Rumors of the demise of the New York Jets ground game have been greatly exaggerated.
This past offseason, the Jets made Chan Gailey the team's fourth offensive coordinator over the past five years. With his hiring came a spread offense that emphasizes stretching the field horizontally with quick reads, all to open up things down the field. The 'Ground & Pound' was declared dead, the offensive emphasis of running the ball that had prevailed for much of the last six seasons under now deposed head coach Rex Ryan.
The air game was set to rule, running the ball was archaic and the Jets talented backfield that included the immensely effective Chris Ivory was going to be neutered. Might as well simply cut them all and save the cap space.
On Sunday in a 31-10 win over the Cleveland Browns, the Jets ran the ball 36 times for 154 yards. Last year, the team was the third-best rushing offense in the league and yet they averaged just under 32 carries per game. Granted, Week 1 is a small sample size but what it does show is that pass-happy Gailey is fully willing to feed the hot hand and run the ball down an opponent's throat if need be.
"It was a good mix, we started off trying to pound it. They had a lot of people in the box but once we got to throwing it, that helped it a lot. They had to worry about pass then and not just the run," Ivory told Metro.
"That was the plan, to come out and run the ball, establish the ground game early. They came in with a loaded box first quarter, second quarter. We had a few good runs here and there but come second half it opened up. "
The irony is that while Gailey is known as a passing offense guru, in 2012 during his last year as head coach of the Buffalo Bills, his team was sixth in rushing offense (ironically, Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Jets starting quarterback was his starter there as well). 'Ground & Pound' as a philosophy might be dead but running the ball and running it a lot is alive and well.
Given that the Jets have Ivory as well as Bilal Powell in their backfield as well as Stevan Ridley possibly returning from his knee injury sooner rather than later, the Jets have as deep of a backfield as any in the division. Gailey is no fool and his team will run the ball plenty as the season winds on.
"Running the ball isn't going anywhere," tight end Kellen Davis said. "We're going to run the ball because we have some great backs there. [Against the Browns] it took some work early but we got it going and ran a lot because it was effective."