New York Jets: Bilal Powell

Despite decline, Johnson worth a look

April, 4, 2014
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The Tennessee Titans made it official Friday, releasing former Pro Bowl running back Chris Johnson. The New York Jets have interest, according to a league source. In fact, they were one of the teams that inquired about trading for Johnson, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported.

[+] EnlargeChris Johnson
AP Photo/Wade PayneChris Johnson will be looking to bounce back after playing through a knee injury for much of last season.
A few thoughts on whether this is a move they should pursue now that Johnson's a free agent:

1. Proceed with caution: If I were the Jets, I'd try to sign Johnson on three conditions: There are no concerns with his surgically repaired right knee; he's willing to accept a deal for fair market value; and he agrees to be a complementary back with Chris Ivory. If everything aligns, he's worth the risk. CJ2K is gone, but any back with six straight 1,000-yard seasons has to be a consideration.

2. The upside: The Jets have a solid stable of backs, but they don't have a home run threat. While Johnson's statistics show a steady decline in his breakaway ability (he had only five rushes of 20-plus yards last season, compared to 22 in 2009), he's still fast -- and defenses would have to respect that. Right now, they don't have a runner that can threaten the perimeter on a consistent basis. Johnson is a finesse runner -- he doesn't break many tackles in the hole -- but they can create space by running him out of spread formations. He's the anti-Ivory, which is why they'd make a good tandem. Johnson would have to be OK with a reduced role. He'll be 29 in September, and he needs to understand that fewer carries would make him more effective and lengthen his career.

3. Extenuating circumstances: Johnson hasn't come close to replicating his signature season -- 2,006 yards in 2009 -- fueling a variety of theories on why his production has slipped. His per-carry average last year (3.9) was a career low, but he revealed after the season that he played with a torn meniscus from Week 3. He underwent arthroscopic surgery in late January and began running only about two weeks ago. The knee injury would certainly explain his lack of explosiveness. Since signing a four-year, $53.5 million extension in 2011, his average has dropped to 4.12 per carry (28th in the NFL). Is he a victim of circumstances or has the tread on his tires worn thin? Probably a combination of both.

4. Money matters: Johnson was due to make $8 million this season from the Titans. This is a depressed running back market, and a team would be crazy to guarantee that much money. A total of 24 running backs have signed free-agent contracts since March 11, and the numbers are sobering. The biggest guarantee was only $4.5 million (Toby Gerhart) and the largest average-per-year was $3.5 million (Gerhart, Donald Brown). The Jets have some wiggle room at running back. In fact, their backs are counting only $5.7 million on the cap, 29 percent below the league average, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Johnson has to be realistic with his demands.

5. Final thoughts: Based simply on the data, you'd want to stay away from Johnson, a player on the decline. But sometimes you have to trust your gut, gambling that a once-great player can find some of that old magic. If Johnson is willing to put ego aside, and the docs give the knee a thumb's up, he's worth checking out.

The next free-agent drama: Chris Johnson

April, 3, 2014
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Chris Johnson's days in Tennessee are numbered, according to his agent. And, yes, the New York Jets already have been linked to the former 2,000-yard rusher.

On Wednesday night, agent Joel Segal told SiriusXM Radio, "Had some communication with Titans management today. I think it’s a matter of time before Chris won’t be with the Titans, just don’t know when."

Johnson's declining production, combined with a $10 million cap charge, has made him expendable. The Titans are trying to trade him, but if they can't swing a deal, they're expected to release him before Monday. Why Monday? The Titans' off-season program starts Monday, and they don't want Johnson to show up, risking an injury that could put them on the hook for his salary.

Speculation already is building that the Jets will be a major player for Johnson. Of course, we heard that about DeSean Jackson, too, fueled by owner Woody Johnson, and nothing came of it. This situation is a bit different because Johnson doesn't have the character issues that raised red flags with Jackson. I believe the Jets will have some level of interest in Johnson, but -- and you can probably predict the next sentence -- it would have to be at the right price.

As you know, the Jets are in a cost-conscious mode, so I can't see them spending a ridiculous amount of money on a 28-year-old running back. On the other hand, they recognize there's a need at the position. Early in free agency, they flirted with Donald Brown and inquired about Maurice Jones-Drew, although that never got serious.

The Jets have a decent stable of backs, led by Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, but they're complementary backs. In Ivory's case, there are durability questions. They need a home-run hitter. Johnson, despite his shrinking numbers, offers that dimension. Mike Goodson was supposed to be that guy, but he's still facing weapons charges and the possibility of another suspension by the league for violating the personal-conduct policy.

So prepare for the CJ2K Watch, which should be commencing shortly.

