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NY Jets: Forte - Ivory = 1

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What will be the net effect on the Jets' offense of replacing Chris Ivory with Matt Forte?

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

During the 2016 offseason the Jets made the decision to let Chris Ivory go in free agency.  The Jets replaced Ivory with Matt Forte.  The net effect on the Jets' offense should be a likely increase in the passing game and a likely decrease in the running game.  But will the Jets' offense be better or worse overall?  Let's see if we can make a rough estimate.

In order to quantify this, I am going to assume Forte catches his usual number of passes per year as established by his track record with the Chicago Bears.  An arbitrary assumption, to be sure, but one has to start somewhere, and with Chan Gailey's track record of frequent passes to his backs (provided his backs are competent receivers), this assumption should be in the right neighborhood.

Forte has averaged 80 targets and 61 receptions per year over the course of his career.  Let's say he does the same for the Jets.  Ivory had 37 targets and 30 receptions last year.  So we are assuming Forte will get 43 more targets in 2016 than Ivory did in 2015.  To keep things simple (unrealistic, but simple), let's assume the Jets' offense overall is no more or less pass heavy than in 2015.  In that case Forte's 43 extra targets will have to come at the expense of some of the players, in addition to Ivory, who were on the team last year.  Let's start by taking Jeremy Kerley's 26 targets, since he's no longer with the team.  Let's also take Stevan Ridley's 5 targets, since he's also not here.  Finally, let's take Zac Stacy's 12 targets, since he will likely be buried at #4 on the depth chart and may not even make the team. Look at that. That adds up to precisely the 43 extra targets we needed to account for.  Ain't math grand?

Now, what did that trio of Jets superstars do with those 43 targets last year?  Well, Jeremy Kerley had 152 yards receiving, Zac Stacy had 65 yards, and Stevan Ridley had an impressive -2 yards (that's not a typo -- negative two yards on 5 targets).  In total that comes to 215 yards on their 43 targets.  Add that 215 yards to Ivory's 217 yards and the combined 80 targets produced 432 yards in 2015.  Forte, on the other hand, has averaged 517 yards per 80 targets over the course of his career.  So replacing Ivory, Kerley, Stacy and Ridley in the passing game with Forte should net the Jets something like 517 - 432 = 85 additional yards of offense.

That does not end the analysis, however.  We must also account for the difference in running prowess.  Ivory had 247 carries last year; let's assume Forte has the same number in 2016, in order to keep things simple. This shouldn't be too far off, as it's a bit less than Forte's average carries with the Bears, but he is getting older, so a modest reduction in workload seems in order.  Ivory over the course of his Jets career has averaged 4.34 yards per carry.  Forte has averaged 4.2 yards per carry in his career, but let's assume a modest decline in that number to, say, 4.0 yards per carry in 2016. That's a bit less than the average NFL running back, which seems appropriate for a good but aging back.  Now, the difference in yards per carry for Ivory in his Jets career and the number we're projecting for Forte in 2016 is 0.34 yards per carry.  Multiply that by the 247 carries we're projecting for Forte in 2016 and we get 84 less rushing yards in 2016 by Forte than we might have expected from Ivory in the same number of carries.

So this is how it works out.  Forte will provide an additional 85 yards in the Jets passing game in 2016, and will provide 84 less rushing yards in 2016.  The Forte giveth, and the Forte taketh away.  Net result:  Forte - Ivory = 1.

*For those who insist on taking such analysis too literally, let's dispense with the obvious.  Obviously this was done somewhat with tongue in cheek, and meant to be taken with a huge grain of salt.  Things will not work out this neatly.  The effect on the offense in replacing Ivory with Forte will go well beyond simple receiving and rushing totals and will involve changing roles for multiple players, different schemes, pass blocking differences, run/pass balance differences, and multiple other changes.  The net result will NOT be 1 yard more of offense.  I just thought it would be interesting to try to flesh out a rough approximation of how this might play out.  It was just a coincidence the numbers seemed in the end to almost perfectly net out to nothing.