FLORHAM PARK: The list is endless. Literally. New York Jets running back Bilal Powell can’t even begin to think of the number of things he learned from future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson during their one year together in 2011.
Then a rookie, Powell never, ever left Tomlinson’s side. Not on the sideline, in the locker room, in the meeting room…anywhere. Wherever No. 21 went, No. 29 followed.
But with each teaching that was passed down by ‘LT,’ there is one Powell holds more value in than anything else. It was spoken five years ago, but resonates with the back on repeat anytime he steps foot on the field:
“Try to do everything.”
Since Tomlinson’s time with the Jets ended after the 2011 season, Powell, now a veteran himself, has tried everything he can to be New York’s ‘everything man.’ There’s not necessarily one aspect of Powell’s game that separates him from others, but what Powell prides himself on is that there really isn’t anything he can’t do, either.
Sure, there are some out there faster than him, but there are plenty that are slower, too.
Sure, there are some out there that are stronger, but there are plenty that are weaker, too.
Sure, there are some out there that have better hands, but there are plenty out there that don’t, too.
“I just try to come out here and compete, after all, that’s what this league is about,” Powell said. “I handle what I can handle, and I control what I can control. I’m not (Minnesota Vikings running back) Adrian Peterson, and I’m not Chris Ivory. I’m Bilal Powell, and that’s how I approach my game.”
Throughout the early portions of Jets training camp, Powell has flashed. It’s actually been a relatively common occurrence, an expectation almost-- At least once or twice a practice, Powell will send the fans in attendance, along with his coaches and teammates, into an uproar.
Sometimes it occurs off a juke in the hole, such as the one that left safety Calvin Pryor on the ground a couple weeks ago. Other times it’s a burst up the sideline on a screen or stretch, such as his 60-yard breakaway on Sunday.
Powell credits the increased amount of big plays in camp to an increased effort spent off the field to improve his explosion. Powell said he worked countless hours doing hill drills and leg workouts in the offseason to add an extra burst to his game.
“In year five, there’s no such thing as getting faster,” Powell said. “Right now, it’s about being able to explode and working on acceleration. That’s kind of what I keyed in on this year. I like how it worked. I’m feeling pretty good. I feel lean. I’m looking forward to this year.”
In the Jets preseason opener against the Detroit Lions, Powell took his solid camp and translated it to the field. The back rushed for 35 yards on eight carries, highlighted by a nifty 19-yard run in the second quarter.
Powell took the handoff, eluded a few tackles in the box and then capped the run with a hurdle.
“We had a few good plays on defense and offense,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said after the game. “Obviously, Bilal’s run was good.”
While Powell wouldn’t verbally admit it, a little extra motivation may have been provided this year with the knowledge of knowing there are reps to be had in New York’s backfield. Sure, Chris Ivory is locked in as No. 1 on the depth chart, but after him? There’s an awful big opportunity for someone wiling to take it.
Stevan Ridley is presently on the PUP list as he recovers from a torn MCL and ACL. Daryl Richardson and Zac Stacy are fighting for reps with the third team. If Powell continues to impress, he may lock down that No. 2 spot and see his most offensive action since rushing for 698 yards on 176 carries two years ago.
“I’m taking it one day at a time, one week at a time, one game at a time,” Powell said. “We’ll see where it goes from there. I don’t get caught up in all the hype or critics or anything like that.
“I just wanna push myself to be in the best position to help my team win. I look forward to making a run this year.”
This article will also appear in Saturday’s edition of The Journal Inquirer