After posting a career high 833 rushing yards in his first season with the Jets, Chris Ivory added another 821 rushing yards in 2014. Ivory's average per rush dropped from 4.6 to a career low 4.1, but he remained an effective runner. While much attention was brought to the position by the offseason signing of former All Pro Chris Johnson, Ivory remained the most effective back the Jets had.
Ivory has a nice blend of power and speed. He can run through arm tackles and still beat a man to the corner. He also has nice vision and patience waiting for blocks to come. How effective is Ivory at creating his own yardage? According to Pro Football Focus, only Marshawn Lynch, DeMarco Murray, and Le'Veon Bell forced more missed tackles by defenders than the 52 Ivory forced. Now consider that Lynch had 280 carries, Murray 393, and Bell 289. Ivory had just 198.
These numbers point to Ivory's effectiveness as a runner, but there is a big reason Ivory does not get more touches. That is due to how poor he is in the passing game. Ivory did post 18 catches this season after recording just 5 receptions total in his first 4 years in the NFL. He is not a great weapon, though. He lacks soft hands. As a pass protector, things are even worse. Ivory struggles to identify his assignment and then instead of throwing a solid block, tends to just lunge his body at the oncoming rusher. According to PFF, he allowed 11 disruptions on 44 pass blocking snaps, an astounding rate. There were 42 backs in the NFL who pass blocked on more than 44 snaps. There were only 3 backs who allowed more than 11 disruptions total.
This creates a dilemma. When Ivory is in the game, the defense knows it will either be a run or the offense will be at a massive disadvantage throwing the ball.
I have come to think the Jets have miscast Ivory. He isn't really a top dog. Going forward, the Jets would probably be better served with a more rounded back at the top of the depth chart. Next year the quarterback will either likely be Geno Smith or a rookie. In either case, pocket presence and reading defensive fronts is probably going to be an issue. A solid back next to the quarterback can provide extra protection on passes.
I see Ivory as more of a change of pace guy. After a defense sees the top back, Ivory comes in and steamrolls them with greater violence than they have seen. It can catch them off guard. I equate it to bringing a reliever who throws 100 miles per hour out of the bullpen after a starting pitcher throwing in the low 90's. Then Ivory can be the hammer in the fourth quarter. He'll be fresh with his touches limited, and he can pound on a tired defense.
In any event, there are not many things for which Jets fans can thank John Idzik. Ivory is one of the few exceptions. Getting him for a fourth round pick and an average cap hit of $2 million per year was one of the few genuine bargains Idzik delivered to this team. Ivory is a useful piece of the offense.