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Despite the retirement of Matt Forte, the Jets have bolstered their depth in the offensive backfield with a couple of veteran additions. Let's give consideration to what each back brings to the table and how they might find a niche in the Jets' offense this season.
Powell is the main incumbent and he enters his eighth season coming off a year where he quietly set career bests in carries (178), rushing yards (772) and rushing touchdowns (five). Jets fans know what to expect from Powell, who is elusive in the open field and can be a factor in the passing game.
It's usually been good for the Jets when Powell is featured in a prominent role. The Jets had won all seven of his career games where he'd carried the ball more than 16 times, until that streak was broken in a December loss to the Chargers. However, Powell has often missed time shortly after the Jets have increased his workload.
Aside from his durability issues, Powell also led the league in runs that were stopped for a loss. However, that might say more about the quality of their run blocking.
McGuire, a sixth-round pick last season, broke out in week four when he racked up 131 yards and a score on 12 touches. However, he failed to come close to repeating those numbers the rest of the way, as he had some durability issues of his own. McGuire ended up with an average of just 3.6 yards per carry and didn't score another touchdown.
Unlike most young backs, McGuire's pass-catching abilities aren't limited to catching dump-offs and screen passes. He's also capable of running routes and making downfield catches. However, the Jets didn't tap into that potential as much as they could have during his rookie season.
With the move to a Shanahan-style zone-blocking scheme under Rick Dennison, McGuire could thrive as his quickness and decisive style should be ideal for a one-cut system.
The main thing Crowell brings to the table that the other backs on the roster lack is durability. He hasn't missed a game in his first four seasons. While not necessarily a workhorse back - he's only carried 20 times in a game once in his career - he could be the ideal complement to Powell and McGuire to enable them to be kept fresh and deployed situationally.
Crowell is another player whose skill-set seems well suited to the system Dennison is expected to install. His run splits show that he's at his most effective between the tackles, which should enable him to wear down defenses while the others can provide a change of pace.
Crowell also runs with more power than the other backs and could be a better short yardage and goal-line threat. While he only has eight touchdowns from inside the three-yard line in his four-year career, that's two more than Powell has managed in seven years.
Rawls made a name for himself as a rookie when Marshawn Lynch was injured. He stepped up with some big games eventually rushing for 830 yards and leading all NFL backs with at least 100 rushing attempts in terms of average yards per carry. However, this may have been largely a case of him capitalizing on being fresh in much the same way as Shonn Greene did in his rookie year with the Jets.
In two years since, Rawls has only averaged three yards per carry so the Jets are presumably hoping he can play more like he did in his rookie year if healthy. They made a similar move last year for Bernard Pierce which didn't work out.
Like Powell and McGuire, Rawls has had some durability issues and his poor numbers over the last few years were at least in part due to running behind a poor run-blocking unit.
The other candidates
Despite having these four signed, the Jets have still shown plenty of interest in running backs throughout the pre-draft process and it wouldn't be a surprise to see them add one in the mid-to-late rounds. They showed interest in Texas big back Chris Warren at the combine and NC State scatback Nyheim Hines and Fordham's Chase Edmonds at their respective pro days. Also, Iowa's Akrum Wadley reportedly visited the team on Thursday.
The Jets have three other backs currently on the roster in Jeremy Langford and 2017 undrafted rookies Jahad Thomas and Akeem Judd. As unlikely as it seems, we can't rule out any of these players stepping up to compete for a role if they get an opportunity due to injuries. Langford is the most established, having rushed for over 500 yards as a rookie in 2015, albeit only 200 yards since then.