FLORHAM PARK, NJ - When it comes to the backfield, many teams have the same options. Some go for the "ground & pound." Others like that "thunder & lightning." The New York Jets, however, have a different set-up with the running backs. With Matt Forte and Bilal Powell handling the bulk of the backfield work, opponents won't know whether to expect run or pass.
Since being drafted by the Chicago Bears in 2008, Forte was an immediate impact. He never carried the ball less than 200 times and had over 1,000 yards rushing in five of his eight seasons in the Windy City. Forte also had over 40 catches in each of his eight seasons. In 2014, he reeled in 102 balls, breaking the single season record for most receptions by a running back. However, Forte struggled in 2015. He had career-lows in rushing yards, targets, and tied-lowest in receptions
"The way that he runs, he seems to be a very special runner," said Nick Mangold on the nine-year vet. "I think he can do some great things for us."
The major thing that hindered Forte last season was the nagging MCL injury that started way back in the 2009 season in which he played the full season with it sprained. Following the season, Forte had a postseason knee procedure to deal with it. In 2011, he was placed on the Injured Reserve in which he missed the last three games of the season.
"The fact that Forte was available, we just knew he was a good football player all the way around," said head coach Todd Bowles. Forte is not far removed from getting nearly 2,000 yards from the line of scrimmage.
"I see myself being used the same way I've always been used in my entire career; in the passing game and the running game," Forte said on how he fits with the Jets. "Whether that's getting split out or running routes from the backfield."
Another running back on the roster that will fill a similar role to Forte is Powell. The Louisville product was drafted in the fourth round of 2011 NFL Draft. That year, Powell only appeared in two games. In the seasons following, he emerged more and more as a reliable target out of the backfield.
Powell has proven he can run with the rock. In 2013 he rushed for 697 yards on 176 carries. In 2015, Powell sat out of five contests due to an ankle injury, but had a career-high in every receiving statistic except average yards per reception.
"The fact that him, Bilal, and [Khiry Robinson] can do the same thing, that kind of helps out a lot," said Bowles of the three backs. "We're trying to be more versatile."
In week two of OTAs, the running backs showed their strength receiving out of the back field. Time and time again, they were able to be free as check downs for Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, and Christian Hackenberg. Not only that, they showed flashes of their capability to pick up the blitz.
"If a guy's not here, you have to get the next guy ready to play," said Bowles on players missing from OTAs.