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For Chris Ivory, it's what's up front that counts

New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33)

New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33) runs the football against the Washington Redskins during the first half of an NFL football game at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Chris Ivory knows he's a marked man.

"But I don't like to say that," the Jets running back said, smiling.

Thanks to his violent running style and tough-to-tackle frame, defensive coordinators are taking notice each week. And in some ways, that's both a blessing and curse for Ivory.

"Defensive coordinators from other teams are watching and seeing how the offensive line gets off their blocks, how aggressive they are, and seeing what I'm able to do after I get into the secondary," he said Thursday. "It makes it tough for them where they say, OK, we're going to focus on stopping the run. They feel like when they stop the run, we're one-dimensional."

In games against the Dolphins and Redskins sandwiched around the Jets' Week 5 bye, he rushed for 166 and 146 yards, respectively. But the soft-spoken running back has always been quick to credit his success to the players around and in front of him.

Asked what makes the offense go, he replied: "I feel like the offensive line does that."

Ivory also noted that the effectiveness of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker in the passing game opens up the field for him.

But in the past two weeks, the running game has stalled. Not surprisingly, the Jets are on a two-game losing streak. In losses to the Patriots and Raiders, Ivory rushed for a total of 58 yards, well below his 115-yard average coming into Week 7.

Each week, he expects opponents to stack the box, and he said Sunday's contest against Jacksonville will be no different.

So how do you counter that? "It starts up front," Ivory said, adding that his balky hamstring is fine. "So we have to do a better job up front and just know our assignments."

Asked how he felt the offensive line blocked in last Sunday's 34-20 loss in Oakland, Ivory said: "I felt like there were a lot of missed assignments, but coming in this week, we corrected those."

To turn their season around, the Jets (4-3) must get their ground game going again. And, according to Chan Gailey, Ivory doesn't need to do anything differently. "He just needs to keep running hard. It'll come," the offensive coordinator said of the sixth-year back, who ranks 11th in the NFL and second in the AFC with 518 yards rushing.

The Jaguars (2-5) rank 14th against the run, and coach Gus Bradley will make sure his defense keys on Ivory. "He can make something out of nothing," Bradley said this week.

After being buried on the depth chart for three seasons in New Orleans, Ivory knows NFL teams are watching him closely, though he was, at first, hesitant to admit it.

After pausing for a few beats, he said: "I think my play is being noticed."

New York Sports