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Run Game Featured Forté Early, Powell Late

Both Tailbacks Had Some Outstanding Moments in '16 and Could Form 1-2 Punch Again in '17


Last Season Review
The year began with the ball in Matt Forte's hands and ended with Bilal Powell running the show. Forté was job one for Mike Maccagnan to open the 2016 free agency signing period, arriving as an unrestricted free agent from the Bears to replace the departed Chris Ivory as the Jets' featured back. Forté started impressively with 155 yards from scrimmage in the opener against Cincinnati, three touchdowns in the Game 2 win at Buffalo, and a pair of two-TD games in the back-to-back midseason wins over Baltimore and Cleveland.

Forté finished with 1,076 YFS, the ninth time in his nine-year career he came in over 1,000, and eight TDs. But knee and shoulder injuries took their toll to where he got only 19 snaps in Games 13-14 combined and sat out Games 15-16. He wound up with the lowest single-season rush-yardage (813) and receptions (30) totals in his career.

Enter Bilal. For the second straight year Powell had a powerful closing kick. His fresh legs and quick-cut style enabled him to take over in San Francisco with 145 rush yards and the game-winning 19-yard TD run in overtime. The sixth-year man posted a number of career season highs: rush yards (722), receptions (58), scrimmage yards (team-leading 1,110), touchdowns (5) and team-topping totals in first downs (46) and third-down conversions (22).

Those two backs (no other RB had more than 37 offensive plays all season) were in the forefront of a rush offense that finished 12th in the NFL in yards/game and 14th with 4.31 yards/carry.

Best Images of the Jets Running Backs During the 2016 Season

Looking Ahead
Both Forté and Powell are expected back. Head coach Todd Bowles said Powell "did a lot the last four weeks to show me he can be that kind of back," meaning the bellcow of the backfield. Forté has shown that, too, over his distinguished career. He had arthroscopic knee surgery right after the season and Bowles said he "should be fine going forward." He is also 31 years old, so could there be a rebalancing of the RB duties? In the first 12 games, Forté got 59% of the offensive reps to Powell's 41% and 74% of the touches.

Khiry Robinson, another early free agent signing last March, began the offseason rehabbing a broken leg, was waived in September, re-signed in December, and finished the year on Injured Reserve. He is a restricted FA. Romar Morris injured his shoulder in the first preseason game and spent the rest of the year on IR. Brandon Wilds and Brandon Burks also saw action in Game 16 vs. the Bills.

And the offense, which spent all of this past season without a true fullback on the roster, has signed two FBs to reserve/future deals — Julian Howsare, who'll be in his third offseason with the Green & White, and Chris Swain, the Navy product who finished the season on the practice squad.

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