The New York Jets have been resting on a gold mine in 7th year Running Back Bilal Powell, a player who has never truly been in the spotlight, and one who has been consistently overshadowed by the prominence of teammates. The Jets have found a niche with Powell by playing him in a complimentary play style, as they have used him sparingly alongside featured Running Backs like Chris Ivory and Matt Forte. However, in 2017, Powell is finally seeing an increased workload out of the Jets’ backfield, and in 2018, he could be the deadliest weapon in New York’s offense.
When Powell first arrived in New York in 2011, the Jets were fresh off their second consecutive trip to the AFC Championship Game. The team was so close to a Super Bowl appearance, yet New York couldn’t quite figure out what the missing link was. Little did the Jets know that the missing puzzle piece has been under their nose for the past 7 years. However, instead of utilizing their newly drafted young talent, the Jets elected to return the starting RB job back to Shonn Greene, whose late-season prowess the year before had helped fuel the Jets postseason run.
However, once Greene left the Jets in 2012, New York kept Powell out of the limelight by signing the former New Orleans Saints backup RB, Chris Ivory. Ivory came to the Jets in 2013 with no knowledge of the offense and only 295 yards on average over the last 2 seasons, while Powell had run for 437 yards and 4 touchdowns the previous season as the backup. It was clear that the Jets had no plans to feature Powell in their gameplay each Sunday, however, the young Running Back saw it fit to go against the team’s narrative.
Over the course of the 2013 season, Powell posted career highs in touches, yards, and receptions, however, the Jets failed to qualify for the Playoffs. Despite New York’s shortcomings when it came to winning games, it was becoming crystal clear that Powell’s young age and unmatched potential would play key roles in the Jets’ future.
However, at the end of the 2015 season, the Jets failed to qualify for the playoffs for the 4th straight year, after suffering a heartbreaking loss to the Buffalo Bills that would have sent New York to the postseason, had they won the game. During the offseason, the Jets saw it fit to release Chris Ivory, setting the stage for Bilal Powell to finally earn his share of the spotlight as the featured RB in New York.
However, instead of making the logical decision to utilize Powell’s speed, vision, and young talent, the Jets decided to sign an aging and declining Matt Forte. Over the course of Forte’s two seasons with the Jets, he has posted career lows in yards, receptions, rushing attempts, yards/attempt, and touchdowns. And while Forte has accumulated the worst two-season stretch of his nine-year career, he has still remained the starter on a dysfunctional and lost Jets roster, forcing Bilal Powell to fall to the wayside for yet another year.
However, third-year coach Todd Bowles is finally realizing the hidden potential of Bilal Powell and how he can be a valuable piece in the Jets’ offense over the next few years. On Christmas Eve, when the Jets played the Los Angeles Chargers, Matt Forte fumbled the ball early in the game, resulting in Coach Bowles to turn his confidence over to Powell, who would go on to have one of his best games of the season, as he posted 145 yards from scrimmage on 19 attempts, including a 57-yard touchdown early in the second half.
Matt Forte only carried the ball 8 times for an uninspiring 19 yards. Ever since the Jets played the Atlanta Falcons during Week 8 of the season, Powell’s usage has been trending upward, and in a shocking twist, the Jets find ways to succeed when Powell is on the field. when Powell is the featured back. Over the past two years, there have been six games where Powell has played and Forte did not play. In these five games, the Jets are 4-1.
With the pieces in place for a rebuild in New York, the Jets could be contenders as early as next season. If all goes according to plan for the Jets, their offense could be a devastating threat for opposing defenses, as the receiving core of Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson have been stellar in 2017.
And now, since the Jets have little to no inclination of keeping Matt Forte on board for 2018, a revolution of young talent is shaping up in New York, and Bilal Powell is finally at the helm.