Chris Ivory was the disappearing man. One minute, you'd see him. The next, he was gone.
The running back pounded the New York Jets' first four opponents into submission. He racked up 460 yards on 83 carries (5.5 yards per attempt) and four touchdowns.
Then, he vanished into thin air. The New England Patriots held him to 41 yards, the Oakland Raiders held him to 17 and the Jacksonville Jaguars (!) held him to 26. Statistically, the Jaguars held Ivory to one of the worst performances ever by a running back. His 23 rushes amounted to 26 yards, the lowest ever for any player with at least 23 carries.
|Jets RB Chris Ivory, 2015|
|Stats||First 5 games||Last 3 games|
|Yards after contact||3.19||1.38|
|Sources: Pro-Football-Reference.com; ProFootballFocus.com|
In the past three games, Ivory has 84 rushing yards on 55 carries (1.5 YPA) and three total touchdowns. The 84 yards are fewer than he had in each except one of the Jets' first five games. He's been dealing with hamstring tightness over the past three weeks, so some of the struggles might be injury related, but there's plenty of blame to go around for Ivory's poor production.
Ivory, however, was quick to blame his offensive line last week.
"It starts up front," Ivory said, according to ESPN.com's Rich Cimini. "We have to do a better job up front and just know our assignments. We prepared well this week. Maybe it will show out on the field." Ivory added that there were "a lot of missed assignments" in his 17-yard performance against the Raiders.
Generally speaking, it's frowned upon to throw teammates under the bus—whether or not it's accurate. That being said, Ivory might have a point, and if he thought they were missing assignments before, he'll be 100 percent convinced when he watches the film against the Jaguars.
Ivory flexes his muscle to break tackles by 250-pound linebackers in the open field, but it's hard to break tackles when 300-pound linemen are running full-steam ahead into the backfield the second you get the ball. In Weeks 1-6, Ivory averaged 3.19 yards after contact per rush attempt (fourth best in the NFL), according to Pro Football Focus. From Weeks 7-9, that number dipped to 1.38 (tied for lowest in the NFL).
The Jets need to do a better job of blocking up front, or at least getting some resistance out of the offensive line, in order to open those holes for Ivory to get to the second level and pound linebackers to the ground. Jets running backs were tackled behind the line of scrimmage four times on further review.
Guard Willie Colon (knee) and center Nick Mangold (neck) are both dealing with injuries, so the Jets might just need to get healthy before their running game can take off once again.
No amount of help from healthier offensive linemen is going to get defenses to stop crowding the box on them. Over the past few games, the Jets opponents have decided to stifle the running game and put the ball in the hands of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to get the win. Thus far, he's been unable to do so. As a result, you can expect nearly every Jets opponent for the rest of the season to show them defensive looks like this:
With defenses stacking the box to stop the run, the Jets backs don't have much room to operate in the front seven. In that sense, it's up to Fitzpatrick and the Jets passing game to make those defenses pay for their transgression.
Between Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, the Jets should have enough firepower in the passing game to keep their offense moving. The only question is whether Fitzpatrick can stay as consistent as he's been and do as much to help the Jets win as he has done to prevent them from losing.
Ivory needs to accept his share of the blame for not breaking tackles as well as he had in the first five games of the season, but between the bad blocking and the stacked boxes, the Jets' struggles in the running game shouldn't fall square on Ivory's shoulders.