When the Jacksonville Jaguars signed Chris Ivory to a free agent contract, there were mixed reviews by fans and the NFL media.
Ivory, who had just completed his first 1,000-yard season for the New York Jets, was brought in to give the Jaguars running game a jolt, having been mediocre at best last season.
Ivory is a bruising runner who makes defensive linemen and linebackers remember him with each violent hit. The Jaguars haven’t had a punishing back on its roster like that since Maurice Jones-Drew was running through defensive lines like a bowling ball on two feet.
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Jacksonville hopes the 6-foot, 222-pound runner can have that same kind of effect for this team, and compliment second-year runner TJ Yeldon in the process.
While I like the combination of both runners in a backfield in need of an identity, I’m also of the opinion this is not as cut and dry as some might think.
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Ivory, a veteran and one of the top 100 players in the league, as mentioned by NFL.com, told Mike Dempsey on Jaguars Today on 1010XL and 92.5 FM here in Jacksonville upon signing his contract, he was coming in with the idea he would be competing for the starting job.
The NFL is undoubtedly a two-back league. The Jaguars haven’t had a solid running game with as much talent on its roster since the days of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew.
Was the announcement by Ivory that he was told he was coming in to compete for a starting job a sign, or just a player stating he was not joining a new team to be a complimentary back in an offense with a solid passing game and little else?
There have been great running back tandems in the NFL in recent memory. Taylor and Jones-Drew come to mind. So do Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. Such is the case with Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott.
This pairing could be another duo we talk about for years to come. But I have to ask – “Who is the starter, and who is the reliever?”
Ideally, Yeldon is the guy general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley want to be their bell cow runner, the one who takes over a game and gets better as the season progresses. Ivory is the guy who gets the tough yards and becomes the goal line presence this franchise needs.
There’s a reason Toby Gerhart was released following the 2015 season.
Ivory’s signing, no matter how you look at it, is a good move all around. A punishing back who can start and sustain over a 16-game season is crucial to an effective rushing attack. Yeldon had a good rookie campaign with 760 yards, but injuries kept him out of four contests. Just think how good this combination can be if both remain healthy?
I suspect there will be plenty of competition at the position in training camp. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the veteran beats out the neophyte as he still learns about the pro game. There isn’t any shame in that. It just means this is a unit which is that much better in 2016.
If the Jaguars’ running game is racking up 120-130 yards and contest, it means this offense is that much better. It also means opposing defenses have to worry about Yeldon and Ivory – or Ivory and Yeldon, in addition to the passing game, which is pretty good.
Regardless of who starts and who spells, this is a unit that is already infinitely better than last season. That can only be seen as a good thing, regardless if there is a chance the veteran will unseat the rookie early in the year.