Bilal Powell: A Star, Years In The Making

Bilal Powell: A Star, Years In The Making

The Jets have shaped their established superstar.
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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.

Cover Image Credit: WikiCommons

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The Coach That Killed My Passion

An open letter to the coach that made me hate a sport I once loved.
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I fell in love with the game in second grade. I lived for every practice and every game. I lived for the countless hours in the gym or my driveway perfecting every shot, every pass and every move I could think of. Every night after dinner, I would go shoot and would not allow myself to go inside until I hit a hundred shots. I had a desire to play, to get better and to be the best basketball player I could possibly be.

I had many coaches between church leagues, rec leagues, personal coaches, basketball camps, middle school and high school. Most of the coaches I had the opportunity to play for had a passion for the game like I did. They inspired me to never stop working. They would tell me I had a natural ability. I took pride in knowing that I worked hard and I took pride in the compliments that I got from my coaches and other parents. I always looked forward to the drills and, believe it or not, I even looked forward to the running. These coaches had a desire to teach, and I had a desire to learn through every good and bad thing that happened during many seasons. Thank you to the coaches that coached and supported me through the years.

SEE ALSO: My Regrets From My Time As A College Softball Player

Along with the good coaches, are a few bad coaches. These are the coaches that focused on favorites instead of the good of the entire team. I had coaches that no matter how hard I worked, it would never be good enough for them. I had coaches that would take insults too far on the court and in the classroom.

I had coaches that killed my passion and love for the game of basketball.

When a passion dies, it is quite possibly the most heartbreaking thing ever. A desire you once had to play every second of the day is gone; it turns into dreading every practice and game. It turns into leaving every game with earphones in so other parents don't talk to you about it. It meant dreading school the next day due to everyone talking about the previous game. My passion was destroyed when a coach looked at me in the eyes and said, "You could go to any other school and start varsity, but you just can't play for me."

SEE ALSO: Should College Athletes Be Limited To One Sport?

Looking back now at the amount of tears shed after practices and games, I just want to say to this coach: Making me feel bad about myself doesn't make me want to play and work hard for you, whether in the classroom or on the court. Telling me that, "Hard work always pays off" and not keeping that word doesn't make me want to work hard either. I spent every minute of the day focusing on making sure you didn't see the pain that I felt, and all of my energy was put towards that fake smile when I said I was OK with how you treated me. There are not words for the feeling I got when parents of teammates asked why I didn't play more or why I got pulled after one mistake; I simply didn't have an answer. The way you made me feel about myself and my ability to play ball made me hate myself; not only did you make me doubt my ability to play, you turned my teammates against me to where they didn't trust my abilities. I would not wish the pain you caused me on my greatest enemy. I pray that one day, eventually, when all of your players quit coming back that you realize that it isn't all about winning records. It’s about the players. You can have winning records without a good coach if you have a good team, but you won’t have a team if you can't treat players with the respect they deserve.

SEE ALSO: To The Little Girl Picking Up A Basketball For The First Time


Cover Image Credit: Equality Charter School

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An 'Expert's' Thoughts On The Worst Loss Of The Saban Era

Dabo Swinney solidifies Clemson as an elite college football program.

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Monday night, the Clemson Tigers were crowned national champions in one of the all-time beatdowns in the history of college football. Some may think that phrase is a bit harsh, but I can't show my bias in this situation. In fact, there is no real way to spin the game into something positive. Sure the referees missed a couple pass interference calls, you can even take away both of Tua's interceptions, I still think Alabama loses that game by 17-plus. That's how big the gap was between the two schools.

The first quarter of the game seemed to be typical championship shootout. Clemson forced an early pick-six but Alabama came right back with a 62-yard touchdown by Jerry Jeudy. The tide was actually leading 16-14 at the start of the second. Then it all went wrong from there. Clemson proceeded to move the ball all the way down the field for a dominating 65-yard drive which only lasted 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Next drive Tua throws an awful interception which is returned for over 40 yards giving Clemson the short field again. Three and a half minutes later it's 28-16. Clemson closes out the half with a field goal and now it's 31-16.

Everyone's mindset at this point was "Alabama and Nick Saban have a pretty good track record of having second-half comebacks." And with the first drive of the second half, it seemed as if they were starting to get their stuff together. Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs lead the offense down to the Clemson 22 before an incomplete pass on third and six made Saban trot out the field goal unit. Sure a field goal in this situation wasn't ideal but it would have made it a 12 point game and given the defense some momentum. Instead, but occurred was the worst decision a Saban lead team had ever made. A fake field goal, up the middle with the kicker as the lead blocker. And Clemson was ready for it.

WOW! Botched fake field goal ( college championship game ) YouTube

It was at this moment even though I didn't want to say it when I knew we had lost the game. It was a panic move by Saban at a time where the team just needed some sort of points. I understand that our kicker has struggled but if you want to go for it on fourth and six don't do a fake field goal, just keep the offense out there. I even disapprove of that.

Trevor Lawrence and the offense now back on the field was able to score in three plays which included a 74-yard touchdown pass to Justin Ross who lit up the secondary all night long. When it was all said and done the Tigers won 44-16, scoring 30 unanswered points to close out the game.

I sat up all night trying to fathom how this could have happened. It bothered me so much that I actually started rewatching the game (thanks Youtube). Yep, I relived every painful moment secluded in my room, cautiously evaluating every meaningful snap of the game. I was also simultaneously looking at the statistics of the game and when I brought it all together I figured out Dabo's formula to beat us. It was having elite receivers who can win every 50-50 ball, it was a defensive front which can make the quarterback uncomfortable, it was a secondary who can force multiple turnovers, it was a coaching staff that hasn't lost a coordinator in seven years, it was an offensive line which can keep the quarterback from getting touched at all (this is actually true). The short answer to all of this is that Dabo Swinney and Clemson was able to beat Nick Saban and Alabama by becoming them.

Think about it. Everything I just listed above is what the tide has been doing for the past 12 years. Other teams have been trying to replicate it for years but to no success. Now someone has finally figured it out until now.

Now I'm not here to say that the Saban dynasty is all over. When looking at all of the great dynasty's in sports every single one had a rival to tie it too. Michael Jordan's Bulls had the Detroit Pistons, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick had the New York Giants, LeBron James had the San Antonio Spurs. When you really look at Saban's era he really hasn't had a true rival who consistently got in his way of winning a championship until Monday. Clemson is the first real threat Alabama has had in over a decade.

Swinney and the Tigers kicked our behinds, there's no defending that. It was awful. But it could be the wake-up call Saban's team needs. They aren't just going to run through the entire league anymore. The rest of the country is catching up and Alabama needs to play like they haven't won in a decade.

This was the fourth time these two teams have met in four years. And contrary to some outlets who don't like to tell the whole story, Alabam and Clemson are now 2-2 in their College Football Playoff series. And I have a feeling the 2019-20 season will hold the tiebreaker.

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