The New York Jets made a strong push to acquire the services of former Cleveland Browns running back Isaiah Crowell this offseason. The move made sense, following the retirement of Matt Forte, who was used as the team’s main back over the past couple of seasons.
Crowell has underachieved in his first four years in the league, and as a result the Browns decided to move on from him as their backfield workhorse. As the Jets look toward the future with their new rookie franchise quarterback Sam Darnold, they needed to surround him with as many capable playmakers as possible. But for some reason, the team has annually undervalued their own back in Bilal Powell.
Powell has done a great job with the opportunities he has received, which is not as many as it should be. Over the last four seasons, he has recorded at least 4.3 yards per carry in each, but that has not led the Jets to give him the reign over the backfield. They prefer to spell him in certain situations instead.
That appears to be coming to an end. Powell currently sits atop the team’s depth chart, and Crowell has already sustained a concussion during the preseason. Concussions are anomalies, and nobody really knows their extent, until the player stops experiencing symptoms for an extended period of time.
Crowell’s head injury opens the door for Powell to take a massive share of the team’s rushing opportunities. The truth is Powell had already ceased his place as the Jets’ number one back. Taking a deeper look at his stats over the past couple of years, it’s easy to see why they should give him every opportunity to shine. It could lead to a beneficial plan for the team’s offensive aspirations.
In 2016 and 2017, Powell had a yards per carry average of 5.5 and 4.3, respectively. And he has done that with just 131 and 178 carries in each season. The 2016 season truly shed light on his potential. Despite getting just the aforementioned 131 rushes, he ran for 722 yards and three touchdowns. If he is able to sustain that level of productivity with an additional 100 carries, he would accumulate over 1,270 rushing yards.
Powell is a solid all-around running back, who is also good in pass protection and as a receiver out of the backfield. He is capable of hitting a home run at any moment, which can often swing a game in favor of his team. He had 58 receptions for 388 yards and two touchdowns in 2016, and he had similar numbers the year before that (2016).
It seems the Jets should really use Powell in a similar way to the role Dion Lewis had for the Patriots over the past couple of years. Giving Powell 10-15 carries a game, and also showering him with roughly five receptions per outing seems to make sense. In fact, they should probably even raise the number of targets, in order to put him and the entire offense in a better position to sustain drives and keep the chains moving.
With the limited resources in the Jets’ 2018 backfield, Powell has a major opportunity in front of him. Not only is Crowell is dealing with his concussion, but second year back Elijah McGuire suffered a fractured foot. For the first time in a while, Powell has a clear path to touches, without the wrath of his coaches hanging over his shoulder. From what he has shown over the past several years, he should run away from his competition, and put together what could be his best season as a pro.