As training camps get under way, the New York Jets will have difficult decisions to make at the running back position. Last year's starter (Shonn Greene) already feels like ancient history, and the Jets now have five legitimate contenders at the position. Letting running back absorb five roster spots is generally not feasible, so at least one player is most likely going to end up a casualty in this situation.
I break down the contenders and what to watch for this summer.
A trade acquisition from the New Orleans Saints, Chris Ivory brings something the Jets have not had in recent history, and it is obvious in the video. He has second-level speed, which means that once he hits the defensive secondary, he has the ability to break big plays. This is in stark contrast to Shonn Greene, who would often and frustratingly be chased down all too quickly in the defensive secondary.
On the same theme, Ivory's speed makes him a potential weapon in a West Coast offense. While he was not used much to this effect in New Orleans, if the Jets can get the ball to Ivory on quick routes, he has the elite ability to gain yards after the catch.
Mike Goodson, formerly of the Oakland Raiders, is another player who has second-level speed. Like Ivory, he could potentially excel in the short-passing game, something the Jets have lacked in recent years.
In addition to raw speed, Goodson has the ability to use blockers in the open field and thus make game-changing plays, something we see highlighted in the video. Obviously Goodson will need to escape his current legal situation. If he does, he will remain a top contender in New York.
Joe McKnight is in a fascinating position at the moment. He has been fiery in the offseason and certainly wants to compete to be the starter. He has had a few brilliant games so far in his career, but he hasn't been consistent. The interesting part is that, while he could start, he could also find himself off the roster. Whether he will jump Goodson on the depth chart or be passed over by Bilal Powell and John Griffin is still up for debate.
As we can see in the video, McKnight has great open-field skills, including agility and lateral movement. He is an exceptionally good kick returner, and some of those skills help him as a running back. He is also capable of playing as a slot receiver and even as a cornerback. His diverse skills will likely allow him to earn a roster spot.
After the loss of Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell seemed to be a likely candidate for the starting job. He was the No. 2 man on the Jets' depth chart last year. Now, with all the acquisitions at running back, Powell will have to fight for a spot on the team.
Powell's best asset is his ability to make decisions and commit to them, something Greene struggled with last year. While Powell does not have the top-end velocity of some of the other contenders, when he makes a solid read he can pick up quality yardage, which is what is needed on first downs.
John Griffin is a long shot, but is still in the mix. Since going undrafted in 2011, he has been trying to find a secure position on an NFL team.
Whether Griffin will be able to earn a spot this season is anyone's guess. Five roster spots would be too many to spend on running backs. Unlike the other four contenders, there exists the realistic option to hide Griffin on the practice squad.
If Griffin is to be considered for snaps this season, the questions one would ask would be regarding to his athleticism, speed, ability to catch passes and pick up blitzers.