Sunday notes: Heard around the combine

February, 23, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Notes and observations from the NFL scouting combine:

1. Backs to the wall: This comes as a bit of a surprise, but I hear the New York Jets are exploring free-agent running backs -- namely Donald Brown (Indianapolis Colts) and Ben Tate (Houston Texans). Obviously, their greatest needs are wide receiver and tight end, with running back thought to be a secure position with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. But general manager John Idzik is a big believer in competition and depth. It also could mean that the troubled Mike Goodson is on thin ice. The bad boy from last offseason has legal issues, a surgically repaired knee and an upcoming $650,000 roster bonus. Why would the Jets pay that for a player in Goodson's situation? Both Brown and Tate have above-average running skills and they can catch the ball, a much-needed skill in the Jets' backfield.

2. Money to burn: When free agency opens March 11, the Jets should have at least $22 million in salary-cap space (not counting the anticipated veteran purge), but that doesn't mean they'll be spending like Kim Kardashian in a designer clothing store. Idzik still believes in building through the draft. "The draft is your lifeline," he said. "Free agency is phone-a-friend." That said, the Jets are expected to use the phone a few times. The feeling in the organization is they will sign a No. 2 wide receiver, a tight end (if they lose Jeff Cumberland), a veteran backup quarterback, a running back and a kicker (if they lose Nick Folk). They're optimistic about their chances of re-signing tackle Austin Howard. Yes, they have a fairly lengthy shopping list, but I don't see them breaking the bank for anyone with an $8-million-a-year-type deal. They will use the draft to find a potential No. 1 receiver and a pass-catching tight end, along with plugging some holes on defense.

3. QB quest: The Jets met with at least two quarterbacks, LSU's Zach Mettenberger and Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo. The 6-5 Mettenberger, in the final stages of knee-surgery rehab, is an interesting prospect. Idzik, who scouted him in person during the season, is looking to add a developmental quarterback at some point in the draft. Mettenberger could be just that in the late rounds. I see the Jets going to training camp with Geno Smith, Matt Simms, a new veteran backup and a rookie.

4. Off the Mark: If the Jets decide they want to retain Mark Sanchez (unlikely), they will try to get him to swallow a massive pay cut. The amount of their proposal will tell Sanchez just how much they really want him. If they try to slash his base pay from $9 million to $1 million, it would be insulting, a strong indication he'd have no chance to unseat Smith. If they offer in the $3 million-to-$5 million range, with a chance to make more money with incentives, it would show they consider him a viable starting option.

4a. Butt fumble revisited: Former longtime GM and current ESPN analyst Bill Polian believes Sanchez has been unfairly stigmatized by the "butt fumble." "Unequivocally, the butt fumble wasn't his fault," Polian told me. "It's been played ad infinitum. The guard (Brandon Moore) got driven into him. Perception is often times reality, and that's what people think. If you ask the average person what they think of Mark Sanchez, they'd say the butt fumble. It wasn't his fault."

5. Legal tampering: The combine is the place where agents and teams meet to discuss free-agent deals. Technically, it's not allowed, but no one says anything. Curiously, a number of agents told me that teams are reluctant this year to discuss specific dollar amounts. It's likely that teams, concerned about having their offers shopped around, are waiting for the March 8-11 exclusive negotiating period to get serious.

6. Seen around Indy: Former Jets colleagues Mike Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini lunched together. Despite the awkward parting in 2009 (actually, Woody Johnson was the driving force behind Mangini's ouster), Tannenbaum and Mangini have remained close friends. Mangini, named last week as the tight-ends coach of the San Francisco 49ers, is working his way up the ladder on the offensive side of the ball. If he makes it to coordinator some day, he'll have the rare offensive/defensive coordinator on his résumé.

6a. Seen around Indy II: Rex Ryan and twin brother, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, took a break from the combine to eat at a local Hooters restaurant. Naturally, they ended up on Twitter, posing in a picture with a group of Hooters' waitresses.

7. Give that man a pair of ear plugs: Former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's experience in a circus-type environment (the Jets, 2009-2012) should serve him well in his new job as the Cleveland Browns' coach. He got the job after 23 people turned it down (only a slight exaggeration), saw the two men that hired him get whacked (Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi) and was hit Friday with the news that the Browns reportedly came close to hiring San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh before turning to him. Pettine called the Harbaugh story "noise -- and my goal is to quiet the noise." He recently held a staff meeting in which he used a Power Point presentation to underscore the challenge before them -- two playoff appearances, one playoff win and 141 coaches since 1991. Said Pettine: "To turn around a franchise, you have to be extraordinary." Here's wishing him luck; he'll need it.

