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The time from now until training camp can be filled with a mix of vacations and training regiments for players and personnel, but for hardcore NFL fans it’s more of a time filled with vodka and despair.
We’ll be counting down to the June 23rd, report-to-Cortland date, by featuring current players with roster numbers that correspond with the number of days left. For days without a corresponding player, we’ll be featuring other players and maybe some surprises.
29 Days = #29 Bilal Powell
Running back Bilal Powell joined the New York Jets in 2011, via a fourth-round selection out of Louisville. In that season, Powell played in just two games with a minimal impact, as future HOFer LaDainian Tomlinson, ‘Ground-and-Pounder’ Shonn Greene, and even Joe McKnight, lied ahead of him on the depth chart.
With Tomlinson’s retirement — and McKnight’s overall ineffectiveness — Powell was given a greater opportunity in 2012, rushing for 437 yards on 110 carries with four TDs. He added an additional 140 yards receiving. With Greene the number one back — totaling over a thousand yards — Powell added shiftiness, albeit not flashy, to complement Greene’s power. With the Jets deciding to move on from Greene in 2013, Powell would earn his opportunity to shine.
As offseason addition Chris Ivory was brought into the offense carefully, following injuries, Powell started to grow his following in 2013. While not staking a claim to earn majority carries throughout the season, Powell got off to a solid start in ’13, rushing for 149 yards in the Jets’ third game, against Buffalo.
He led all running backs in the AFC in rushing, in the early stages, and rewarded Jets personnel for their depth at the position.
With Chris Ivory’s ascension as the season progressed, many downplayed Powell’s impact on games. However, his reliability in a number of facets, including rushing, but also such areas as pass-protection, provided necessary contributions to the Jets.
Powell finished 2013 with 697 rushing yards on 176 carries (3.96 yds/carry) and a touchdown. He added an additional 272 receiving yards. Some food for thought: his combined rushing and receiving yardage surpassed Chris Ivory’s by 126.
What does the future hold?
With speed back Chris Ivory being added via free agency, Powell’s role on the roster has come into some question. Obviously he’s been productive enough to prove something to the front office, but there’s only so many carries to go around. Add in the fact that the Jets claimed former Rams running back Daryl Richardson off waivers, and the picture gets even fuzzier.
There’s so much to consider even beyond the depth chart, as the Jets may look to balance out the playbook with receiving upgrades in Eric Decker and through the draft.
NewYorkJets.com writer Eric Allen reminds fans to not forget about Powell.
“He is shifty, he can catch the rock and he is a sturdy run blocker. Ivory is one of the best power runners in the game and Johnson should provide another explosive element once he is cleared for full team drills, but No. 29 is a heck of an asset.”
Powell deserves his shine, but it’ll be difficult to find a way to get him the rock, barring injuries. Perhaps the best solution is to use Johnson often in the screen-game, and continue to give Powell a complementary-type role, to Ivory’s toughness.
It’ll be interesting to see how things start to shake out in training camp, at one of the most crowded positions on the roster.