The New York Jets took a step back in the rushing department after finishing 10th and 12th in run yards per game during Todd Bowles’ first two seasons.
The Jets went away from the running game during John Morton’s first and only season as offensive coordinator. As a result, Gang Green lost its ground and pound identity in 2017 and finished 19th in the league with 106.4 rushing yards per game.
Besides Morton’s erratic, occasionally pass-happy scheme, personnel can also be blamed for the team’s struggles on the ground. New York’s backfield lacked a power rusher who could move the chains with plodding runs.
Enter former Cleveland Browns tailback, Isaiah Crowell, who could fill that void after signing a three-year contract worth $12 million this offseason. The 25-year-old tailback already fits the bill from a size standpoint at 5-foot-11, 225 pounds. To compare, that’s one inch shorter and two pounds heavier than former Jets workhorse back, Chris Ivory.
Crowell took a slight step back from a production standpoint last season as the lead back on the 0-16 Browns. He finished 2017 with 853 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 206 carries, a decrease from 952 yards and seven touchdowns on eight fewer carries.
Like Ivory, Crowell is a one-cut runner who can plunge through a hole and be a bear to tackle. He won’t jump off the screen with his elusiveness, but he’s a bit faster than his size suggests. He busted nine big runs and evaded 46 tackles last season, per NFL.com’s advanced metrics.
Crowell fits better in a timeshare backfield (which is how he was used in Cleveland with Duke Johnson) and that’s exactly the situation he’ll walk into alongside likely running mates Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire.
It’s uncertain how New York will split the snaps, but it’s fair to assume Crowell will likely see a healthy chunk of the early down action, with the jack of all trades Powell seeing the field on all three downs and McGuire stepping in sporadically, particularly on passing downs.
How will Crowell fare in his first season with Gang Green? It’s tough to project. The addition of Spencer Long at center to go with a healthy Brian Winters and Brandon Shell on the right side of the line should help. Crowell might not get the majority of the snaps like he did in Cleveland. But he’s efficient enough to eclipse 800 yards and a few touchdowns with a smaller workload.
Either way, expect Crowell to bring a ground and pound identity back to New York’s backfield.