On one memorable play this offseason, Marty Mornhinweg inserted four running backs onto the field. With the cloudy landscape at WR and TE, the Jets offensive coordinator may be forced to rely heavily on the backs in preseason play and into the fall. And the backs are expected to take on a more prominent role in the passing game in 2013 than last season.
"I'll use all eligible runners and receivers, and I'll use the fellows that aren't starters," Mornhinweg said. "If they've got one strength, I'll try to utilize that somewhere during the game and quite possibly multiple times."
While Chris Ivory showcased adequate hands in offseason workouts, the former Saint had just three receptions in three seasons with the Saints. Mike Goodson and Bilal Powell figure to be more likely candidates to be receiving options out of the backfield.
Goodson didn't get off to a great start with his new club as the free agent addition faces weapons and marijuana charges for a May incident in Denville, NJ. The Jets are letting the legal process play out and Goodson hopes he can make some noise on the field this summer.
"I wasn't always considered a big back, so I've always tried to be a little bit more on the tougher side or go a little harder just to make up for it," he said on a "Jets Talk LIVE" installment. "But I consider myself a complete back and intensity is what I'm going to bring to the team."
Goodson might be the fastest player on the roster. A 4.4 speedster who averaged 6.3 yards a carry last season in Oakland, Goodson hauled in 40 receptions for the Carolina Panthers in 2010.
"I kind of think of that as a big asset of my game is catching the ball out of the backfield and running routes on linebackers," Goodson said.
"He actually does a good job running some direct snap stuff as well," added Ryan. "Obviously he is good out of the backfield as we know with his recent past with Oakland… We know he can catch a football out of the backfield. His speed just jumps out at me."
Powell, who was the soundest RB pass protector in 2012, continued to shine in the spring. His 17 receptions in 2012 were second to the departed Shonn Greene (19) as the Jets 30th ranked pass attack was stymied most of the season.
Throughout his career as a play-caller, Mornhinweg has taken advantage of the backs in the pass game. Most recently in Philadelphia, Eagles RB LeSean "Shady" McCoy registered 54, 48, 78 and 40 receptions the past four seasons with 8 TDs.
Joe McKnight, who practiced with the receivers last season and lined up at WR on a few plays in offseason work, also was motioned out on occasion by Mornhinweg. Best known to date for his success as a kick returner, McKnight has the talent to be a factor in space. John Griffin, a first-year player from UMASS, will also try to get himself in the mix for more reps.
"There are a lot of things that goes into this offense for the backs. We have to check protection, but if we have no protection — then it's just you 1-on-1 with the linebacker," McKnight said. "It's up to you to make the plays and if you can show Coach Mornhinweg you can make plays, then he'll get you the ball."