- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – The New York Jets may not have considered Bilal Powell their feature back, certainly not when they brought in Mike Goodson and Chris Ivory during free agency, but Powell’s durability has meant his number keeps getting called.
The competition for a spot in the rotation may have been beneficial in another way, however.
“I just came in more focused this year,” Powell said. “I just tried to pick up as much of the playbook as I could, and that allowed me to go out there, play more comfortable and play faster.”
Last week against Buffalo, Powell ran for 149 yards, the third-most in the NFL for Week 3. He is the seventh-leading rusher in the league this season.
This week, since Ivory missed Thursday’s practice with a hamstring injury he sustained in the first quarter of the Bills game, Powell could find himself the No. 1 back again.
“He’s a very, very steady back, he’s always been dependable,” running-backs coach Anthony Lynn said. “He’s always had a skill set that can cover -- between the tackles, outside the tackles, receiving skills, blocking skills. He has a complete skill set, and that allows him to stay on the field. Even if he’s not the feature back he would be on the field a lot.”
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said Powell is “deceptive” in that he plays bigger and stronger than the 5-foot-10, 204-pound player appears.
“He’s breaking tackles, he’s making guys miss,” Mornhinweg said.
Powell was asked how such a high-yardage game made him feel, and he replied “sore.” He’ll have to wait a week for relief, since Goodson’s suspension for violating the league’s substance policy won’t be over until next Monday. Even if Powell isn’t as big and broad as those backs, he hasn’t been injured.
In fact, when Ivory had a hamstring injury at the beginning of camp and Goodson was a no-show for undisclosed personal reasons, Powell got so many reps that Mornhinweg feared they would wear him out.
“I think [Powell has] handled it well, staying healthy, staying out of trouble doing all the right things,” said offensive lineman Willie Colon, whose locker is next to Powell’s. “It only adds weight to him for this offense.”
Jets coach Rex Ryan mentioned that some offensive players might have to move around if Powell and Alex Green are the only two active running backs for the Jets. Fullback Tommy Bohanon could move to tailback, and tight end Konrad Reuland would move to fullback.
“The past three weeks I’m the backup fullback pretty much,” Reuland said.
Bohanon said the Jets haven’t switched up a lot in practice with Ivory’s injury.
“It’s been a lot of the same,” Bohanon said. “Our Wednesday practice is our big run day and we had a lot of regular personnel type of runs where I’m just playing fullback. Once we get into Thursday, it’s just a lot of what we call nickel, which is just one-back runs. So that’s something that we did. It’s a lot of the same. I’ve always been in a lot of pass protections as a running back as well, so it’s not that different.”
Either way, expect Powell to be the feature back for possibly the next two weeks as Ivory and Goodson are slowly worked back in.
“I think he’s probably the most complete back I’ve ever played with,” Reuland said. “He literally answers the call in all aspects of what we’re trying to do. He’s a very valuable part of this offense.”