Heading into a pivotal road game is never an easy task. But now going into this game beat up and missing two key parts of their already sputtering offense could be devastating for New York.
The Jets learned Wednesday they will be without running back LaDainian Tomlinson and rookie wide receiver Jeremy Kerley for tonight’s game in Denver. Tomlinson, with an MCL injury, and Kerley, with a minor knee sprain, were both held out of practice on Tuesday and did not make significant enough progress to be considered for the game against the Broncos.
Tomlinson said earlier this week that if the game was on Sunday, he was confident he could play and that he would “definitely” be ready next week against Buffalo. In his place, head coach Rex Ryan said he could turn to rookie running back Bilal Powell, a fourth-round pick who has been inactive for every game this season.
Ryan sees an upward progression in the young player, even though he has yet to make a single NFL appearance.
“It’s kind of like, remember Shonn Greene, when he wasn’t up a few years ago? You saw the guy progressing and all that kind of stuff, and then his work on scout teams and on special teams and all that,” Ryan said. “Sometimes you get an opportunity and you never leave. That’s basically what happened with Shonn Greene. So we’ll see, but I like the way that he looks on the practice field.”
Powell will be asked to fill in for a player in Tomlinson who has just 167 yards rushing this year, but is a big part of the Jets’ third-down offense. Tomlinson has also been a bit of a pest to the Broncos during the course of his 11-year NFL career, including last year in Week 6 as he rushed for 55 yards and two touchdowns in the Jets’ 24-20 win at Denver.
This week has been a bit different for Powell in terms of his game prep as he’s seeing more action with the first team than usual.
“I’ve taken a couple more reps than I usually do with the [starters],” Powell said. “It’s not too much more; Joe McKnight and Shonn [Greene] are taking most of the reps.”
Powell has good hands and deceptive speed, all of which he exhibited in spurts during a college career at Louisville that all too often was plagued by injuries. But since training camp, Powell has steadily been making improvements, especially in the area of pass blocking, something he wasn’t called on to do much in college. He said that he has benefitted from watching and learning from Tomlinson and Greene, making the transition easier for what might be his debut tonight.
“Those two guys are great running backs. L.T. is a great running back. [Tomlinson and Greene] bend over backwards to help me,” Powell said. “The questions I ask they don’t hesitate to answer.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.