The New York Jets enter the annual matchup with the New York Giants full of question marks, specifically along the offensive side of the ball. But the one certain among the suspect 11 is the running back tandem of Matt Forte and Bilal Powell – which is why neither should be suiting up against Big Blue in the formerly-named “Snoopy Bowl,” specifically Forte.
Gang Green is hopefully learning from what Big Blue is going through with banged-up wideouts Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall getting hurt in Monday night’s tilt in Cleveland. The Jets should not chance the health of their two most important offensive commodities.
Powell didn’t suit up against the Tennessee Titans in the team’s opening preseason game and a sat out roughly one week of practice with a neck injury suffered in practice.
Forte recently missed three weeks of action with a strained hamstring, He returned to practice on Tuesday and claimed he’ll be ready for the season opener against the Buffalo Bills. He even reasoned that he could play against the Giants, but head coach Todd Bowles needs to shut that down immediately.
They’re both the perfect fit in John Morton’s new West Coast offense, so there’s no need to play either back, as the Jets already know what they have in the duo. Powell played last week in Detroit, so he’s ready to go. He’ll likely see action against the Giants, and added he wants to suit up and will be ready.
“Whenever my number is called I look forward to doing what I have to do for the team,” Powell said.
Forte said his “goal” is to play against the Giants, but has yet to be informed of “Coach’s plan … but that’s my plan.” The 31-year old tailback initially injured his hamstring in a July 31 practice in training camp. And it’s not a new thing for the aging back, as he went through a similar ordeal last summer. He injured the same hamstring in a pre-camp workout and missed the first two preseason games. Unlike this season’s strain, Forte suffered a torn hamstring – one that he noted required an injection of platelet-rich plasma. Hamstrings are tricky for any athlete, but particularly for guys who do a ton of running, like backs and receivers.
It’d be wise for the Jets to err on the side of caution and sit Forte. He’s too important a piece, especially with the uncertainty at quarterback and the inexperience at receiver. And also considering the back claims this hamstring injury is similar to last year’s in regards to the healing time.
“This one, there was no tear in it, it was just a [grade I] strain, but it took about the same amount of time to actually heal up,” Forte said after practice. “To get back to full speed, it took a couple weeks, which I wasn’t expecting … You can’t predict that type of stuff.”
What should be predictable is seeing both star runners in street clothes, Saturday. Forte and Powell are by far the most accomplished players on this inexperienced Jets’ offense, and Morton has acknowledged all camp that Gang Green has big plans for both. Further backing the Jets’ reliance on them, particularly Forte, is that general manager Mike Maccagnan allowed the veteran to survive the brutal offseason purging of high-priced stalwarts. Forte led the team with 813 rushing yards, last season, despite missing the final two games due to a knee scope. And when he went down, Powell stepped in seamlessly and was one of the most productive running backs in the league during the final four games.
Only Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jordan Howard of the Chicago Bears had more rushing yards than Powell down the stretch, when he rushed for 411 of his career-high 722 yards. Powell totaled 1,110 yards and five touchdowns for the year and was arguably the best offensive player for the season.
Morton and co. will count on the unsung Powell and the workhorse Forte a lot this season. Jets’ fans should hope that neither is counted on this Saturday night.