8. Best and worst: I thought Michael Sam handled himself extremely well Saturday in his first news conference since sharing he is gay. Facing perhaps the largest news conference in combine history, Sam was confident, yet not cocky, projecting the image of a young man who just wants to play football. On the other side of the news-conference spectrum was Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, who fumbled his way through a Q & A that focused on the bullying scandal. He was all over the place, accepting responsibility in one breath but pleading ignorance in the next. How they fired longtime trainer Kevin O'Neill, portrayed in a negative light in the Wells report, was a low-class move. The Dolphins flew him to the combine and then fired him, two days before he was to receive an award in Indianapolis as the league's top trainer. He didn't attend the ceremony, but received a standing ovation when his prepared remarks were read to the crowd.

9. Respect for JC: It was interesting to hear offensive linemen talk about South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, the possible No. 1 overall pick. Said Michigan tackle Michael Schofield: "I played a series against Clowney, and that was probably the hardest series of my life." Other linemen echoed similar sentiments. The Houston Texans, picking first, have a tough choice. They need a quarterback, but Clowney is the best talent in the draft.

10. Johnny Football speaks: Clearly, Johnny Manziel's mission at the combine was to shatter his image as a rock star-party boy quarterback. Asked to describe the difference between Johnny Football and Johnny Manziel, the former Texas A & M star shifted into third person. "Johnny Manziel is a guy ... I’m from a small town of Kerrville, Texas, 20,000 people. People make me out to be a big Hollywood guy, (I'm) really just still a small-town kid" -- who jets off to Vegas to party with the rich and famous.

Long recovery expected for Ivory

September, 23, 2013
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets running back Chris Ivory's status is unknown after he tweaked his left hamstring during Sunday's win over the Buffalo Bills. While the Jets are unsure of when they will have Ivory back, they are not expecting a quick recovery given Ivory's history of injuries.

"Right now we'll let you know on Wednesday when the injury report comes out," Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. "It is a hamstring, though, I'll let you know that."

The left hamstring is the same one that gave Ivory problems during training camp and caused him to miss two weeks of practice and the first preseason game, but Ryan said this time the injury is in a different location. Ivory has struggled with injuries throughout his career, including during his brief time with the Jets.

[+] EnlargeChris Ivory
Ron Antonelli/Getty ImagesChris Ivory's status will be revealed on Wednesday.
Ivory played just four snaps on Sunday, rushing four times for five yards. On his final run, he grabbed his left hamstring after going down and came off favoring that leg. Ivory did not talk to reporters afterward, but had his upper left leg bandaged with a wire underneath.

The Jets traded a fourth-round pick to New Orleans to acquire Ivory, but he has been a disappointment thus far. He has rushed 26 times for 72 yards through the first three games, and has averaged 1.5 yards or less per carry in two of those games, including Sunday. He has yet to get into the end zone.

With Ivory sidelined, starter Bilal Powell ran for a career-high 149 yards on 27 carries. By far, he has been the better back this season, rushing for 226 yards on 52 carries and one touchdown, and catching eight passes for 66 yards.

"Bilal Powell, man oh man, he was outstanding in that game," Ryan said.

If Ivory has to miss any time, it could leave him behind Powell and the returning Mike Goodson in the Jets' backfield. Goodson is currently suspended for violating the league's drug policy, but he will be able to return on Sept. 30, the day after the Jets play the Titans. The Jets clearly see something in Goodson that they like as they inked him to a three year, $6.9 million deal in the offseason.

"I think the way the game is played now I think you have to have a stable of backs," Ryan said. "I think you're trying to have fresh backs."

Our 'Corty' awards: A look back at Cortland

August, 15, 2013
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To commemorate the Jets' three-week stay in Cortland, which ended Thursday, we present our "Cortys" -- the best and worst from Cortland:

PLAYER WHOSE STOCK IMPROVED THE MOST: Bilal Powell. Without Chris Ivory and Joe McKnight for much of camp, and with Mike Goodson never making it to camp, Powell became the workhorse in the backfield and impressed with his all-around play. He'll be a key player, especially early in the season as Ivory works his way into top condition.

McKnight
PLAYER WHOSE STOCK DROPPED THE MOST: McKnight. He's lucky Goodson didn't report -- or else he'd be in serious jeopardy. As it stands now, he's not a lock to make the team. McKnight is as dependable as a weather forecast in South Florida.

MOST IMPROVED: Stephen Hill. It wasn't a drop-free camp -- I can recall two bad ones -- but the second-year receiver made great strides as a route-runner. He also has a better understanding of coverages. Now he has to take it to the games.

