Chris Ivory has firmly planted himself as a fan favorite to be the starting running back for the New York Jets. Ivory has been a staple of the Jets’ offense for the last two seasons, and is widely regarded as the best running back that the team has. While fans have been calling for him to be the featured ball carrier this upcoming season, expect him just to be a piece of the puzzle in the Jets’ offense. Ivory’s skill set is at odds with what offensive coordinator Chan Gailey wants to do when the Jets have the football. Look for Chris to see reduced playing time this upcoming season and here are some reasons why:
Pass protection: When comparing Ivory to the rest of the Jets backfield his pass blocking seems to fall short where running backs Bilal Powell and Zac Stacy excel at picking up the blitz. According to Pro Football Focus Chris Ivory was ranked 61 out of 62 running backs in pass blocking efficiency. In a spread offense where Ivory would often be the 6th pass protector his inability to consistently stop the edge rush from linebackers makes him a liability when he is on the field. You can make a case for taking Ivory off of the field in passing situations.
Receiver: Chan Gailey also likes to put running backs in the slot or split out wide on the line of scrimmage, making it essential to have a ball carrier that is an effective receiver. This creates a mismatch in the passing game, as most linebackers struggle covering running backs in man to man situations. Over the last two seasons, Ivory has caught 20 passes, 18 of those coming last year. Running back Bilal Powell, on the other hand had 57 receptions two years ago, and is more than capable of being a slot receiver situationally. Powell may see way more time than last year, as he was stuck behind a overpaid Chris Johnson, whom management felt had to be utilized to justify his $5 million dollar price tag.
Productivity: While Ivory is a punishing runner, his ability to run the football is not significantly greater than the rest of the backfield. Surprisingly both Chris Johnson and Bilal Powell averaged slightly more than Ivory did per carry last year (they both averaged 4.3 yards per carry). Ivory’s production seems to be hampered by the increase in shotgun formations the Jets run, which the team will utilize heavily under Gailey. He is much more effective running the ball when he lines up in the traditional position for running backs. Newcomer Stevan Ridley was extremely effective running the ball from the shotgun formation in New England, and if he is healthy will also take time away from Ivory.
A new offense requiring running backs to be skilled in the fundamentals along with a clean slate for everyone will likely result in reduced playing time for Chris Ivory in the 2015 season. Unless Ivory worked extensively on his pass blocking and pass catching ability in the offseason he will struggle to fit in Gailey’s offense. Being a contract year for Ivory, he may not even be on the team come 2016.