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Bilal Powell Begins to Make His Presence Felt

One day at a time. That's how Bilal Powell has approached his first NFL training camp.

As the Jets' fourth-round pick out of Louisville, the rookie has entered a crowded backfield brimming with talent. Stalwarts Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson are set to see a majority of the carries, and second-year back Joe McKnight figures to have an increased workload.

As a result, Powell has not seen much action in team drills. But despite his lack of touches, he has found ways to make his presence felt to the Jets' staff.

"I think we're just now starting to see why we took Powell as high as we did," said head coach Rex Ryan during Tuesday's news conference. "He's got some great running skills, and he's a tough kid."

The soft-spoken Powell is coming off a senior campaign at Louisville where he rushed for 1,405 yards and 11 touchdowns on 229 carries, dramatically improving on his 108-carry, 392-yard junior season. The sudden spike in numbers intrigued NFL scouts who were already impressed with his size, athleticism and physical play.

With some coaching, many believed the 5'10", 204-pound Powell could become a productive back in the NFL.  Since entering camp, the Jets' two RB incumbents have helped Powell potentially become an impact player.

"Every little detail counts on this level," said Powell. "I think LT and Shonn are doing a great job of teaching me the offense."

Working with Tomlinson has been an experience that Powell particularly cherishes.

"It's crazy because LT was one of the running backs I liked growing up," said Powell. "Getting a chance to come in, learn from him, see how a future Hall of Famer practices and works and how he approaches things is just a blessing for me."

Ryan has already made it clear that the Jets plan on throwing the ball more often this season. Running backs coach Anthony Lynn says his players are essential means to that end by protecting the pocket and providing a safe outlet for QB Mark Sanchez. Conveniently, Powell excels at both.

"Bilal is a sharp kid and he's a hard worker," said Lynn. "He's pretty explosive. He can catch the ball better than I thought he could."

Powell has never been afraid to absorb some contact. He revels in the opportunity to take on pass rushers and provide blitz pickup in the pass game.

"I'm just being selfless when it comes to my teammates," said Powell. "If I have to stick my body in there and take on a linebacker to protect my quarterback, that's what I'm going to do."

Although the full-house backfield may not be able to offer Powell many touches in 2011, he sees himself making plays in other areas.

"I'm leaning towards special teams," he said. "A couple of guys told me that coming in as a rookie, special teams is something I should lean on. I've got my mind set on that."

Humility is the perfect word to describe the 22-year-old. Quick to deflect praise toward his teammates and eager to accept any role the coaching staff may bestow upon him, Powell understands the role of a rookie in the NFL.

"I'm excited about him," said Lynn. "He's on the runway."

Just another Jet waiting to take off.

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