Welcome back to the weekly Saturday mailbag. Here you go, the Week 1 question on the New York Jets:
Let me put it this way: Matt Forte is the No. 1 back, but he won't be an every-down workhorse. Then again, how many teams rely on one workhorse? Not many. Based on what we saw in the one preseason game they played together, you'll see Forte on first and second downs, with Bilal Powell handling the third-down duties. Forte was a three-down back during his career with the Chicago Bears, so he'll have to adjust to a reduced role.
If you're looking for numbers, I think the workload will be more balanced than it was last season. Chris Ivory averaged 16 rushes per game, Powell six. This year, you could see something like 14 for Forte, eight for Powell. The Jets have to be cognizant of Forte's age (30), and it would be foolish to wear out the tread on his tires, although offensive coordinator Chan Gailey noted they won't have Forte on a snap count early in the year.
Powell is a good football player, and the Jets won't forget about him. Ryan Fitzpatrick said Powell will be "a huge part of our offense." It wouldn't shock me if the two backs are used at the same time. Think about those matchup problems for the defense. If you have them on the field against a base defense, and empty the backfield, you'll have Forte and Powell on the perimeter, matched up against linebackers. That would be a tough cover for any defense. The Jets lined up in "20" personnel (two backs, no tight ends, three receivers) on 51 snaps last season, the second-highest total in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information. I could see that number rising.
For fantasy purposes, I'd go with Forte over Powell because he'll get more touches, running and receiving, but the big question is how the Jets handle short-yardage and goal-line situations. They envisioned Khiry Robinson in those roles, but he refractured his leg in the final preseason game. Now what? They don't have a true thumper at running back, and that will come back to bite them. They weren't an efficient short-yardage team last year with the bruising Ivory, so I think they'll take a step back.