A rib injury suffered by running back Chris Ivory underscored a slow start for the Jets running attack against the Colts. Rex Ryan said Ivory would be “fine” at the game’s conclusion, but Ryan will surely feel differently about the team’s inability to move the ball efficiently on the ground in the Jets’ first action against a live opponent since 2013. The team’s core of running backs rushed for 76 yards on 28 carries, fan average of just 2.7 yards-per-carry.
Ivory started the game and impressed early with a good effort getting the Jets a first down on the second play of the opening drive, but didn’t receive much in the way of running lanes overall and was shelved by the middle of the second quarter. The latest injury scare for Ivory, while reportedly not serious, is not an encouraging sign given Ivory’s general injury track record.
Freshly signed Chris Johnson got himself on the score sheet immediately and showed good explosiveness, but with just 2 yards on 4 carries did little to show what he was capable of on the ground. As with Ivory, there seemed to be little running room created by the first team offensive line in this game. Where Johnson did show some of what he has to offer was in the passing game. Although he couldn’t handle a Vick pass on one occasion, Johnson did grab two catches that highlighted the help he’ll provide Geno Smith – he made himself available and picked up ten yards on a Smith check down pass, and also had a designed swing pattern on a 1st- ---and-10 go for six yards. A reliable check down option and more designed pass plays for a running back should assist in taking pressure off Smith.
With Powell having already been named inactive and Ivory’s injury, the second half belonged to Daryl Richardson and Alex Green and they both put in solid performances. The Jets will likely only keep one if either of them the roster. The battle between the two is no doubt a storyline to follow as training camp and preseason continues through August.
The ability of the team’s top two quarterbacks to run with the ball is something to keep an eye on as well. To no one’s surprise Michael Vick dazzled with his scrambling ability, but the one facet to keep an eye on going into the season is how often the quarterback is used on designed runs. Smith kept the ball once on an option, and found himself in open field for a first down with the run clearly fooling the defense.
While it’s not a great start, it is certainly not worth panicking over either at this point. Preseason performances mean more for those earning a roster spot than it does for starters, and starter performance levels don’t necessarily carry over to the regular season. For example, Thomas Jones had a largely unimpressive preseason in 2009 before having a career year and the Jets were a very poor rushing team in last year’s preseason as well before performing as one of the better rushing teams in the league last year. With that said, the Jets running attack will definitely look for a better showing against a major test next week against a strong Cincinnati defense.