Powell busy as Jets running low on healthy backs
CORTLAND, N.Y. (AP) — Bilal Powell might be a busy man for the New York Jets this summer.
Chris Ivory hasn’t fully practiced, Joe McKnight can’t stay healthy and Mike Goodson is away from the team for personal reasons. That leaves Powell as the Jets’ top option at running back at the moment.
“We’ll see how everything rolls out from here,” Powell said. “It’s out of my control. My thing is just to come in and put good things on film and allow the coaches to see what the roster or the depth chart is.”
So far, so good.
Powell was perhaps the top star in the team’s scrimmage Saturday night, with six carries for 41 yards — and had a short touchdown run wiped out by a penalty.
“I thought Bilal Powell really jumped out on offense,” coach Rex Ryan said.
He also had a 24-yard run that he nearly turned into a score.
“I was OK,” the 2011 fourth-round draft pick said. “Still got room for improvement. That comes with the continuation of camp and just coming out and working hard every day.”
Powell is a quiet, reserved guy who doesn’t seek attention. Except on the football field.
He could get the opportunity to prove he’s a valuable part of a backfield in which he once appeared to be the odd man out.
The only other healthy running backs on the roster are John Griffin, Chad Spann and newly signed Mossis Madu, along with fullbacks Lex Hilliard and Tommy Bohanon.
“We know what type of back he is,” Ryan said of Powell, who had 437 yards rushing as Shonn Greene’s backup last year. “But with the opportunities he has been given, he has really taken the reins.”
For the first time since 1994, the Jets don’t have a 1,000-yard rusher on the roster. So, with most of the attention on the quarterback competition between Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith, the Jets’ running backs situation should be cause for some concern.
But that’s news to Ryan.
“I haven’t really noticed, per se,” Ryan said Friday. “We picked up the young man Spann. We’re actually using Lex and Tommy sometimes in those one-back sets. When Chris comes back, obviously you’ll feel a little bit better about our depth.”
When that might be remains to be seen.
Ivory is still being counted on to be the Jets’ primary back after being acquired from New Orleans in the offseason. He was productive in his rare opportunities, showing a mix of speed and power, but was buried on the Saints’ depth chart behind Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles.
Given a chance to be the workhorse with the Jets, Ivory has yet to take part in full team drills while dealing with hamstring tightness.
“The hamstring is tricky,” said Ivory, who sat out the scrimmage. “You can feel good one day, and then the next day go out and do something else to it. It’s a feel thing.”
The Jets are being cautious with Ivory since it’s still early in training camp and the first preseason game is not until Friday at Detroit.
″(When I) make it to my first full practice,” Ivory said, “that means I’m 100 percent.”
McKnight has had a frustrating camp, starting with failing the conditioning test before the team reported to Cortland. He has been dealing with frequent cramping that he has attributed to having a low body fat count — he says it’s just 3.3 percent — and the need to stay constantly hydrated.
But now McKnight has a new issue: He has concussion-like symptoms after taking a hit in practice Friday. After carrying the ball during the full-tackle session, McKnight appeared woozy and was examined by trainers. He also did not participate in the scrimmage.
Goodson was signed to a three-year deal in March to give the Jets a pass-catching presence in the backfield. Now, the Jets don’t know when — or if — they’ll have him.
He was arrested on drug and weapons possession charges in May along with a friend in New Jersey. The case was sent to a grand jury in June, but Goodson’s absence is not believed to be related to his legal situation.
Ryan and general manager John Idzik said the team understood where Goodson is and why, with Idzik adding that the team is approaching the situation “day by day.”
That all could open up opportunities for Griffin and Spann. Griffin, who has had some impressive practices, was in camp with the Jets last summer before he was cut. He was later signed to the practice squad, and then to the active roster late last season.
“He really showed up and showed some signs that he was an NFL-caliber halfback in the minicamps,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said last week.
“And then, he’s just progressed from there. He’s had a couple of things. He’s got natural hands, but he put a couple on the ground the other day. So he’s got to play at that consistent level.”
Spann, who was undrafted out of Northern Illinois, didn’t play in the league last year after spending the 2011 season with Indianapolis, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. Madu spent two seasons with Tampa Bay, and has 55 yards rushing in nine games.
The Jets need at least Ivory and McKnight to get healthy in a hurry. Otherwise, it might be a shaky situation that even Ryan won’t be able to ignore.
“You’ve always got something to prove,” Ivory said. “You just have to get out there and do your work.”