In the lead-up to training camp, NewYorkJets.com will be breaking down the key storylines for each position group. Today, we look at the running backs.
The Crow Has Landed
In four seasons with the Browns, Isaiah Crowell averaged 780 yards on the ground and five rush touchdowns. Crowell also can catch the ball out of the backfield as evidenced by his 40 receptions in 2016. The 5’11’, 225-pound bruiser signed with the Jets in March and he’ll take the place of the recently retired Matt Forté
"We like his toughness, we like the way he can slash through and cut,” said head coach Todd Bowles. “He's a tough runner. We think he's a pound-it back as well as having some versatile lateral movement that can play out on the edge a little bit. And we thought he'd be a great younger-legged type of Forté utility guy coming in. Maybe not the receiver Forté is to a certain degree, but running the ball, we thought he would help in the backfield from a toughness standpoint.”
It is hard to fathom that Bilal Powell is not only the longest tenured Jet, but the Green & White’s fourth-round pick in 2011 is also the sixth-oldest player on the roster and will turn 30 on Oct. 27th. Powell, who rushed for a career-high 772 yards last season, continues to produce at an impressive rate. His 4.3 yards per rush in 2017 was right in line with his career mark of 4.4 and he also collected a personal-best five scores on the ground.
Paired with Forté the past two seasons, Powell now figures to share the load with Crowell.
“Those guys are every-down backs and I’m sure they want to be an every-down back,” said RB coach Stump Mitchell of Powell and Crowell. “But we are a football team that has one goal in mind and that’s to win. We have backs who we can keep fresh and that is something we can do.”
On the Fast Track
When asked by a reporter this spring about Eli McGuire, Mitchell responded that the second-year back looked “fantastic” and added that he had a skill set that was comparable to Hall of Famer/former Jets RB LaDainian Tomlinson.
“He doesn't have to live up LaDainian,” said Bowles when asked about the comparison. “He just has to live up to being Eli.”
Like Powell and Crowell, McGuire brings versatility to the table. After getting his feet wet last season, McGuire gave an honest assessment of his rookie campaign.
“The next step for me is to come in next year and stop being hesitant hitting the hole,” he said last winter. “I found myself being hesitant a lot hitting the hole and in this league you can’t do that. It’s something I have to work on, it’s something I need to get better at.”
LT and Flowers
Rookie Dimitri Flowers will look to push Lawrence Thomas at the fullback spot. A standout at Oklahoma, Flowers caught at least four touchdown passes in each of his last three collegiate seasons and his 886 receiving yards rank fourth in Sooners history among backs.
While Thomas switched sides of the ball last fall, fullback was not a new concept for the third-year pro from Michigan State.
“He was a fullback in college before he moved to defensive lineman and people are forgetting that,” Bowles said as spring practices wrapped up. “He blocked for Le'Veon Bell, so it's not a foreign position to him. He's not just learning it, he's played the position. We needed a guy back there. He was the best one on our roster to fit the bill and he ended up being pretty good at it.”
Defined by Depth
The Jets like their depth as sixth-round pick Trenton Cannon, a speedster from Virginia State who will also vie for return duties, and Thomas Rawls, a physical back who ran for 830 yards with the Seahawks in 2015, have also joined the stable. The club might not have stars, but they have quality options for offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates.
“We’re pretty stacked back there in the backfield,” Mitchell said. “Anything he wants to do, he can go home and dream about it and we have somebody in the backfield that we can put in and make it happen.”