Many people believe that the New York Jets running back corps is the strongest part of their team on the offensive side of the ball. Bilal Powell came off a season where he was solid, and might be the best offensive player the Jets have, based on his production last season. Matt Forte also returns, but has had some injury issues over the past year or so.
That said, the Jets running game was pretty much nonexistent against the Buffalo Bills, where they managed only 38 rushing yards for the game. Both backs offer something to the offense and as of right now it seems like both backs are going to split touches.
The State of the New York Jets Running Backs
The 31-year-old running back brings a lot of experience to an offense that’s lacking in that category at the skill positions. However, Forte did not look good against the Bills. He had a number of drops and lacked explosiveness out of the backfield.
Todd Bowles gave Forte a majority of the offensive snaps in the first quarter last week. This was surprising considering he has been injured for part of the preseason, and what Powell did last season while Forte was injured.
Last season, Forte only averaged 3.73 yards per carry, which ranked near the bottom of the league among running backs. If that is any indication of what kind of back Forte is going to be this year, that is not going to get the job done.
The Jets are clearly in rebuild mode and they want to begin the youth movement. It does not make much sense to play Forte as much as Powell for a number of reasons. Powell could be the running back for years to come.
Obviously there are other components to running the ball, especially when the Bills stacked the box quite a bit in Week One, but that does not explain the dropped balls from Forte. It also looks like age and injuries are starting to catch up to him because of the lack of speed.
Over the last four games of the 2016 season, Powell ran for 411 yards, which ranked third over that span. At minimum, Powell should play the majority of first and second downs every drive. Forte should be the third down back because he is usually a reliable option for receptions on third down.
Powell can add some promise to this offense. The Jets tried to run Forte into the ground last season and his body could not handle the workload. Now a year older and some more game time past him, what signs are showing that this season will be different. Forte cannot handle a hefty workload like Powell can. It’s just another reason why Powell needs to get more carries.
Powell is faster, more explosive and can get yards after contact. At this point in his career, Powell offers more to a struggling offense.
Forte can be cut after this year, and if this past off-season is any indication of the next, he will be gone. Powell needs to be the top dog in the backfield for the Jets for the rest of the season.