Jets head coach Rex Ryan ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain three weeks ago in a stunt that made national headlines. On his team’s first day of training camp, Ryan may not be so bullish about the Jets running game.
Running back Mike Goodson, who was arrested in mid-May on drug and gun charges, was absent for the first day of training camp after missing check-in day on Thursday. Running back Chris Ivory sat out on Friday with a tight hamstring. Running back Joe McKnight failed his physical Thursday but was on the field Friday and on the active roster. A group of running backs that looked like a possible strength just a few weeks ago is not suddenly replete with question marks.
In the West Coast offense implemented by new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, the running backs will be called upon to be highly involved in the passing offense. For a running back like Bilal Powell, who excels as a pass catcher out of the backfield, it could be a good fit.
“This offense, I really like it, I like what coach Mornhinweg is doing right now. The running backs each have different areas that the defense will need to be on their toes for. There is a lot of things they will be ready for,” Powell said. “Coach is putting us in different places and he is doing a good job of putting us in the position to excel, [and] make the most of our abilities. That’s what’s exciting.”
The running game remains an uncertainty for the team heading into preseason, as they lack the big-name running back they’ve had in years past. Gone via free agency is Shonn Greene, who topped 1,000 rushing yards the past two seasons to lead the Jets’ ground game. In his place are unheralded players who have shown flashes of potential but have to prove it over a 16-game regular schedule.
But despite his rushing numbers, Greene wouldn’t have been a good fit in Mornhinweg’s system and even with Goodson a giant question mark, the running back stable is more balanced and deeper than in year’s past. Powell was very active in the backfield on Friday and Griffin looked impressive catching the ball on short routes and stretching the defense toward the sidelines.
For Powell, this new offense is exciting for his skillset but it remains yet another preseason of change. He has had a different offensive coordinator in his first three seasons in the NFL – all with the Jets. He also had three different offensive coordinators in his final three seasons at Louisville so he might just be hoping that the West Coast offense sticks around so he doesn’t have to learn any more schemes.
“I’ve been through six coordinators in the last six seasons of football. It’s not too big of a deal for me, I just want to get ready. I’m excited,” Powell said. “I just want the season to be started already.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for live updates from training camp.