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Chris Ivory's year to shine for Jets

Jets running back Chris Ivory runs for yards

Jets running back Chris Ivory runs for yards after a catch in a preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. Credit: Steven Ryan

INDIANAPOLIS - Chris Ivory relishes contact, and that means defenders, beware.

He's a wrecking ball between blocks, a bruising back with little regard for his own body as he slashes through defenses -- or runs straight at them.

The 6-foot, 222-pound Ivory is physical. Powerful. Violent.

And the Jets know they're lucky to have him.

"He's one of the best running backs in the business right now," receiver Brandon Marshall said in advance of Monday night's game against the Colts. "He just runs hard, he's smart, he can do it all. Not only can he pound you, but he also has speed and agility. So, you just give that guy an inch and he'll do something with it."

That's why Ivory's injury status for the game stopped fantasy owners in their tracks. After being limited in practice Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the Jets listed Ivory as questionable, along with cornerback Antonio Cromartie. Both started.

Ivory's presence on the field is a boon for the Jets -- against the Colts and beyond. Even with explosive playmakers such as Marshall and Eric Decker and the speedy rookie Devin Smith, Jets receivers readily admit that their offense flows through their bulldozing back. That could make all the difference for Todd Bowles' team in 2015.

According to Ivory, his Week 1 performance against the Browns -- 91 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns -- was just an appetizer of what fans can expect to see this season.

"For one, I like the scheme," Ivory said of coordinator Chan Gailey's offense. "We come in and work hard every day and we just practice as if it's a game, we take those reps as game reps. I'm just confident. If you're not confident in yourself, who else will be? You have to be, that's the only way I think you prosper and progress in this game."

It was Ivory's fourth multi-touchdown performance and his first since he scored twice against the Bills on Oct. 26, 2014.

With every stutter step and spin move, his dreadlocks whip around from underneath his helmet, creating a dramatic effect as he darts through traffic. Ivory isn't scared of taking hits. It's tacklers who should be worried.

Cornerback Dexter McDougle learned that during practice last week, according to Marshall.

"We had a play to the left and Dexter McDougle was out there and Ivory was about to get loose and he said, 'This is going to be a tough tackle,' " Marshall said, recalling the young defensive back's reaction. "We obviously weren't tackling each other to the ground, but that's the defender's mentality. He's a tough person to take down."

Gailey, in his first year with the Jets, said it's "very satisfying" to see the way Ivory runs. "You don't see guys that are that big and strong and that fast," said Gailey, who was the Steelers' offensive coordinator when Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis was named the Comeback Player of the Year in 1996.

"He can get outside with the ball in a heartbeat on you if you don't watch it. He is a big, strong runner inside and hardly ever gets knocked back. Even if we mess it up, he'll get us two yards. That's pretty good for us to be able to have that weapon."

Gailey said Ivory reminds him "a little bit" of Bettis, but there's one big difference. "Jerome was a picker and slider and a strong guy. This guy's a violent runner downhill to me."

Just a few years ago, Ivory, 27, was buried at the bottom of the Saints' depth chart. Now he's on a mission to crack the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time. He's come close, running for 833 and 821 yards in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

"I think the opportunity is there," Ivory said. "It's just about me making the plays and being healthy."

If the Jets are successful this season, Ivory will be a big reason why. "For us, he makes everything go," Marshall said.

For Ivory, that praise is proof his hard work is paying off. "It makes me feel good," he said. "It just lets me know they're seeing the work that I'm putting in.

"I don't really think I've changed too much, but I did have one of my better camps this year. Those guys are my peers and they're all around, so they see what I'm capable of and what I do every day, so that's probably why you hear that."

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