New York Jets Running Backs: Full Evaluation and Depth Chart Analysis
New general manager John Idzik made it a distinct priority this offseason to improve upon the New York Jets' stagnant rushing game.
Last season, the Jets averaged just 3.8 yards per carry, which put pressure on the passing game, and second-rate QB Mark Sanchez failed to deliver.
The Jets have seemingly replenished the ground attack to the point of relevance. However, this season will invoke significant contributions from players that have never handled a bulk of the carries on offense.
New feature back Chris Ivory will lead a band of cast-offs that were complementary players at best last season. Ivory is destined to earn more touches than the Jets' other three running backs: Bilal Powell, Mike Goodson and Joe McKnight.
Each player will supposedly have a distinctive role in the team's new offense, in accordance with new OC Marty Mornhinweg's guidance, but it's highly unlikely for all four backs to be delegated entirely different roles on offense.
The following slideshow is a depth chart analysis of the running backs on the Jets' roster:
Joe McKnight has openly stated that he won't easily relinquish a slot on the Jets' depth chart.
The perennial kick returner certainly supplies value to a team seemingly bereft of playmakers, although he's failed to develop into the change-of-pace player that the Jets hoped he would become after selecting him in the fourth round of the 2010 draft.
McKnight has averaged 4.5 yards per carry on 112 attempts in three seasons as a pro. He's sporadically demonstrated the ability to be a pass-catching back, reeling in 13 receptions for 139 yards in 2011, but he's mostly been used in various off-set formations and third-down situations.
He's inconsistent despite flashing a few moments of excellence, like his 107-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Ravens in 2011. He ultimately isn't durable enough to be a reliable running back in the NFL.
McKnight is destined for a steady career on special teams as a kick and punt returner because of electric speed burst ability. He's racked up 2,145 return yards and two touchdowns over the past two seasons, averaging 31.6 and 27.5 yards per return, respectively.
Mike Goodson made headlines last week after being arrested for drug and weapon possession. Since then, he's pleaded not guilty. New Jersey state legislation indicates that conviction of unlawful possession of an unregistered weapon is punishable to a minimum sentence of three years in prison under the Graves Act.
Goodson will be hard-pressed to avoid headlines this season, but not just because of off-the-field antics. The Jets are relying on Goodson to be a playmaker on offense.
It's unknown how new GM John Idzik will handle the situation, but it seems apparent that he'll allow the legal process to play out before making a decision to outright release Goodson.
It's arguable that Goodson possesses a pivotal skill set in accordance with the Jets' new-look West Coast offense. It's unknown how dynamic of a receiving threat Ivory can be, but Goodson has skill in that regard.
He's pulled down 59 receptions for 524 yards and a touchdown in four seasons as a complementary player with the Panthers and Raiders. He's also averaged 4.5 yards per carry on 160 career attempts, good enough for 722 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
The Jets' offense could ultimately suffer by cutting Goodson, although criminal activity might outweigh the advantages of keeping a potential scoring threat on the roster.
Bilal Powell demonstrated above-average athletic ability en route to a successful sophomore campaign at the pro level last season. He outplayed former Jets feature back Shonn Greene, earning notoriety as a potential game-changer on offense.
The team's brain trust doesn't foresee Powell as a difference-maker, though, which became apparent after Idzik opted to sign troubled RB Mike Goodson before trading for new feature back Chris Ivory.
Powell will likely see decreased playing time in 2013, barring injury. He's a durable brand of running back that can handle 20-plus carries per game, but he lacks breakaway speed and seldom breaks multiple tackles.
The Jets' revamped strategy on offense is contingent on the backs' receiving prowess. It's unknown if Powell has the skill set to match those standards. He's not thought to be the type of player that can yield a bounty of yards after the catch.
Powell has averaged 8.2 yards per catch on 18 career receptions. He rushed for 437 yards on 110 carries last season.
He'll serve as a sufficient complement to Ivory, but he won't earn a bulk of the action like some had presumed after the team cut ties with Greene.
Jets feature back Chris Ivory didn't see the field much during his time with the New Orleans Saints. Now, he's primed to earn the bulk of the touches for the green and white.
Ivory endured a steady decrease in playing time after starting four games and rushing for 716 yards on 137 attempts in his rookie season. He played in just 12 games over the past two seasons, racking up 591 rushing yards on 119 carries.
He's caught a mere three pass attempts for 32 receiving yards in his pro career, leading critics to question his ability to succeed in Mornhinweg's West Coast offense.
Ivory was never granted the opportunity to prove himself to be a dynamic player in the NFL, however. He's averaged 5.1 yards per carry on 256 total carries in his three-year career, and he's found paydirt eight times.
Ivory has never been "the guy" in his pro career. That changed when the Jets opted to trade a fourth-round pick for him, though.
Ivory is a bench player that's about to be put under a microscope in America's biggest city. He better be ready for it.