Bilal Powell honored to start for Jets

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- As the New York Jets brought in Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson this offseason to strengthen their group of running backs, returnee Bilal Powell seemed to be the forgotten man in the unit. The indications were that Ivory would likely start ahead of Powell, with Goodson as the complementary back.

Heading into Sunday's opener, it's clear that the coaching staff didn't forget about Powell.

In fact, they named him the starter.

"I try not to worry about stuff I can't control," Powell said Thursday. "I can't control who they bring in and out of here. My biggest thing was just to focus every day and go out and play as hard as I could and play to the best of my abilities every day."

The holdover beat out the new imports as Powell will get the start over Ivory when the Jets host the Buccaneers on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Ivory will still receive his fair share of carries, but Powell will be with the first team as the Jets showcase their new offense.

"I'm blessed and grateful," Powell said. "Just shows my hard work that I put on it didn't go unnoticed. It's just an honor to see the offensive coaching staff and this team has confidence in me to name me a starter."

Powell received increased work down the stretch last season, but didn't do enough with those extra snaps. He ended up rushing 110 times for 437 yards and four touchdowns, while also catching 17 passes for 140 yards. The third-year back from Louisville topped out at 78 yards against Jacksonville.

Following the departure of Shonn Greene in free agency, the Jets brought in Ivory, via a trade with New Orleans, and signed Goodson. A hamstring issue slowed down Ivory during the preseason, and he didn't stand out during the games, and Goodson is suspended for four games for violating the NFL's drug policy.

With Goodson and Ivory dealing with other issues, Powell seized the opportunity and earned his way into the starting gig for the time being. Sunday will present a mammoth challenge for the youngster as Tampa Bay's defense ranked first in the league against the run last season.

"I think Bilal Powell has earned the right to start," Jets coach Rex Ryan said Wednesday. "Bilal did a tremendous job for us throughout training camp and in preseason games as well."

Added Powell: "That's everybody's goal, to be a starter in this league. You look around the league, everybody's talented. Whenever my number was called or whatever opportunity I was given, I try to take full advantage of it."

Ivory, who has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, said he feels fine. He said he was not disappointed that Powell was named the starter, and acknowledged he's also going to get a good amount of carries. He's not sure yet what his exact role will be in the offense.

Ivory downplayed the effect the hamstring had on him.

"I've been playing. I played these last couple of preseason games. I've been practicing," Ivory said. "That's where we stand. And I'm still healthy now."