Chris Ivory Emerging as Stud Back for the New York Jets
NFL draft picks—even those of the mid-round variety—are extremely valuable to NFL teams. The fact that a rebuilding team like the New York Jets was willing to part with an early fourth-round pick for Chris Ivory shows the kind of expectations they had for Ivory.
It may have taken a bit longer than the Jets would have liked, but the running back who was the odd man out in New Orleans is starting to justify the Jets' aggressive move to bring him to Florham Park.
Chris Ivory running wild on Stanford in 07. Sigh. https://t.co/pt7l7QxMo8— Joe Baker (@TrackSuitCoug) August 10, 2013
Running against the team that deemed him expendable despite some strong showings when replacing injured starters, the former undrafted free agent out of Tiffin University stole the show as the Jets' featured running back.
Initially, the Ivory era in New York was not off to a promising start. Already carrying a label of being injury-prone, he dealt with a nagging hamstring injury in training camp that slowed his start to the regular season. A flare-up of his injury in the middle of the season pushed him further down the depth chart while Bilal Powell started to cement himself as the primary back.
Prior to Week 7, he had just 34 carries on the season and averaged over four yards per carry just twice. This was hardly an ideal start for a player looking to expand his role on a new team without a handful of established starters in his way.
It was not until a Week 7 game against the Patriots that Ivory finally showed what he can provide when given the opportunity. The Jets fed Ivory and his physical, punishing style of running by doubling his carries on the season in one game.
Ivory rewarded their trust by putting up 104 yards, keeping Tom Brady off the field. Ivory's play was arguably the difference in the game.
Still, Ivory needed to do more than just accumulate yards for one game to emerge as a star.
If Ivory wanted to be a true featured back, he would need to become more than just a two-down hammer; Ivory would have to give the Jets as few reasons as possible to take him off the field.
There was no doubt that Ivory had the game against the Saints circled in red ink on his calendar, but he showed off a type of running that was not expected of someone who has been pegged as a bruising inside runner.
Ivory showed patience, speed and the ability to bounce runs to the outside, making an aggressive Saints defense pay with huge gains on the ground, including a huge 52-yard gain to get the Jets out of the shadow of their own goal post.
Now, Ivory has shown that he can be more than just a banger between the tackles. On his touchdown later in the game, he explodes through the hole, off-tackle:
Ivory's revenge was as sweet as he could have ever imagined. He rushed for 139 yards on 18 carries, good enough for a staggering 7.7 yards per carry in the upset.
Ivory's emergence as the Jets' top running back boils down to two causes.
First of all, he has been able to stay healthy since his last hamstring flare-up. Availability (or a lack thereof) was the biggest concern surrounding Ivory when he was traded; after a few early-season struggles, he appears to finally be over those hiccups, even as his workload increases.
Secondly, Ivory had to be a complete running back who allowed the Jets to keep him on the field without sacrificing versatility. Since Ivory has shown the ability to be adept in pass protection and running in a variety of different styles, the Jets have been able to replace Bilal Powell, the consummate "utility" back, with Ivory more and more with each passing week.
Keeping the same runner on the field not only gives an offense more flexibility, it forces a defense to play Ivory honestly. The better Ivory gets at the secondary aspects of his position, the more effective he can be in his bread-and-butter role as a punishing, physical, inside runner.
There are still seven more games (at least) for Ivory to get through before his injury concerns can truly be a thing of the past, but the trade for Chris Ivory is looking more and more like yet another tremendous roster move by John Idzik in his construction of one of the most surprising teams in the league.
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