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Three-Man Band for the Jets RBs in 2017

Powell Turns in Another Career Year, McGuire Looks Like a Veteran in His First Run


On the Active Roster in 2017 (GP/GS, Offensive Snaps)
RB Bilal Powell (15/10, 401), RB Matt Forte (12/4, 361), RB Elijah McGuire (16/2, 267), FB Lawrence Thomas (14/4, 151), RB Akeem Judd (0/0, 0), RB Jahad Thomas (0/0, 0)

Potential Free Agents in 2018
Exclusive Rights:
FB Lawrence Thomas, RB Jahad Thomas

Back in the spring, first-year offensive coordinator John Morton told the media that he believed in the committee approach at running back and stressed the importance of keeping players fresh. And while most pundits believed Bilal Powell and Matt Forté would be the two main components of that committee, a sixth-round pick from Louisiana-Lafayette made it a three-man band in the backfield.

In his first professional season, Elijah McGuire rushed for 315 yards while averaging 3.6 yards per carry and also added 17 receptions. McGuire's coming out party came against a stingy Jaguars defense in Week 4 as he ran for 93 yards including a 69-yard cutback run that resulted in a score.

"I think he's one of those guys who just gets it," said veteran back Bilal Powell. "He understands the game and from there, he has room to grow and get smarter and smarter. I think whatever system you throw at him, he can play in any system that an offensive coordinator brings to the table."

The Jets finished 19th in rushing (106.4 Yds/G) and tied for 19th in terms of yards per carry (4.0). But the Green & White found some success with explosive ground gains, ranking tied for first in runs of 40 yards (5) and also sixth with 14 carries of 20 yards.

Powell, in his seventh professional season, quietly turned in an excellent season. He set career highs with 178 carries, 772 rushing yards and five rush touchdowns. After combining for 105 catches in 2015-16, Powell wasn't used as much as a receiver in Morton's attack and finished with 23 catches. 

"He might be top three, if not top two, in the league in elusiveness and it's like crazy moves that you can't even practice," said Forté of Powell. "And he's super quick and explosive, so you have a guy who can do it all and that's just God-given. You can't teach that."

In his 10th season, Forté led the backs with 37 receptions. The 32-year-old, who had never amassed less than 203 rush attempts, had a career-low 103 carries and finished with 381 yards. He made arguably the most impressive play of the entire season, though, improbably gaining 21 yards on a third-and-19 screen pass at Miami in Week 7.

"Broke a lot of tackles and he made a lot of people miss and a few blocks here and there along the way," said Bowles of the conversion. "It just showed his grit and determination. That's been his whole career and how he got in this league. It was vintage Matt and it was good to see."

Switching over to offense in a full-time role, Lawrence Thomas gave the Jets some pop from the fullback position and chipped in with six receptions.

Looking Ahead
After having battled knee issues most of the season, Forté expressed his desire to return for a third year with the Green & White. Still more than three months out from the NFL's 2018 NFL Draft, some draft pundits have labeled Penn State's Saquon Barkley the most talented player in the entire class. If there is a run on quarterbacks early, how far could Barkley fall? LSU's Derrius Guice is another runner who could get his name called in the top half of Round 1. Prior to the Draft, both the Steelers and Patriots will have critical decisions to make on Le'Veon Bell and Dion Lewis respectively.

Top Photos of the Rookies During the 2017 Season


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