Much attention is being paid to the New York Jets' running back duo of Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson. They figure to be the top dogs in the backfield in the 2014 NFL season. However, in last year's Week 14 victory over Oakland two of the team's less heralded backs played an unsung role in the victory.
The Raiders have a defense that likes to throw a lot of different fronts at the offense and blitz from different angles. There are many ways to combat this as an offense. The best way is to have a quarterback who knows how to exploit the openings in the back of a defense presented by a blitz. Geno Smith wasn't at that point last December, and he probably still isn't. The Jets took another path, using their backs frequently as extra blockers. If a defense sends an extra pass rusher, having an extra blocker can neutralize him.
Geno had 16 completions in that game. I counted 8 pass attempts where a back threw a block on a blitzing linebacker or secondary player. Of these 7 were thrown by either Bilal Powell or Tommy Bohanon.
As a rookie Geno was not at his best when he had to make quick decisions. He also struggled when pressured. These things will surely have to improve for him to have a successful career, but every attempt should be made to give the quarterback time and a clean pocket. The Jets also aren't blessed with a deep group of receivers so allowing extra time for them to shake coverage helps.
For the record I am not a huge fan of either Powell or Bohanon in pass protection, but they did play well against the Oakland Raiders last season and contributed to a win. I think they are both likely to get use in this role again, and their play might be a hidden key to the game.