WAYNE CHREBET UNDERDOG AWARD: Ryan Spadola. Tell me if this story sounds familiar? Jersey kid from non-BCS school goes undrafted, signs a free-agent contract and turns heads in camp. Spadola has a good chance to make the 53-man roster. Shades of Chrebet in 1995.

Holmes
Holmes
TOUR DE FRANCE AWARD: Santonio Holmes. He spent a lot of time on the stationary bike, continuing his rehab from foot surgery. No one knows when he'll return to action. If the before-after is Week 1, bet the "after." By then, he'll have logged plenty of miles.

CONSPICUOUSLY QUIET: Dee Milliner. It's not often the ninth overall pick in the draft can remain relatively anonymous. He signed late and needed only a few days to leapfrog Kyle Wilson on the depth chart, but the rookie cornerback generated little buzz -- and that's not always a good thing.

DEJA VU MOMENT: Mark Sanchez's pick-six in Detroit. First series of the preseason ... a basic screen pass ... a lob toss and ... there goes Ansah for a touchdown! It took Sanchez less than four minutes to destroy the hopes of the optimistic Jets fans who dared to think this season might be different.

Sanchez
NINE LIVES AWARD: Sanchez. After an interception in the scrimmage, he fired a long TD pass to Hill. After the interception in Detroit, he led an 80-yard TD drive, culminating with a 26-yard scoring pass. Say this for him: He's resilient.

MOST MEMORABLE QUOTE: Rex Ryan on Geno Smith's Wednesday practice -- "It was brutal. That was Geno's worst day."

MOST MEMORABLE QUOTE II: Ryan on the Sanchez interception and Smith's performance in the opener: "I never saw it. ... You probably saw more plays than I did."

MOST MEMORABLE QUOTE III: Ryan on his future: "It's safe to say I won't be here if we draft [Jadeveon] Clowney."

BEST ROOKIE NOBODY IS PAYING ATTENTION TO: Tommy Bohanon -- or "Tommy Bahama," as Ryan calls him. The seventh-round pick from Wake Forest will be the opening-day fullback, count on it. Adios, Lex Hilliard.

Ryan It's safe to say I won't be here if we draft (Jadeveon) Clowney.

-- Rex Ryan
DREW ROSENHAUS AWARD: McKnight. Taking a page from the agent's celebrated 2005 interview about Terrell Owens, when he kept answering, "Next question," McKnight tried to stiff-arm reporters when asked about his turbulent camp. In a span of three minutes, covering 17 questions, he responded seven times with, "I'm not getting into that." P.S.: Rosenhaus ended up writing a book, entitled, "Next Question." Start writing, Joe.

MOST OVERPLAYED STORY: Sanchez hearing boos in the scrimmage. A turnover-prone quarterback gets booed for throwing an interception? Oh, my God, what's happening to society?

MOST TALENTED PLAYER WHO LEFT YOU WANTING MORE: Quinton Coples. He showed a flash here and there at his new position, outside linebacker, but the coaches expect bigger things from him.

WORST MOMENTS: Aaron Berry and John Griffin suffering season-ending injuries. They had a chance to make the team as backups, especially Berry.

ODE TO TIM TEBOW: Mike Sielski, beat writer for the Wall Street Journal. On a dreary day early in camp, Sielski conjured up memories of Tebow (not really) by pulling off his shirt and running through the rain. Surprisingly (or not), he was actually faster than Tebow.

Take 5: Jets vets on the bubble

June, 26, 2013
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Vladimir DucasseSteven Bisig/USA TODAY SportsVladimir Ducasse's Jets scholarship is over. Can he finally make an impact in 2013?
Continuing our "Take 5" series, we look at which veteran players will be fighting for jobs in training camp. It will be an intense camp, as GM John Idzik has been singing the "competition" song from the moment he arrived. Here's our list of those whose jobs are the most tenuous:

1. G/T Vladimir Ducasse: This is a make-or-break year for the former second-round pick. His biggest ally, former GM Mike Tannenbaum, is gone, meaning his scholarship has expired. Ducasse played every position except center during the offseason, helping his chances. But with three draft picks and improved depth, he'll actually have to earn his spot.

2. QB Greg McElroy: Former seventh-round picks don't get to hang around forever. This will be McElroy's third year, and he's battling Matt Simms for the No. 3 job -- if there is a No. 3 job. QBs coach David Lee has been trying to get him to take more chances, throwing downfield instead of opting for check-downs.

3. WR Clyde Gates: Rex Ryan keeps telling everyone that Gates is one of the fastest players in the league. He might be right, but even when he's healthy (which hasn't been often), Gates doesn't play to his speed. He's here because former OC Tony Sparano liked him from their days in Miami. Now Sparano is in Oakland. By the end of August, they could be reunited.

