Chris Ivory: 2013 and Beyond

Joel Auerbach

I am going to say something a little controversial. I thought Chris Ivory was a mild disappointment for the Jets in 2013. Hear me out. I like Ivory. I thought he was the best player the offense had. I think he is a building block going forward. I was just hoping he would be able to carry the offense.

I was hoping he would be able to turn the Jets into a top tier rushing team and take the pressure off Geno Smith. My hope was a 1,200-1,400 yard rusher. Instead he was just a (nice) complimentary piece. If you traded the sixth round pick the Jets originally offered and got Ivory's production, you would be thrilled. For the fifth round pick many thought would split the difference for the Jets and the Saints, you would be happy. For the fourth round pick the Jets gave up? It wasn't a bad deal, but it wasn't the steal many were hoping for either.

Ivory just did not get enough touches to be a dominant force. Part of that was probably due to the Jets being concerned about him taking too much of a pounding. Ivory had been very injury-prone with the Saints. Part of it was also undoubtedly due to Ivory's inability to contribute anything in the passing game, and I mean anything. He had 2 receptions and 4 drops as a receiver this year. This wasn't exactly out of the blue. He only had 3 catches in 3 seasons with the Saints, one of the most prolific passing teams in the NFL. Ivory was unfortunately not able to develop his game as a pass catcher this year. While the Jets had a passing play on around 52% of snaps as a team, plays with Ivory involved a throw only around 34% of the time.

So Ivory is not a three down back. The Jets probably needed him to be in 2013, but his inability to do so is not such a sin over the long haul. The every down back is becoming extinct in today's NFL. What Ivory does offer is a diverse skillset. After a slow start to the year, he started to kick his running into gear during a 104 yard performance October 20 against the Patriots. Chris kept pounding and pounding on the Patriots. On the game-winning overtime drive he had five consecutive carries that either netted at least 4 yards or resulted in a first down. He had a monster game two weeks later against his former team, the Saints, and a strong finish, ending 2013 with 833 rushing yards on a robust 4.6 average per carry.

Ivory offers a really nice package as a rusher. He is a physical runner. According to Pro Football Focus, no back who got at least half of his team's carries averaged more yards after contact, 3.01 per carry. He isn't just a plodder, though. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry on outside runs. Also of note, PFF says 43.5% of his yardage came on runs of 15 yards or more. Chris is pretty explosive. He can pound it inside and turn the corner outside.

What does this mean going forward? I think we have seen that Ivory can be a very capable runner as part of a tandem. What attributes should a complimentary back have? Sometimes we think of the only combination of running backs as a pounder inside and a burner outside. Ivory can do both. Perhaps we should think in different terms for Chris. The ideal back would obviously be a strong receiver and pass protector out of the backfield to compensate for Ivory's shortcomings there. Since so much of Chris' yardage comes on big runs, maybe the right compliment to him would be the kind of guy who can regularly churn out 5, 6, and 7 yard runs to keep the offense moving while the Jets depend on Chris for big plays.

At the very least, Ivory's $1.75 million cap hit for 2014 should provide some very nice value as long as he stays healthy.

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