Bilal Powell thinks this may be his time, his chance, his opportunity.
With LaDainian Tomlinson unlikely to play, Powell will probably suit up in the future Hall of Fame running back’s place and make his NFL debut on Thursday night in Denver.
“I’m excited. I’ve been waiting all season for this,” said the 23-year-old rookie out of Louisville, who has been inactive for every game this season.
The Jets invested a fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft on Powell, so they clearly like what he brings to the table. But because they’re so deep in the backfield, Powell hasn’t been able to see any action yet.
He’s certainly been doing a ton of practicing. Just not any playing. This week, though, he said he’s been getting more reps with the “ones” than usual. An indication, seemingly, of what is to come.
“Like I said, I’m still learning,” said Powell, who is quick to praise starter Shonn Greene and L.T. for taking him under their wings.
“They bend over backwards to help me prepare. Any questions I have, they don’t hesitate to answer.
Powell played four years at Louisville, but didn’t emerge until 2010 -- his senior year with the Cardinals -- when he rushed for 1,405 yards and 11 touchdowns on 229 carries.
The young running back said the biggest adjustment he’s had to make at the pro level has been understanding and executing in pass protection.
“It’s different in college,” Powell said of his blocking assignments. “It was really basic.”
Coach Rex Ryan has been impressed with what he’s seen from Powell.
“[He’s] doing well,” Ryan said. “It’s kind of like, remember Shonn Greene, when he wasn’t up a few years ago? You saw the guy progressing and all that kind of stuff, and then his work on scout teams and on special teams and all that. Sometimes you get an opportunity and you never leave. That’s basically what happened with Shonn Greene. So we’ll see, but I like the way that he looks on the practice field.”
Looking back at Greene, he made his NFL debut during the Jets’ fourth game of the 2009 season.
Three weeks later, he rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries in Oakland.