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NY Jets Friday Spotlight: Chris Ivory

The Jets bruising running back is set up for a big game this Sunday.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the inaugural 2015 Friday Spotlight.  Here we spotlight one key player for each game of the season, hopefully putting a different player in the spotlight each week.  Today's player in the spotlight is Chris Ivory.

Ivory, a 6' 0", 222 pound, 27 year old running back, was originally signed in 2010 as an undrafted free agent by the New Orleans Saints.  After a few promising but injury plagued years with the Saints, the New York Jets acquired Ivory in 2013 in exchange for a 4th round draft pick.  Ivory was installed as the lead back in a backfield tandem with Bilal Powell, and he responded in 2013 with a career high 833 yards rushing.  Ivory also managed to stay healthy enough to play in a career high 15 games in 2013.  He followed that up with another 821 yards and seven touchdowns on 198 carries in 2014, while playing all 16 games for the first time in his career.

Ivory not only led the Jets in rushing in 2013 and 2014, he also won the hearts of Jets fans with his bruising, take-no-prisoners style of running.  Ivory is one of the NFL's premier backs in terms of yards after contact, and he also is the owner of a sterling 4.7 career yards per carry average.  He has enough speed and wiggle to make some people miss, but that's not what Ivory is all about.  Ivory is about being the one doling out punishment.  He is a fearsome back who seemingly not only doesn't wish to avoid contact, but actually seems to revel in it.  This style is fun to watch and easy to root for, but it also may be the one thing holding Ivory back from becoming one of the best running backs in the NFL, at least as far as running the ball is concerned (pass catching is another matter entirely).  Ivory has had some trouble staying healthy in the NFL, largely due to his bruising running style, although his two years with the Jets have seen him miss only one game.  This year the new Jets coaching staff seems likely to install Ivory as the bell cow back.  Whether or not his body will hold up to the increased punishment remains to be seen, but if (and this is a big if) Ivory manages to stay healthy all year one could picture him having a monster year rushing the ball.

As a pass catcher, Ivory, well, isn't.   Receivers with poor hands are often described as having stone hands because their hands are the opposite of the soft, pliable, sticky hands a great receiver is described as having.  What's harder and more unyielding than stone?  Diamond?  Yeah, Ivory has had diamond hands. Nonetheless, the Jets new coaching staff appears to believe Ivory is capable of improving in this respect, and seem likely to be targeting Ivory much more in the passing game.  All this adds up, if things go as planned and Ivory stays healthy, to Ivory being a huge cog in the Jets offense.  If he stays healthy he will likely gain more yards from scrimmage than any other Jet, by a wide margin.

Here are Ivory's  statistics for the first five years of his career.  For an undrafted free agent Ivory has done extremely well for himself.

Year

Games

Rushing Attempts

Rushing Yards

Yards/

Attempt

Receptions

Receiving Yards

TDs

.

2010

12

137

716

5.2

1

17

5

2011

6

79

374

4.7

0

0

1

2012

6

40

217

5.4

2

15

2

2013

15

182

833

4.6

2

10

3

2014

16

198

821

4.1

18

123

7

Now in his third year with the Jets, and the final year of his current contract, Ivory figures to be a major factor in the Jets' bid to defeat the Browns in the Jets opening day game Sunday.  The Browns last year had one of the worst run defenses in the NFL, giving up more rushing yards than any other NFL team at a whopping 142 yards per game, while yielding an average of  4.5 yards per carry, good for 4th worst in the NFL.  In addition the Jets, led by Ivory, rushed for 143 yards per game last year, good for 3rd best in the NFL, while rushing at a 4.5 yards per carry clip, good for 6th in the NFL.  These two teams both have quarterbacks who are unlikely to carry a team's offense much.  The weather also may conspire against big passing numbers, with showers and thunderstorms predicted for Sunday.

It all adds up to a game begging for a huge dose of  Ivory.    If the Jets can't successfully attack this Browns defense on the ground they will have a tough time putting this game in the win column.  This is a game where the Jets might have a shot at 175-200 yards running, pounding the rock again and again and again.  If they do, it will be Ivory carrying the bulk of that load. Give it to the big bruiser and let him move the chains.  If Ivory comes to play on Sunday, he could be poised for a career day on Opening Day.

The Jets have upgraded their weapons in the passing game and imported a new quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick who should have little trouble upgrading the passing offense from the anemic levels of recent years.  Nonetheless, on Sunday the Jets' best chance to win probably involves a return, if only for a day, to the ground and pound philosophy so ingrained in this team over the last six years.  Sunday's matchup provides the perfect opportunity for a grand sendoff of Rex Ryan's preferred ground and pound philosophy to win the day, sans Ryan himself.  Chris Ivory is in the right place at the right time to win the game for the Jets.

This is Ivory's shot to prove he deserves to be the bell cow back for the first time in his career.  This is Ivory's chance to show the nation that, when healthy, he is every bit the star runner as more heralded guys like Marshawn Lynch and Alfred Morris.  The Brown's run defense figures to be less than formidable.   The Jets running game should be just as potent as a year ago.  The weather is set to interfere with the passing games of an already underwhelming duo of quarterbacks.  This game is set up for Ivory to assert his will and take it over.    For better or for worse, Ivory should prove to be a pivotal player in this game.   This is Ivory's time in the spotlight.  Let's hope he shines to kick off the 2015 Jets' season.