The Key Is Keeping Ivory Healthy Because As He Goes, So Will Gang Green's Offense

By Ernie Palladino
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Don’t look now, but those recent bunglers in Florham Park are starting to emit an old-timey feeling.

All the way back to 2009, in fact.

While it’s still a bit early to proclaim Todd Bowles’ first team as the scourge of the league, the one thing that can be said about the Jets as they enjoy this bye week at 3-1 is that they look an awful lot like Rex Ryan’s initial squad. And that’s a good thing because Ryan took that team to the first of consecutive AFC Championship game appearances.

Judging by their recent bulldozer job in London that brought an ignominious end to the Joe Philbin era in Miami and began that of ex-Giant and Dolphins tight ends coach Dan Campbell a day later, they will succeed this season in much the same way as Ryan did.

Ground and Pound with some throwing mixed in. And a lot of good, hard defense.

Only thing is, we won’t hear as much about it from the low-key Bowles. He prefers his players do most of the talking — on the field.

They spoke plenty to a Wembley Stadium full of our old overlords Sunday. Though one might wonder how much the Brits understood about the on-field goings-on, the Jets made things quite simple for them.

After all, how hard is it to figure out the collision between 166-yard running back Chris Ivory and the defender he knocked halfway to Tottenham? Any hack of a back-bencher can spot that kind of dominance.

Nor is it difficult to comprehend that one Dolphins receiver after another getting smashed by cornerbacks, more balls hitting the ground than the hands, and a quarterback taking a nine-hit, three-sack beating translates into a really bad day.

For red-blooded Americans of this area — the English may like football, but we KNOW football — it should come as obvious that the Jets are on the move, and it’s no coincidence that the van looks a lot like Ryan’s first ride.

That team isn’t hard to remember. As the Jets have more of a game manager in veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick now, they had a similar one in Mark Sanchez back then. It was the running game that kept that offense going, with Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene beating defensive fronts into submission. The defense was hard to beat as familiar but still-young folks like Darrelle Revis, Calvin Pace, and David Harris helped ransack the league for 31 turnovers and 32 sacks.

As long as main battering ram Ivory stays healthy and capable of producing locomotive performances like Sunday’s, the offense will have a better than even shot at putting points on the board. Keep in mind, too, that Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are better than Ryan had in Braylon Edwards and Jericho Cotchery.

But it is Ivory that will make the offense go. For proof, one need only look at the previous week’s 24-17 loss to the Eagles. Ivory spent all but one play on the sideline with a bad quad, and the offense neither ran nor passed.

The malaise affected special teams and the defense, too, as Philadelphia went up 24-0 before Bowles could get comfortable in his headset.

But Ivory is healthy again, and the defense is churning with anticipation over a Pro Bowl reinforcement in Sheldon Richardson. Unless Roger Goodell slaps him with an additional suspension for his alleged attempt to break the sound barrier with a kid and a loaded gun in his car, his drug hiatus has elapsed.

The big issue now is keeping Ivory in one piece. He takes a lot of punishment. Perhaps not as much as the defenders he grinds up, but enough. As much as Marshall’s receiving skills add to the offense, the one person the Jets can ill afford to lose again is Ivory.

Ryan prayed every night for Jones’ and Greene’s health, too. He had a shutdown defense to go with the Ground and Pound.

The teams are similar. The overall strategy is familiar.

It worked quite well for Ryan.

It appears Bowles has made good use of it, too.