4. TE Konrad Reuland: The arrival of Kellen Winslow Jr. could jeopardize Reuland's spot on the roster. They're basically the same type of player -- pass-catching tight ends. Reuland's fate could be tied to Winslow's health; a chronic knee condition makes it 50-50 that the former Pro Bowler lasts through training camp.

5. RB Bilal Powell: The Jets acquired two backs in the offseason, Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson, an indication they don't view Powell as a long-term answer. The same could be said of Joe McKnight, but he has value as a kickoff returner. Powell has to find a niche. His value increases if Goodson is suspended for his recent arrest.

Positional analysis: Running back

February, 5, 2013
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This is part two in a nine-part analysis of the Jets -- a position-by-position breakdown as we head toward the scouting combine and free agency:

RUNNING BACK

2012 depth chart: Shonn Greene (starter), Lex Hilliard (starter), Bilal Powell, Joe McKnight, John Griffin.

Overview: Greene slipped past the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight year, delivering the kind of season you've come to expect from him -- solid between-the-tackles production but very little explosiveness. He broke only two runs of 20+ yards. You can win with a player like Greene as long as he's paired with a speed back, but that wasn't the case with Powell, an inside slasher. McKnight has home-run ability, but he's wildly inconsistent from a fundamentals and focus standpoint.

Free agents: Greene, Hilliard.

2013 personnel preview: Greene is as good as gone. Despite his limitations, he'll draw moderate to heavy interest in a mediocre free-agent class. Plus, he's not a fit in Marty Mornhinweg's West-Coast system. The Jets need a versatile back with outside speed and pass-catching ability. Free agent Reggie (Hot Sauce) Bush would be ideal for the Jets, but there's little chance they'd be able to afford him. They probably will rely on the draft to find a No. 1 or No. 1a back that can be paired with Powell. Eddie Lacy (Alabama) and Montee Ball (Wisconsin) will be intriguing in the second round.

Salary-cap situation: You can't blame the running backs for the team's cap situation, as Powell and McKnight are counting a combined $1.4 million on the cap. In fact, the Jets haven't made a significant investment since 2007, when they traded for Thomas Jones and gave him a four-year deal with $12 million guaranteed. They've taken the cheap approach, and don't expect that to change.

Playing-time analysis: QB/RB

January, 9, 2013
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To wrap up the season, we've been reviewing the snap counts for every unit. Here's a breakdown of quarterbacks and running backs (based on a total of 1,076, according to the official NFL stats):

QUARTERBACK

Mark Sanchez: 940 snaps/87 percent
Greg McElroy: 90 snaps/8 percent
Tim Tebow: 73 snaps/7 percent

Analysis: You could've made a lot of money if you bet someone in August that McElroy would have more snaps than Tebow. That one stat pretty much summarizes the entire season at quarterback. ... Before the season, then-GM Mike Tannenbaum estimated Tebow would play anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of the snaps. Tebow missed out on a lucrative playing-time incentive. Based on his rookie contract, he would've received a $5 million increase next season and a $6.25 million bump in 2014 if he played in at least 55 percent of the offensive plays. Oh, well.

RUNNING BACK

Shonn Greene: 569 snaps/53 percent
Bilal Powell: 387 snaps/36 percent
Lex Hilliard: 271 snaps/25 percent
Joe McKnight: 58 snaps/5 percent
John Conner: 52 snaps/5 percent
Jonathan Grimes: 11 snaps/1 percent
Kahlil Bell: 3 plays/0.2 percent

Analysis: No major surprises here -- well, except maybe for McKnight's paltry role. Many people figured he'd be more of a factor. ... Powell probably would've stolen more of Greene's playing time if he had remained healthy. ... Oh, yes, remember the Terminator? That was Rex Ryan's draft pick in 2010, as he was fond of telling us during the "Hard Knocks" craze. Conner didn't work out too well and was waived. Ditto, Grimes and Bell.

Quarterly playing-time report: Offense

December, 8, 2012
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We're at the three-quarter mark of the season, so here's a breakdown of the offensive snap counts for the third quarter of the season, games nine to 12 (based on 264 snaps):

QUARTERBACK
Mark Sanchez -- 221 snaps/84 percent
Greg McElroy --32 snaps/12 percent
Tim Tebow -- 11 snaps/4 percent

Analysis: Stunning. Who could've imagined that McElroy would have more playing time than Tebow? All told, Tebow has played only 66 snaps on offense.

