FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — There were times in the first three weeks when the Jets flipped their running backs like they were in a live-action game of pinochle. First Matt Forte, then Bilal Powell, and then, hey, why don’t we see what Elijah McGuire can do?
Offensive coordinator John Morton’s rotation, for the most part, had its benefits, but the biggest benefit of all might be yet to come Sunday. The Jets on Friday announced what everyone expected: that Forte, suffering from turf toe, would be out against the Jaguars, tossing the spotlight on Powell and to a lesser extent, the rookie McGuire. With both backups having plenty of playing time, the belief is that they’re ready to shoulder the role.
It’ll be Powell’s first start of the season.
“Eli has done a good job, being a rookie,” Powell said, adding he’s been most impressed by the rookie’s coachability and pass protection. “He’s turned into a pro real quick. He’s producing when he goes . . . He’s a guy that’s a sponge, soaks up everything . . . and puts what he’s coached on the field.”
Powell, who was the featured back last year, has gotten off to something of a slow start — 28 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown — but Morton said Thursday that he believed the seventh-year player is more than a third-down back. He added that just because Forte is gone, it doesn’t mean that the Jets will scrap their two-pronged attack. Now, instead of Forte-Powell, with some McGuire, it’ll be Powell-McGuire, with likely a little Travaris Cadet, whom the Jets just signed.
Powell said he was excited about Sunday but — perhaps because he is such a veteran — he projected an air of business as usual. This was, after all, a player who rushed for 722 yards last season, more than 400 in the final four games, when he took over for an injured Forte.
“It’s a league where we’ve got to expect injuries,” he said. “It’s always a ‘next man up’ type of business, so just be prepared, prepared to play. We’ve got a good game plan . . . Whenever my number is called, I just go in and produce and do what I’ve got to do for the team.”
Ealy returns. Kony Ealy missed two days of practice with a “family tragedy.” He practiced Friday and will be available Sunday . . . TE Jordan Leggett (knee) is out. LB Josh Martin (ankle) and T Brandon Shell (shoulder) are doubtful. DE Muhammad Wilkerson (shoulder) is questionable.