If first impressions were the end-all-be-all, Chris Ivory might have been a member of the Jets' bench for much of this season.
After trading our fourth-round draft pick to New Orleans for the fourth-year running back, Ivory cycled his way through the majority of training camp with a hamstring injury and averaged just 2.0 yards per carry on 14 rushes in the preseason.
In his first seven games of the regular season, things improved. Every now and then he demonstrated his ability to pull off a powerful truck-stick run between the tackles, but he was more of a change-of-pace back than anything, averaging 3.11 yards per rush on 74 carries with zero touchdowns.
But then the Saints came marching in to MetLife Stadium, and whether facing his former team caused the spark or not, Ivory's season has taken a 180-degree turn ever since.
In our most recent seven games dating to Week 9 vs. New Orleans, Ivory's averaging 5.67 yards per rush on 103 carries with three scores.
Speaking to the media on Monday afternoon's conference call, QB Geno Smith credited the offensive line for the recent rushing attack success.
"As of late they've really picked it up," Smith said, "and then Chris and Bilal [Powell] have done a tremendous job in the run game and I commend them for it because it makes my job a lot easier when those guys are running the way that they are. It really helps our offense out, keeps us in manageable third downs, and it keeps us on pace."
Ivory has eight rushes this season of 20-plus yards, pulling off one of these long runs on 4.5% of his 177 carries. That's a higher percentage than Thomas Jones in '09 (eight on 376 carries, 2.1%), Curtis Martin in '01 (10 on 349 carries, 2.9%), and Freeman McNeil in '82 (eight on 212 carries, 3.8%).
Furthermore, all eight of Ivory's 20-plus yard runs have come in our last seven games.
"As far as running the ball," head coach Rex Ryan said Monday, "I think the guys are doing a great job, the backs are hitting it, and our offensive line just seems to be progressing a little bit. Obviously now you had a whole season together, and I think guys know each other, and it seems like we're really hitting our stride right now."
Of course, McNeil's season in '82, Martin's in '01 and Jones' in '09 all shared one thing in common: a playoff berth.
"I think things went great," Ivory said of how he's played this season following our 24-13 win over the Browns, "but where we want to be is the playoffs and that's not going to happen. We just have to do what we can right now and end the season on a good note with a win."