RUNNING BACK
Shonn Greene -- 130 snaps/49 percent
Bilal Powell -- 108 snaps/41 percent
Lex Hilliard -- 88 snaps/33 percent
Joe McKnight -- 14 snaps/5 percent
Kahlil Bell -- 3 snaps/1 percent

Analysis: They've shifted to a committee approach in recent weeks, creating more opportunities for Powell. Greene's days as the "bell cow" (Rex Ryan's term) appear over.

WIDE RECEIVER
Stephen Hill -- 150 snaps/57 percent
Jeremy Kerley -- 140 snaps/53 percent
Chaz Schilens -- 131 snaps/50 percent
Clyde Gates -- 73 snaps/39 percent
Antonio Cromartie -- 8 snaps/3 percent
Jordan White -- 1 snap/1 percent

Analysis: Well, look at the bright side: Hill is getting a lot of on-the-job training. That will serve him well in the future. For now, his lack of experience hurts the team.

TIGHT END
Dustin Keller -- 176 snaps/67 percent
Jeff Cumberland -- 135 snaps/51 percent
Konrad Reuland -- 75 snaps/28 percent
Jason Smith -- 57 snaps/22 percent

Analysis: Cumberland has received a ton of playing time, although he doesn't have much production to show for it. Keller, hampered by injuries, wishes he could take a mulligan (not Matthew Mulligan).

OFFENSIVE LINE
D'Brickashaw Ferguson -- 264 snaps/100 percent
Austin Howard -- 264 snaps/100 percent
Nick Mangold -- 264 snaps/100 percent
Brandon Moore -- 253 snaps/96 percent
Matt Slauson -- 220 snaps/83 percent
Vladimir Ducasse -- 55 snaps/21 percent

Analysis: The Jets have been really lucky here in terms of injuries. The left-guard platoon has made recent headlines (here's to you, coach Guges), but it's not like Ducasse is seeing a whole lot of time.

W2W4: Jets at Jaguars

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- This is all about survival.

The Jets (5-7), with the NFL's easiest remaining schedule, need to beat the struggling Jaguars (2-10) to keep alive their faint playoff hopes. QB Mark Sanchez, whose career flashed before his eyes this week, needs an efficient -- if not stellar -- performance to remain in the position he has held for nearly four years.

It probably won't be pretty. Kickoff is 1 p.m. Sunday at EverBank Field. What to watch for:

1. Tony's guys: The quarterback matchup features Tony Sparano's current project, Sanchez, against his old project, Chad Henne, formerly of the Dolphins. Remember the days, circa 2009/2010, when Sanchez and Henne were considered the bright lights in the future of the AFC East? Henne washed out with the Dolphins, took a backup gig in Jacksonville and ascended to the starting job when the disappointing Blaine Gabbert got hurt.

Henne (1-1) gives the Jaguars a puncher's chance because he throws a good deep ball. He has passed for 823 yards over the past three games, the seventh-highest total in the league. In Miami, he was 3-1 against the Jets, including two monster games. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine picked up some intel on Henne by consulting with offensive assistant Tony Sparano Jr., formerly of the Dolphins.

2. Pound the rock: The Jets will try to help the turnover-prone Sanchez by ... well, taking the ball out of his hands. Look for a conservative, run-heavy approach, featuring Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell. Makes sense. The Jaguars are 31st in run defense, coming off a game in which they allowed a season-high 232 yards. The Jets will attack up the gut, behind C Nick Mangold and Gs Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson. The Jaguars are vulnerable up the middle, as they've allowed a league-high 12 TDs between the center and either guard, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

3. Calling all playmakers: There won't be too many explosive players on the field. The offensively challenged Jets probably won't have TE Dustin Keller (ankle), and the Jaguars won't have star RB Maurice-Jones Drew (foot), who has missed the past six games. They could be down to their fourth running back, Montell Owens, who was extracted from mothballs last week. Big-play WR Cecil Shorts, who has three TD catches of 50-plus yards, likely will sit with a concussion. Two players who could hurt the Jets are TE Marcedes Lewis and rookie WR Justin Blackmon, whose production has increased with Henne at quarterback. CB Antonio Cromartie draws the Blackmon assignment.

4. Watch the safety: For the second straight week, the Jets will face a safety they traded away. This time, it's Dwight Lowery, whom Rex Ryan dubbed "The Closer" for his ability to make big plays in the clutch. Lowery has only one interception (a game-clinching pick-six two weeks ago), but he's a smart, instinctive player who knows Sanchez's tendencies. A week ago, former S Kerry Rhodes tormented Sanchez, intercepting two passes in the first quarter.

