Bilal Powell
(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

New York Jets running back Bilal Powell has always been cast in the shadows throughout his career. Here’s why 2018 is finally the time for him to break out of the mold. 

The eight-year veteran has seen his fair share of ups and downs throughout his career. That has almost made Bilal Powell even more relatable to the common fan because nothing has ever come easy.

Powell was drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft and will hit 30 years of age midway through the 2018 season. Despite being a talented running back with tons of versatility, more times than not he has found himself watching the game from the bench more so than playing it. Although that’s no fault of his own. The New York Jets have just seemingly underused him throughout his entire career.

Battling through varying levels of adversity earned Powell the title of fan-favorite. So what exactly is a fan favorite?

It’s the little guy. The soap opera Rudy story about a player from humble beginnings earning his way onto a team he probably shouldn’t have ever made, but did so because of his heart and desire. Someone fans can rally around. A guy that is more relatable to the average fan maybe literally in terms of size or figuratively in terms of mindset.

Now that’s where the line of delineation exists. Powell is more than just a “fan favorite.” No offense to Sean Astin, but Powell has earned more playing time on this team because of his production in limited action yet hasn’t received it.

Look at the facts, Jack.

When Powell has had opportunities to be more than just a scat back, he has produced. Over the last three years, he has averaged 4.77 yards per clip, which would’ve tied Todd Gurley last season for eighth best in the league.

The Jets have never seemed interested in seeing if Powell can lead the offense on his own. Instead, at every turn, the norm of the league “running back by committee” has remained true.

Probably the most prominent of Powell the fan-favorite example was when Chris Ivory was brought in to be the lead dog for the Jets. He inevitably gets hurt and guess who stepped up? Powell was leading the entire conference in rushing while he was the starter, but that didn’t seem to matter once Ivory was healthy because he was instantly inserted into the starting lineup upon his return.

Despite the success Powell’s generated he has never had a season in which he has racked up over 200 carries. If that doesn’t show a lack of confidence by the team, I don’t know what will.

So let’s fast forward to 2018 and the present, Powell looks like a perfect fit in this Jeremy Bates offense. Finally, he seems to be getting the respect he deserves as a legitimate centerpiece in an NFL offense. Although, we’ll have to see if this is just another tease in Powell’s professional career or perhaps finally a breakthrough.

1 COMMENT

  1. Paul, while I think we can all agree that Powell is a great and underrated Jet I do get why he has had his touches limited. He’s not the biggest back and he just seems to get nicked up just enough to make the coaches hesitant to expose him to more punishment! We both know that NFL careers average under 4 years. The running back position is the worst as it is less than one full season. The fact that Powell is about to turn 30 tells us he has exceeded those unfortunate numbers also tells us he has been fortunate and well looked after by his team. We have a younger version of Powell currently on the shelf nursing an injury who happens to be almost exactly the same size with an almost identical skill set so I’m thinking between the two of them and the back (Crowell!)we signed from the Browns, we should be set for this season. With the kid we drafted in April also emerging it might be interesting to see If a team suffers an injury at the RB spot what kind of draft pick we might be able to secure in return? Better to trade him a year too soon than a year to late.