The great thing about the NFL is that there are so many positions that every year, there is almost always at least one player who has a breakout year on every team, no matter how good or bad the team is. This is one part in a 32 part segment detailing one potential breakout player (rookies don’t count) for the 2013 NFL season on each NFL team. For the New York Jets, that player is running back Chris Ivory.
When Mike Tannenbaum was fired this off-season and John Idzik was hired as the new GM of the New York Jets, he had a tough job ahead of him. The Jets had 8 starters set to hit free agency and no cap space to re-sign them or to sign replacements. They had to cut 3 more starters just to get under the cap (Calvin Pace was eventually re-signed) and Darrelle Revis was in a situation where he needed to be traded. And this was on top of having one of the worst quarterback situations in the league and coming off a 6-10 season.
The Jets had two 1st round picks after the Revis trade and rookies Dee Milliner and Sheldon Richardson will both be rookie starters. They brought in 3 veterans, Dawan Landry, Stephen Peterman, and Willie Colon, to plug holes cheap, which were nice signings. However, I think Idzik’s best move so far with the Jets has been trading for New Orleans’ Chris Ivory and making him their starting running back. Ivory cost just a 4th round pick and a cheap 3 year, 6 million dollar deal, but he has the ability to be a real breakout star and give them a strong running game once more.
Ivory was a real find for the Saints as an undrafted free agent from Tiffin in 2009. He made the roster as a rookie and though he was never high on the depth chart behind Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush/Darren Sproles, when injuries struck, and they frequently did, he always made the most of his opportunity. In 3 seasons with the Saints, Ivory rushed for 1307 yards and 8 touchdowns on just 256 carries, an impressive 5.0 YPC.
Now going to the Jets, he’ll finally get a chance to be atop the depth chart. The Jets have 5 running backs on their roster currently. Bilal Powell has a 3.7 career YPC. Joe McKnight is not expected to stick on the roster and briefly was a cornerback last year. John Griffin is just roster filler. Mike Goodson actually got a more lucrative contract than Ivory’s extension, but he’s not an every down back was recently arrested for DUI and gun charges. Ivory was named the starter even before Goodson’s arrest, but with Goodson’s roster spot now in doubt, it looks very possible Ivory could be a 250+ carry feature back.
We’ve seen what Ivory has done in 250 carries in his career and it would be huge if he could do that again. He probably won’t do quite that as he’ll be running against stacked boxes more often with Mark Sanchez/Geno Smith under center than he was with Drew Brees, but the Jets actually have a solid run blocking offensively line, so they’ll give him help. The other concern is if he can remain effective when getting 15-20 carries per game for an extended period of time, something he’s never done. He’s also had injury issues. However, he could still be a big time breakout player.