Ryan is familiar with the Jaguars' other safety, Dawan Landry, whom he coached in Baltimore. He's the older brother of Jets S LaRon Landry. The brothers have played a combined total of 170 games, but this will be the first time they've faced each other in the regular season.

5. Jason, the nightmare: DE Jason Babin, who torched the Jets for three sacks last season as a member of the Eagles, will make his second appearance for the Jaguars. They claimed him on waivers after his surprising release from the Eagles. Babin started last week at right end and played 40 of 65 snaps. LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson should fare better against Babin than former RT Wayne Hunter, who was embarrassed in last year's matchup. Babin (53.5 career sacks) gives the Jaguars their only pass-rushing threat. No other player has more than two sacks this season. Sounds like the Jets, doesn't it?

Jets looking to rotate at RB

November, 20, 2012
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The Jets entered the season with the mindset that Shonn Greene would be the workhorse in the backfield, with Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight there to spell him. The team is now looking to rotate three running backs Rex Ryan said Monday.

"I think it is the ideal scenario for us because we have three very capable backs," Ryan said. "Instead of just throwing one guy in there all the time to take all the hits and all the protections and the routes and all that. I think when you have three guys coming in, I think that's what the league is going to. You don't have that guy that necessarily does it all every snap anymore the way you used to with a Walter Payton or whatever. You kind of divide that role up. I think for us it's good."

Having all three running backs healthy is now key for the Jets. Powell has battled a concussion and a shoulder injury recently and McKnight has had ankle issues forcing the team to rely primarily on Greene. Greene has started all but one game this season.

"If they're just looking for Shonn Greene in the game the whole time and looking between the tackles, then you throw Bilal in the game and he goes off-tackle," McKnight said. "It's a change of pace to the game and it's always good to get everybody some touches."

The Jets were able to split up the work Sunday with all three backs active. Powell had 28 snaps, Greene had 26 and McKnight finished with seven. The three backs combined for 120 yards on the day. Greene led the way with 18 carries to Powell's 11 and McKnight's four, although Powell did catch two passes out of the backfield and also had two rushing touchdowns.

Greene, who leads the teams with 631 rushing yards and five touchdowns, isn't worried about his touches, saying he's not a selfish player. He's averaging 17.2 rushes per game. He expects it will help to have all three healthy backs contributing.

"That's a big contribution to this game and it's going to help out a lot giving the defense different looks like that, and keeping everybody fresh," Greene said. "With Joe and Bilal, they got some skill sets that can help us win games so we want to use that to our advantage."

As the Jets look to use a committee, it's part of a growing trend of teams moving away from having one primary ball carrier and instead divvying up the carries. They only need to look around their division and realize the benefits of having a multiple-back rushing attack.

"You see the Patriots do it with their different backs. Miami does it. Buffalo's doing it," Ryan said. "If you have the talent, when the guys are healthy and all that, fresh, I think that's the best way."

Drive of the game

November, 19, 2012
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The situation: The Jets took over at their 37-yard line, leading by six points with 6:14 remaining in the third quarter.

The outcome: Mark Sanchez orchestrated the Jets' longest drive of the game -- 12 plays, 63 yards, using 6:58 on the clock. It ended with Bilal Powell's 5-yard touchdown run.

The impact: The Jets broke the Rams' will by eating clock and controlling the ball on the ground. After going 30, 28 and 33 yards for their first three scoring drives, the Jets dropped the hammer. Sanchez passed only three times, including an 18-yard throwback screen to TE Konrad Reuland. They lined up with three tight ends to the left and ran a play-action to the right, with Sanchez looking for Stephen Hill on a slant. He was open, but Sanchez pulled the ball down and looked back to the strong side, finding a wide-open Reuland. Two plays later, Powell scored. That was the dagger.

Powell produces two TDs in big win

November, 18, 2012
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ST. LOUIS -- After being forced to leave last Sunday's game against Seattle because of a concussion and not being able to practice until Friday, Jets running back Bilal Powell was not certain how much of a factor he would be against the Rams on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeBilal Powell
Jeff Curry/US PresswireBilal Powell caps his 11-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.
As it turned out, neither the concussion nor the lack of practice time proved to be much of a hurdle for Powell, who rushed 11 times for 42 yards and scored his first two career touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 18 yards in the Jets' 27-13 victory.

Powell scored on a 5-yard run on a draw play on the second play of the fourth quarter, and added an 11-yard TD run on a trap play six minutes later.

"I try to take full advantage of every opportunity I have to be out there, and I'm blessed to be back," said Powell, who had never had a concussion before during his football career. "I had no problems at all. The offensive line did a great job and it was two good play calls."

Both touchdowns came on third downs, with the first coming when the Jets were lined up in shotgun formation.

