-back running attack as a must, not a luxury.

But if the Jets can somehow get Ivory, Goodson and Bilal Powell into some kind of rotation, with the latter two used more as receivers out of the backfield and for that needed depth late in games, they could very well again be among the best running teams in football.

They really need to be because it’s hard to imagine either Sanchez or Smith becoming overly efficient quarterbacks at this point. The Jets are still going to have to win the wars in the trenches to win games. We figure they’ll be very good on defense, but if they can dominate some aspect on offense they’ll be that much better off.

I see Ivory as a potential 1,300-1,400-yard back, but, of course, he has to stay on the field for that to happen. If you think my optimism is far-fetched, I understand where you are coming from, but I also ask that you take into consideration Ivory’s career 5.1-yard per carry average. I ask that when you consider that stat you also be mindful that he put up that average not with just 20 or so career carries, but with 256, more than enough to justify my positive vibes.

Ivory should never be confused with Greene. He’s that rare combination of a downhill runner with plenty of East-West agility. He can blast through the middle, break tackles, unlike Greene, make the first guy miss, unlike Greene, and then take it to a higher gear, unlike Greene.

Simply, he’s a major upgrade over Greene.

And if Ivory is going well the Jets will ride him to the ends of the Earth. We know this because even though the Jets have a habit of not exploring the true depth of their depth chart when things aren’t going well, they are without question terrified of their quarterback situation, and justifiably so.

Ivory has a real chance here to become the poster boy for all that’s right with an offense that generally gets it wrong. He can give opposing defenses a moment of pause, make them think twice about stacking eight in the box as a warning sign to Sanchez or Smith that the end is near.

It’s time for the Jets to release their version of the Kraken and just pray he doesn’t end up looking like a guy dressed up in a rubber Godzilla suit.

Because as Ivory goes, so will the Jets, a team that doesn’t necessarily have to be defined by its well-documented inadequacies at the most important position on the field.

Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet

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