To many an outsider, the Jets’ selection of Louisville RB Bilal Powell in the fourth round seemed rather curious. With LaDainian Tomlinson, Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight under contract, the backfield already appeared to be a full house.
“If people follow with what we do at here with the Jets, since I’ve been here and obviously with Rex, it hasn’t changed. But we’ve always had a stable of backs,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer told me on a recent “Four Quarters” appearance that will air next week. “When Curtis Martin left, you added Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. We cannot have enough backs and we feel great about our running back situation. A lot of the guys we have are dual threats.”
Tomlinson, who will turn 32 in June, paced the Jets during the regular season with 914 yards and six touchdowns on the ground and added 52 receptions. While his three postseason TDs also were a team high, Shonn Greene became more of the workhorse in January as he totaled 198 rush yards and 45 attempts as the Jets advanced to the AFC Championship Game. And McKnight, a fourth-round pick from USC in 2010, got going late last year and Rex Ryan has already indicated he’ll get more offensive touches in his sophomore campaign.
“You look at a guy like LT and a guy like Joe McKnight, they can play other positions,” Schotty said. “They can play in the slot, they can play extended and run routes 1-on-1.”
And Powell will soon be on his way to Florham Park as well. The 5’10”, 204-pounder rushed for 1,405 yards last season, averaging an impressive 117 rush yards an outing. He was a model of consistency in a memorable senior campaign, rushing for over 100 yards seven times and topping the 200-yard mark on two occasions.
“We’ve got a great finisher, a guy with great ability to see things and use his vision,” Schotty said. “This guy can take off and make people miss in space.”
Interestingly, Powell started just five times his first three seasons for the Cardinals, amassing 933 rush yards in 30 contests.
“People point to one year of production, but the philosophy before the new staff under Charlie Strong was to split time,” Schottenheimer said. “Once they started giving Bilal all the touches, I think you saw what he was capable of doing. We were thrilled that he was sitting there for us in the fourth round, knowing that you are going to have to find some gems and also get some luck on those last couple of days.”
The fourth round has provided plenty of recent gems for the Jets.
Dwight Lowery, the defensive back selected out of San Jose State in 2008, tied for the team lead with three interceptions last year and returned two of them back for scores. Back in 2006, the Jets scored Missouri weapon Brad Smith 14 selections before they drafted another RB, Leon Washington. B.Smith, who returned two kicks for scores in 2010, is the only player in the modern era to have scored touchdowns by reception, rush, kickoff return and blocked punt return and by throwing a TD pass.
Jerricho Cotchery, a fourth-round selection in 2004, has 358 catches, 4,514 receiving yards and 18 TDs on his regular-season résumé. Despite playing last season with a herniated disk, J-Co still managed 41 receptions and then stepped it up in the playoffs with another 12.
So the Jets have four talented backs, there is plenty of optimism about the latest fourth-round pick, and Brian Schottenheimer was pleased with the quartet of offensive prospects he acquired on day three of the draft.
“All the scouts do a great job. They make it easy for us as a coaching staff once the season ends to kind of jump in and be ahead of the game because they’ve done so much work during the season while we’ve been game-planning,” he said. “It’s kind of set for us, so we get a chance to look at and give our input.”
Tags: Bilal Powell, Brian Schottenheimer, joe McKnight, LaDainian Tomlinson, Louisville, Shonn Greene
Posted in Eric Allen, Randy Lange | 38 Comments »