Coming into Sunday's game, the second-year pro from Louisville had only carried the ball 35 times for 138 yards in seven games. The 42 yards were three shy of his career high of 45 yards, on 10 carries, on Sept. 23 against Miami.

Shonn Greene led the team with 64 yards on 18 carries on Sunday as the Jets rushed for a total of 124 yards on 41 attempts.

"Shonn did a great job," he said. "We had great preparation in our running game. We just went out and executed. Our game plan was to get a W. It was a good win for us."

Powell, who said he kept both of the balls from his touchdowns, had last recorded a touchdown in the Jets' preseason game last season against the Giants.

Rapid Reaction: Jets 27, Rams 13

November, 18, 2012
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ST. LOUIS -- The Jets finally found an opponent worse than they are. Overcoming a week of controversy and off-the-field distractions, they beat up on the lowly Rams 27-13, snapping a three-game losing streak Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.

What it means: The Jets (4-6) avoided the indignity of losing to their former offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer. More importantly, they kept their playoff hopes on life support. But let's be real here: They beat a bad team. All this does is buy them more time; the Jets still have a long way to go before we should take them seriously again. But at least this should eliminate some of the dark clouds.

Sanchez can exhale: Under mounting pressure, Mark Sanchez responded with one of his better games of the season. He was rattled early by the Rams' front four, but he got it under control with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Chaz Schilens, giving the Jets a 10-7 lead. Sanchez (15-for20, 178 yards, TD) completed passes to nine different receivers, picking apart a woeful secondary. Mind you, the Rams haven't forced a turnover since Week 5. This should quiet the Sanchez-Tim Tebow controversy -- for a few days, anyway.

Sparano vs. Schotty: We know the Jets' offense isn't good. Now we know the Rams' offense is worse. The Jets outgained the Rams 289-281 in a battle of two lowly offenses, neither of which will produce a Pro Bowl player. But give Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano some credit: He made three good calls in scoring territory, all on third-and-long plays -- two running plays, both resulting in touchdown runs by Bilal Powell, and a screen pass to Powell. Clearly, Sparano didn't want Sanchez dropping back and throwing, considering his recent red zone mistakes.

A running back change? Shonn Greene hinted last week there should be a quarterback change (he claims he was misquoted). Considering Powell's performance (scoring runs of five and 11 yards), some might wonder whether there should be a change in the backfield. Greene (18 carries, 64 yards) was solid, but he was upstaged by Powell, who excelled -- finally -- as the third-down back.

Mo better defense: For the second straight week, defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson made the biggest play of the game. This time, it was a strip sack that pumped life into the moribund offense. Wilkerson exploded into the backfield and stripped the ball from Sam Bradford. Bart Scott was there for the scoop-and-run. That set up the offense at the Rams' 28. One play later, Sanchez hit Schilens, ending a five-quarter TD drought. After a slow start, Wilkerson has been playing like a first-round pick the past few weeks.

Bad start, strong finish: The Jets' defense shook off a horrible opening drive (13 plays, 86 yards and an easy touchdown pass for Bradford) and played lights-out. After the first drive, it held the Rams to 195 total yards for the remainder of the game and forced three turnovers. The Jets scored 14 points off the turnovers. They generated decent heat on Bradford (23-for-44, 170 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) and did a good job on WR Danny Amendola (seven catches, 41 yards), but a lot of it was just bad play by Bradford, who didn't look anything like a former No. 1 overall pick. It looks like Schottenheimer is reliving his Sanchez growing pains with Bradford.

Special teams -- bad: The Jets haven't been this mistake-prone in ... like, since the Kotite years. They got stuffed on a fake punt that fooled absolutely no one (Tebow flipped a shovel pass to Lex Hilliard), and they allowed a blocked field goal for the second time in three games. The Jets have made seven huge blunders in the past four games. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Fortunately for them, Nick Folk came up big with a couple of 51-yard field goals.

What's ahead: The Jets have a quick turnaround, as they host the first-place Patriots on Thanksgiving night. The Jets lost the first meeting in overtime 29-26, blowing a late lead.

Practice report: Powell on sideline; Hill ill

November, 14, 2012
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Jets running back Bilal Powell (concussion) and rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill (illness) were not practicing during the portion open to the media Wednesday.

Powell was at practice but was off to the side. Jets coach Rex Ryan said he sent Hill home for the day.

Running back Joe McKnight (ankle), linebacker Bart Scott (toe) and defensive tackle Sione Po'uha (lower back) were practicing in some capacity. Ryan said in his news conference before practice that those three were expected to have limited days.

There will be more information on who practiced and who sat out when the official injury report is released.

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