FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Chris Ivory is a marked man.
The New York Jets running back knows it. Defensive coordinators around the league sure do, too.
“Yeah,” Ivory said with a smile after practice Thursday. “But I don’t like to say that.”
He speaks with his play — loud, physical runs that set the tone for the Jets. Stop him, teams surmise, and you can derail New York’s offense.
“Chris is a great running back and he’s definitely the jumpstart to our offense,” fullback Tommy Bohanon said. “When he’s having a good game, we’re all having a good game. He’s kind of the cog that keeps us running.”
So, it makes sense that the offense has struggled a bit the last few weeks as Ivory tries to find the running room that got him off to such a great start.
He ranks 11th in the NFL, and second in the AFC, with 518 yards rushing. But in his last two games, losses at New England and Oakland, Ivory has just 58 yards on 32 carries. That’s after a combined 312 yards rushing in his two previous games.
“It starts up front,” Ivory said. “We have to do a better job up front and know our assignments. We prepared well this week, so maybe it’ll show out on the field.”
Ivory has been consistent in his assessment of what made the running game so effective early on, complimenting wide receivers such as Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker for their presence outside, and his offensive line for opening holes and making the running backs’ jobs easier.
Last week at Oakland, Ivory was held to just 17 yards on 15 carries as the Jets moved away from the run after falling behind early and eventually losing 34-20.
“I feel like there were a lot of missed assignments,” he said of the offensive line, “but coming in this week, we corrected those missed assignments.”
The next test will be Sunday at home against Jacksonville, a defense that ranks 14th against the run.
“He can make something out of nothing, and his will, I think, is what shows up,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. “So, definitely have a tackling plan for him — a lot of guys to the ball taking good angles.”
Ivory is expecting, from what he has seen on film, that the Jaguars will try to load up the box and try to stifle the run game.
That could potentially open some lanes on the outside, which is how Ivory was battering teams at the start of the season. He said he was able to turn the corner and beat defensive ends, but then linebackers started containing the outside, making him less effective in the past few games.
Ivory was asked if, in his third season with the Jets — and first as a true featured back — teams know who he is now. He was buried on the depth chart during his first three years in New Orleans and then shared carries the last two seasons in New York.
“I think they already knew who I was, at least the guys in our division,” Ivory said. “To me, they’ve shown that they know we have a good running game and they know that so far, these past two weeks, the focus has been on stopping the Jets’ run game.”
Ivory insisted he doesn’t think it’s all about him when it comes to opponents drawing up plans to stop the Jets’ offense, which ranks seventh in the league in rushing. He talked about the run game as a whole being a threat, and again mentioned how everything starts with the offensive line.
“Defensive coordinators from other teams are watching and seeing how the offensive line gets off their blocks, how aggressive they are, and seeing what I’m able to do after I get into the secondary,” he said. “It makes it tough for them where they say, OK, we’re going to focus on stopping the run.
“They feel like when they stop the run, we’re one-dimensional.”
Ivory is still well on pace for his first 1,000-yard season — and, finally, earning lots of respect around the league.
“I think my play,” Ivory said after pausing to choose his words wisely, “is being noticed.”
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)