Best camp battles: Running back

July, 31, 2013
7/31/13
3:53
PM ET
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Quick takeaways on the Jets' running back competition:

Who is involved: The better question might be, who isn't involved? The Jets have five backs vying for playing time: Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell, Joe McKnight, John Griffin and Mike Goodson, who didn't report to camp for an undisclosed reason. The team won't say when or if he will return, but that is the hope.

[+] EnlargeChris Ivory
Rich Barnes/USA TODAY SportsChris Ivory joined the Jets after three seasons with the Saints.
What are the stakes: Let's be honest, the Jets don't have a true No. 1 back. Not one running back has a 1,000-yard season on his career résumé, and that hasn't happened to the Jets since 1994. In all likelihood, it will be backfield-by-committee. That could change if someone separates from the pack, but don't bet on it. Privately, the staff is hoping that Ivory, acquired in an offseason trade with the Saints, can be a 15-carry-a-game runner. But he has never played a full season, so it's a bold projection.

How the job will be won: It might not be "won," per se, but roles will be defined. Chances are, Ivory will emerge as the lead back. The Jets want to have a physical running game, and Ivory is a big, physical back with the ability to make yards after contact. The Jets say he has natural hands, but he has no track record as a pass catcher, meaning he's not an every-down back. Goodson has the skill set to be the third-down back -- he's the most explosive of the group -- but his mysterious absence is hurting his chances.

Powell has value because he can play on any down. McKnight remains an enigma, physically talented but inconsistent. Griffin, taking advantage of increased reps, has opened eyes with his vision and cutback ability. He's on the bubble.

Projected winner: If healthy, Ivory will be the lead back. Powell will be the No. 2, spelling Ivory in the base offense. Powell also is the leading candidate to be the third-down back until Goodson returns -- if he returns.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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