NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Jets are stacked at running back. It’s the order of things that will need some time to figure out.
The offseason signing of veteran Chris Johnson changed the game as far as who the workhorse back will be. The Jets got by fine last season with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, as the pair combined to run for 1,530 yards and 4.3 per carry, but offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg now has seemingly unlimited options.
Assuming the Jets give Johnson the majority of the touches — and considering that he’s rushed for nearly 8,000 yards over his six NFL seasons it’s hard to argue that they shouldn’t — they’ll have their choice of change-of-pace and short-yardage options.
The picture became a bit clearer on Monday when running backs coach Anthony Lynn told reporters at SUNY Cortland if the season started today the Jets would use Ivory deep in the red zone.
“If we were playing tomorrow, Chris Ivory would be on the goal line, obviously,” Lynn said. “Sometimes in those situations you have an extra defender that you can’t block, and you need a back that can take him on.”
Acquired from the New Orleans Saints during the 2013 draft for a fourth round pick, Ivory is built like a tank and is deceptively fast. The 6-foot, 222-pounder totaled 833 yards on the ground last season on the strength of an impressive 4.6-yard-per-carry average. His problem, however, was nagging injuries, some of which limited his playing time, thus forcing the Jets to pursue veteran help during the offseason.
But as a short-yardage back, the less wear and tear could result in Ivory being a serious weapon for the Jets. Lynn, in typical Rex Ryan-era fashion, took that a bit further, declaring Ivory as “the best power runner in the game.”
Johnson, who ran for 2006 yards back in 2009, is not only the Jets’ best rusher, but he’s also a dangerous pass-catching option. The 28-year-old out of East Carolina is averaging slightly more than 45 receptions per season for his career. Overall, he’s been impressing everyone in training camp, prompting the Jets to think they got a bargain when they signed Johnson to a two-year, $8 million deal.
“We knew that he was playing through an injury last year. With our medical staff, we knew we could get that taken care of,” Lynn said. “We just felt like here, with this team, this organization, he was going to be better.”
Powell, who is often viewed as the forgotten man in the Jets’ backfield but has played like anything but, figures to be used in all situations.
If the Jets choose to keep four running backs, veteran Daryl Richardson is more than capable of providing depth in any number of roles. The Jets claimed the third-year back out of Abeline Christian off waivers from the St. Louis Rams back in May.
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