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Jets Chris Ivory ready to break 1,000 yards

Chris Ivory is closing in on a career milestone

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J.- Chris Ivory isn't a me-first player. Never has been, likely never will be. In a league where egos run rampant, the Jets big-bodied running back is as quiet as they come. 

Whether he runs for 100 yards for 10, scores 20 touchdowns or none, he'll always act the same. But with the back closing in on the first 1,000-yard season of his collegiate or professional career, he admitted Wednesday that milestone would be pretty special. 

"It would be great," Ivory said. "It looks like I'm on pace for it, so when it happens, it'll be an exciting moment for me. But I'm focused on being productive these last couple games so we can get some wins."

With just three games remaining before a bow is placed on Ivory's sixth NFL season, this year has been quite different than the previous five. For the first time in his career, Ivory is an offense's featured back, the difference maker on Sundays, and has already run 19 more times in 12 games than he has in any other complete season to date. 

On his 217 rushing attempts this year, Ivory has compiled 914 yards and seven touchdowns. The scoring total is a new career-high, the rushing total is not only a career high, but the most of any running back in the AFC. 

Ivory has been a consistent difference maker for the Jets week in and week out. He's making the plays with his legs, but also his hands. After seldom being used as a pass catcher entering this season, Ivory's caught 25 passes for 208 yards and a score this year. 

But while Ivory's statistical numbers are opening the eyes of talent evaluators around the league, what the back is most happy about is how his body has held up. Despite touching the ball more than ever before, and thus taking more hits than ever before, he's healthy. He had a slight hamstring issue earlier in the year that cost him a game, but other than that, nothing.

"We're trying to be smart without hurting the team," Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said in regards to limiting Ivory's touches. "Does that make sense? We're trying to be smart without hurting the team. 

"He plays extremely hard every week. He's become a pass threat for us, which is great, and he's run the ball extremely, extremely hard. He's given us what we need in our offense right now."

What Gailey means is that the Jets have been trying to find the perfect blend of enough Ivory, but not too much Ivory that it jeopardizes him for the home stretch of the season. It appears, at least to this point, that they've found it. Running back Stevan Ridley will come in for a few series each game to give Ivory a breather, while Bilal Powell has taken over third-down duties. 

Ivory has also taken matters into his own hands to help keep himself on the field. He uses acupuncture twice a week, along with a custom-designed rehab schedule put together by the Jets team doctors and training staff. 

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He'll spend time in the cold tub, uses the special teams portion of practice for extra stretching, and does countless other things to keep his body right.

"I feel like I've held up pretty good," Ivory said. "I think I've found something that's worked for me, and I'm going to continue to do it."

On the field, it looks like Ivory is beginning to to hit his stride again. The back endured a difficult stretch during the midway portion of the season when New York's offensive line was hit hard by injuries. But now, with all healthy, things are back on track. Ivory has run for 235 yards in his last three games. 

But it's not just the line that Ivory credits the improved play too. In that same three-game stretch, New York's passing attack, led by Ryan Fitzpatrick, has come alive. The quarterback has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions against the Dolphins, Giants and Titans combined. With opponents having to compensate for the likes of Jets receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, defenses haven't had the luxury of putting an extra defender near the line.

"I have noticed light boxes on certain plays," Ivory said. "The passing definitely helps. The receivers are doing a great job on the outside, and that then opens up the run."

Ivory and the Jets will look to keep rolling this Saturday against the Dallas Cowboys. For the first time since he was a member of the Saints, Ivory will play in Texas. Growing up a little over an hour from Arlington, the back admitted, as a kid, he was quite the big Cowboys fan, and an even bigger admirer of Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith.

Getting his first 1,000-yard season, which he's just 86 yards from, against the team he cheered for as a kid? That would be kind of nice. 

Having loved ones at the game to witness it? That would be incredibly special.

"I'll have a few family members there, yeah," Ivory said with a smile. 

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Connor Hughes is the New York Jets beat writer for The Journal Inquirer and Scout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@Connor_J_Hughes), or via email (connor_j_hughes@yahoo.com)


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