In one night, Jets running back Chris Ivory doubled the catch total of his previous 41 games. Ivory, never considered a threat in passing situations is suddenly a reliable part of the check down — and not only the team's top running back but potentially an emerging star.
Ivory came into the game against Chicago with six career receptions and 44 yards in his fifth year in the league. And yet on Monday night in a 27-19 loss to the Bears, Ivory was the Jets' most reliable receiving option out of the backfield.
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He finished with four catches for 52 yards and 40 rushing yards on 10 carries, both tops for any member of the Jets backfield. And yet for a player who had barely produced in the league as a pass-catching running back, it was a breakout performance.
“I always had that. I hadn't really been targeted like that but when I did, I made the most of it,” Ivory said. “I've made the most of it the past couple of games. I've been working on it.”
His blocking has taken a step forward as well, but Ivory will always be known as the type of player who will carry the ball with a blend of willpower and physicality.
Despite the offseason signing of Chris Johnson, a perennial Pro Bowler and perhaps a future Hall of Famer, this is now Ivory's backfield. On Monday, head coach Rex Ryan said “maybe Ivory will get more time.”
“He is certainly running hard. He is doing a great job out of the backfield,” Ryan said. “There are not a whole lot of guys that want to tackle him. He has done a great job.”
The increased role in the passing game is likely here to stay. While offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg didn't tell the running backs they would be utilized more as pass catchers, it is clearly part of the game plan moving forward.
“He's putting a bigger emphasis on the backs catching and being on the checkdown and taking the easy ones,” Ivory said. “Often, I'm the back that is open. I think just knowing that we're trying to go to the backs a little bit. I've actually been catching the ball. Go back to New Orleans. I did it there.”
But six career catches — five of which came with the Saints — isn't exactly a high volume of work.
“Not targeted much,” Ivory said with a big smile and a finger wag. “Not targeted much at all. But Marty has put a bigger emphasis on that in practice, going out and being a bigger part. Going out there and being an option. So we're trying to make ourselves available when everything else fails.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.