Heading into the 2017 season, the New York Jets have a pair of veteran running backs that have been productive in their career. Who will stand out?
The offseason so far for the New York Jets has featured a roster purge which left them much younger and inexperienced at many positions on their roster. Despite this, the one position that they have a bevy of veterans that have proven themselves is running back. Here are the players that will be fighting to carry the ball in 2017.
Matt Forte – After coming over as a free agent from the Chicago Bears in the offseason, Forte had a productive season in 2016. Forte led the Jets in rushing yards (813) and rushing TD (7), but finished with a career low in yards per carry (3.7). From 2008 (his rookie season) to 2015, Forte led the NFL in yards from scrimmage (12,608), but like all RB that hit 31, their production starts to slide a bit. If the Jets are counting on Forte to be their every down back at age 32 in 2017, they might want to reconsider.
In the 96-year history of the NFL, only 12 RB have rushed for over 1,000 yards at age 32 or older. Frank Gore did in last year, but prior to that its happened only three times since 1990 (Ricky Williams in 2009, Mike Anderson in 2005 and Emmitt Smith in 2001).
Bilal Powell – Entering his seventh season with the New York Jets, Powell has earned the praise of his new RB coach Stump Mitchell. According to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com, Mitchell thinks Powell can be a Pro Bowl back. Despite making only four starts last season, Powell led the team in yards from scrimmage, finishing with a career-high 1,110.
“Bilal is a Pro Bowl back if he was playing by himself, make no doubt about that,” Mitchell said last week at minicamp.
Along with setting career-highs in rushing yards (722) and yards per carry (5.5) Powell finished tied with Quincy Enunwa for second on the team with 58 receptions.
Mitchell has high hopes for both Powell and Forte, hoping to use each of them a lot. The new RB coach plans on keeping each one fresh as to maximize their productivity. The goal, Mitchell says, is to have them each average 100 yards per scrimmage per game.
In 2016 Forte (77) and Powell (69) each fell short of that mark, so they will have to pick up the pace if they want to attain the goal that Mitchell and new offensive coordinator Johnny Morton has set for them.
Elijah McGuire – The Jets 2017 sixth round pick has impressed the Jets during rookie minicamp, and the Jets have big plans for him in 2017. McGuire was used heavily in his four years at Louisiana-Lafayette, totaling 5,695 yards from scrimmage and scoring 52 TD.
Other players like Brandon Wilds and Jordan Todman will get a chance to show what they can do in training camp, but will only see time due to injuries.
Mark Kelly covers the New York Jets for ProFootballSpot.com. You can follow him on twitter @CkmagicSports. Looking for more Jets news and features? Like our Jets Facebook page and also follow @spot_jets on Twitter.