Camp preview: Running back

July, 16, 2013
7/16/13
6:00
AM ET
Breaking down the Jets, position by position, as we head to training camp:

Position: Running back.

Projected starters: Chris Ivory, Lex Hilliard.

[+] EnlargeChris Ivory
AP Photo/Bill KostrounChris Ivory is gearing up for his first season with the Jets after three years with the Saints.
Projected reserves: Mike Goodson, Bilal Powell, Joe McKnight.

New faces: Ivory, Goodson, Tommy Bohanon.

The departed: Shonn Greene.

Player to watch: Ivory, acquired in a draft-day trade with the Saints, is one of the keys to the Jets' season. With Greene gone, they need Ivory to become a 15-carries-a-game back. They see him as a poor man's Marshawn Lynch, a big, bruising runner with the ability to wear down a defense. Ivory has flashed big-time potential in small sample sizes. In 2012, his YAC (yards after contact) was an impressive 4.7 per attempt, according to Pro Football Focus. He had only 40 attempts, yet he still caused 12 missed tackles, nearly equaling Greene's total (15) in 276 attempts, per PFF. The concern with Ivory is that he's never done it for a full season, and that's nothing to take lightly at the running-back position.

Potential strength: Position coach Anthony Lynn has plenty of bodies in his stable of runners. With Ivory, Goodson, Powell and McKnight, the Jets have four experienced backs, a situation that lends itself to a committee approach. John Griffin and rookie FB Bohanon (seventh round) also are battling for roster spots. The question is, do they have any star power? This will be the first time since 1994 they enter a season without a 1,000-yard rusher on the roster. Take a moment to think about that.

Potential weakness: The offense will be predictable when Ivory is on the field. The West Coast system relies on players who can catch the ball out of the backfield, and Ivory (three career receptions) is no Marshall Faulk, that's for sure. That will handcuff coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to a certain degree. Goodson isn't as one-dimensional as Ivory, but he has the skill set of a third-down back. It'll be up to Mornhinweg and Lynn to mix and match the personnel, finding the best roles for the players while keeping defenses off balance.

Wild card: For a couple of reasons, it's Goodson. First of all, will his legal issues keep him off the field? He's still facing drug and weapon charges stemming from a May arrest. If he's available and focused (and not fumbling), Goodson could be an asset to the offense because of his speed and explosiveness. He can take a swing pass and bolt 64 yards for a touchdown, which he did last season for the Raiders. The Jets are desperate for that kind of dimension on offense. The man has skills; the question is whether he can keep his head in the game.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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