Florham Park, N.J. - The New York Jets barely walked away with a win on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, one of the worst teams in the NFL. Even though the Jets are out of playoff contention, it's never a good sign to almost lose to a team that hasn't won since Week One. There were some promising things in the game on Sunday. The biggest one had to be the emergence of Bilal Powell.
In the game, Matt Forte left with an apparent knee injury. Powell was inserted as the starter and never looked back. He had a career-high 29 carries en route to running for 145 yards and two rushing touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime. Powell also reeled in five catches for 34 yards. The closest he's had to 29 carries was back in 2013 where he had 27 and 149 yards, which is his career-high. That year, Powell started 11 games at running back. To give perspective on how often the 6th-year back gets the ball, the 145 yards is more yards than he had in all of 2014 where he played 15 games. Powell averaged five yards per carry and 6.8 yards per reception on Sunday.
It's clear that Powell has been underused by the Jets. He was drafted in the 4th round back in 2011 and has seen numerous running backs ahead of him. In 2011 and 2012, it was Shonn Greene. In 2013, he was the feature back. The next two years saw Chris Ivory take control of the backfield before the Jets were able to land Forte this past offseason. Year after year, Powell has gotten better and better. Throughout this season, Powell has been averaging 5.8 yards per carry, a team high (excluding Robby Anderson averaging 14 yards off three carries). Powell is also 3rd on the team with 42 receptions and 4th with 281 receiving yards, showing that he can do it all. Even though Forte leads Powell in every other rushing category, Powell has been the most effective on the chances he's had.
Forte went to get an MRI for his knee on Monday and on Wednesday he said that test shown he tore his meniscus. He doesn't think that the injury will keep him out of the last three games of the season, as Forte believes he's been playing with the injury for quite some time. "At some point [I will need surgery], but I've been playing with it for a whole year and it hasn't been bothering me," Forte said, via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. "What happens sometimes with these meniscus injuries is that it's in a place where you can function. If it doesn't bother you, yeah, you can play with it."
Forte is signed for two more years with the Jets, as is Powell. This could affect how the Jets use Forte for the rest of the season, as head coach Todd Bowles claims he's a game-time decision. The smart decision would be to shut Forte down for the rest of the season and stick with Powell. The Jets also resigned Khiry Robinson and promoted Brandon Wilds from the practice squad. This could also give the Jets a look on what Powell can actually do now given the full running back role. Keep in mind that Powell just recently turned 28 and Forte turned 31. Workhorse running backs, such as Forte, start to decline after they turn 30. Depending on how Powell does in the next three games, the Jets could move Forte and go all-in with Powell for the next couple of years.null