The New York Jets offense has been most effective when they’ve had success running the ball. Workhorse back Chris Ivory has handled the bulk of the load rushing this season, putting up some impressive numbers (115 Att, 518 Yds, 4.5 Avg, 4 TD) but his production has tailed off during the team’s two game losing streak (32 Att, 58 Yds, 1.8 Avg, 1 TD).
Ivory brings a bruising style of running as he consistently gains yards after contact. Unfortunately, this hard-nosed style takes a toll on his body as the physical pounding can wear the running back down. Already on pace to surpass his career high in carries (198) with 115 rushing attempts in six games this year, and dealing with a hamstring issue, Ivory’s workload will need to be monitored for the rest of the season.
A committee approach
In 2014 the Jets had a backfield of Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson, and Bilal Powell which allowed for more of a running back by committee approach with Ivory still seeing most of the duties. Last season, Johnson had a modest year rushing the ball (155 Att, 663 Yds, 4.3 Avg, 1 TD) but did contribute in the passing game having 24 receptions for 151 yards and a touchdown. The Jets re-signed Powell, a third-down back, who would need to take on more of the load than his 33 carries in 2014, but so far Powell has had an unimpressive injury filled 2015 season.
Release of Johnson a mistake?
The Jets decided to part ways with Chris Johnson releasing the running back, saving the team $3.5 million in salary. The decision to move on from Johnson may have been influenced by an off-the-field issue as the running back was facing gun possession charges, which were eventually dropped. After his release Johnson was injured in a drive-by shooting actually still having a bullet remaining in his shoulder.
The running back later signed with the Arizona Cardinals and is having a solid year running the ball (141 Att, 676 Yds, 4.8 Avg, 3 TD). There were many factors in the Jets’ decision to move on from Johnson, but given his current production wonder if the team should have considered retaining him with the lack of depth currently at the position?
A missed opportunity?
Former Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller seemed to be the perfect offseason replacement for the departed Johnson. Spiller had a career year on offense in 2012 as a member of the Bills with 1,703 total yards and 8 touchdowns. New Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey was Spiller’s head coach that year and it seemed he would be a great fit. Spiller eventually signed with the New Orleans Saints with the Jets never really emerging as a suitor for the running backs services.
A risky signing
Instead new Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan decided to address the running back depth by signing former New England Patriot Stevan Ridley. Known more for his ability as a runner than a receiver, only having 23 receptions during his years in New England, he was seen as the complement to Ivory that could handle a portion of the rushing load. There was a concern with this signing as Ridley was coming off a major knee injury suffered in October of last year and would he be able to start the 2015 season? Ridley was placed on the Physically Unable to Preform (PUP) list entering training camp and remained there until being activated for last week’s game against the Oakland Raiders but saw no action.
Another addition at running back
The Jets did add former St. Louis Rams running back Zac Stacy during the 2015 draft trading away a seventh round pick. So far this season, Stacy has not been much of a factor in the run game having 30 carries for 86 yards with a 2.9 per-attempt average.
A disturbing statistic
The Jets have established their identity as a ball control offense which flows when the running game is working. In fact, they haven’t won when their net rushing yards were less than a hundred. The Jets are relying on a strong performance by Chris Ivory week-in and week-out for the offense to be successful.
Did the front office do enough?
Mike Maccagnan has received much praise for the way he addressed the Jets needs, but his offseason handling of the running back position has left the team extremely thin up to this point. Right now his decision to obtain a running back coming off a serious injury as a major contributor definitely comes into question. The team will need to see Stevan Ridley back on the field and producing, reducing the wear and tear on Chris Ivory, if this offense is going to have sustainable success down the stretch of the season.
The Jets will go as far as the running game takes them, but they can’t simply rely on just Chris Ivory to dominate each week. It will be imperative for the other backs on the team, especially Ridley, to step-up keeping their rushing attack as one of the tops in the league.