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Bilal Powell prepared to carry Jets' running game vs. Titans

Buffalo Bills strong safety Da'Norris Searcy (no. 25)

Buffalo Bills strong safety Da'Norris Searcy (no. 25) tries to stop Jets running back Bilal Powell (no. 29) during the first half. (Sept. 22, 2013) Credit: Lee S. Weissman

Rex Ryan admitted this week that Bilal Powell often doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

But even the Jets weren’t sure about the state of their running game this past offseason. So new general manager John Idzik signed free agent Mike Goodson in March and traded away a fourth-round pick a month later to snag ex-Saint Chris Ivory during the draft.

But as the Jets (2-1) head into their Week 4 matchup with the Titans (2-1), it’s Powell who they’re depending on to produce. With Ivory hobbled again by a left hamstring injury, and Goodson still serving a four-game suspension, Powell had a career day against the Bills last week. And he’s looking to power the Jets running game for a second straight week – if it comes to that.

Powell, the Jets’ fourth-round pick in 2011, said he isn’t sure if Ivory will play Sunday in Tennessee. Asked for his reaction to the signings of Goodson and Ivory (both to three-year deals), Powell said in a soft voice: “That’s totally out of my control. My main purpose was just to come in this offseason and prepare and get ready for this season and put myself in a position where I can help this team.”

And that’s what he did last week, rushing for a career-high 149 yards in their 27-20 win over Buffalo.

Teammates have noticed Powell’s burgeoning confidence as the weeks have gone by, as well as his improvement in breaking tackles and finishing plays.

“I just came in more focused this year,” he said. “Just tried to (soak) up as much of the play book as I can, and that allowed me to go out and play more comfortable and more fast.”

With Ivory on the sideline last week, Powell also posted a career-high 27 carries. But those kind of numbers didn't come as a surprise to his offensive coordinator.

“I certainly expect it from him," Marty Mornhinweg said. "He expects it from himself. And he turned it loose just a little bit. A heck of a ball game. And I was certainly was not surprised.

"He’s a little deceptive in how he goes about his game. He’s bigger than it appears. He’s stronger than he appears. He's a little quicker, a littler faster. And, really, he is just a real natural football player. Things come easily to him. You teach him something and he gets it very quickly.”

But the increased workload is nothing new for the third -year back from Louisville. Powell was forced to shoulder the load in training camp due to Goodson’s excused absence (following his arrest on drugs and weapons charges) and Ivory’s initial hamstring injury.

“However everything turns out, we’ll see,” Powell said, when asked about possibly having to carry the load against the Titans and their 13th-ranked run defense. “But until then, I just have to worry about taking care of my body and preparing for every opponent that comes up.”

At 5-10, 204 pounds, Powell isn’t built like most big-name backs in the NFL. But he said his steady production stems from the fact that he’s decisive with his runs, gets leverage by keeping his shoulders down and is “dedicated to whatever cut I make.”

While the offseason acquisitions of Goodson and Ivory have yet to pay dividends, Powell remains the one constant in the Jets’ backfield.

“You never know in this league,” Powell said. “I just come in day to day and prepare and just try to carry myself as a professional.” 

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