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Bilal Powell: 2014 and Beyond

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Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The signing of Chris Johnson dropped Bilal Powell to third in the Jets running back hierarchy. Powell ended up with only 44 touches from scrimmage.

That seems about right. Powell is about a three touch per game player. He is maximized where he can go all out on each play, not needing to conserve energy. In almost every category he is somewhere between average and below average.

How is his speed? Somewhere between average and below average. How is he at making people miss? Somewhere between average and below average. How is his power as a runner? Somewhere between average and below average. How is he changing direction? Somewhere between average and below average. How is he as a pass protector? Somewhere between average and below average.

You could probably talk me into saying Powell is average in any one of those areas, but there really isn't any one skills that makes him stand out. He will seldom stick out for egregiously poor play, but he will also seldom do anything to stand out positively. He is somewhere between average and below average.

I view Powell similarly to the way I view former Jets receiver David Nelson. Maybe my team gets hit at a position by a ton of injuries. I need to find a midseason fill in for a minimum price. Powell would make a nice no frills option to give me credible play. I wouldn't want to invest anything above the minimum in Powell, though. His skillset is easy enough to replicate.

I know Powell has become a relatively popular guy, and there are people who will say I am selling him short. Consider Powell's four year career includes:

  • No season with at least 700 rushing yards.
  • One season with more than 17 receptions.
  • No season with at least 300 receiving yards
  • One season where his yards per carry average was better than the league average. That season was 2014 where his average was 4.3 against the league average of 4.2. This netted 141 rushing yards.

Powell is going to be an unrestricted free agent, and the way the new regime handles him is going to be an early litmus test for me to see whether I like the philosophy. Bad teams tend to overvalue players like Powell. Good teams find replacements who are better.

I think every roster spot should be aimed at making a team better both today and tomorrow as much as possible. For today there is not going be any appreciable difference between Powell and a replacement. The Jets could give his three touches a game to almost any back in the league, and it would not have much of an impact on them.

Tomorrow is a different story. Will those three touches and practice reps go to Powell or a younger player who actually has a trait or two that stick out and might have potential to make an impact in the future? I say it should go to the latter.