New York Jets running back Matt Forte is day-to-day while nursing a sore hamstring. And while team officials don’t think there’s much to it, it at least gives the veteran running back time to save some tread on legs that have been quite busy since he stepped into the league nine years ago.
The Jets have a mandatory day off today, but Forte, 31, likely would’ve been held out anyway, as Gang Green has only had four days of training camp. But should Forte sit out an extended period of time, at least there’s a great fall back plan – running back Bilal Powell.
The career backup is as talented a dual-threat running back as there is in the National Football League – it’s just that not many outside of Jets fandom know this.
Powell, 28, a former University of Louisville star, could be an ascending player this season in so many ways. He is not only a sneaky-good fantasy football option — particularly in a points-per-reception (PPR) league – but in real life, he is a great No. 2 behind Forte, especially if Forte is nicked up or needs extended breathers. But even if Forte is healthy and playing like his old self, offensive coordinator John Morton can get creative in the new-look West Coast Offense. Powell is versatile enough to even play some slot receiver and is an able blocker in pass protection, so Morton can utilize the duo at the same time in the backfield.
Powell has certainly earned the chance to use last season’s late-season surge as a springboard to bigger and better things, this season. As Forte was banged up down the stretch, Powell ran for 411 yards over the final four games. That total put him behind only two runners, Le’Veon Bell (451) of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jordan Howard (430) of the Chicago Bears. And to show how tough he is, nearly half of Powell’s yards (172) came after first contact, showing he’s more than just a change-of-pace runner who relies on elusiveness. Since he’s never been a featured back in his career, he’ll be entering 2017-18 with fresh legs.
The question out there is if he can duplicate such efficiency on a larger scale and be reliable for all 16 games. Running backs coach Stump Mitchell says his goal is for both Powell and Forte to each average 100 yards per game from scrimmage.
New York will definitely need such production, especially with a quarterback situation that’s less than desirable.
Forte has been a busy back over his career, so coaches have to wonder how much he has left. He averaged only 3.73 yards per carry, last season, which was 34th out of 42 qualifying running backs. He’s averaged 250 carries and 57 receptions per year, which is a lot of wear and tear. The position is for the young and rested, so the Jets would be use to utilize Powell more than ever, and maybe even ride this tantalizing duo to more victories than expected.