Chris Ivory a physical, productive powerhouse for Jets
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) The flying dreadlocks are the first thing you notice when Chris Ivory gets going on the football field.
The New York Jets running back is a powerful, physical presence who approaches each carry in a game as if it might be his last.
His hair flows in strands nearly to the middle of his back, so when he hits a hole or shifts his legs - and they're always churning - the dreads scatter in all directions. Then, Ivory powers past a defender trying to bring him down, often with a thud.
''It's very satisfying, that's a good word,'' offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said. ''You don't see guys that are that big and strong and that fast. He can get outside with the ball in a heartbeat on you if you don't watch it. He is a big, strong runner inside and hardly ever gets knocked back. Even if we mess it up, he'll get us 2 yards.''
Ivory ran for 91 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in the season-opening win over Cleveland last Sunday. Entering his third season with the Jets, he's the team's undisputed lead running back. Ivory also seems to be the team's leading candidate for a breakout season.
''Yeah, I think the opportunity is there,'' Ivory said. ''It's just about me making the plays and being healthy.''
He spent his first three seasons buried on the depth chart in New Orleans, but ran for 716 yards as a rookie in 2010 after being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tiffin.
He hasn't reached 1,000 yards rushing in a season yet, mostly because he split carries last year with Chris Johnson and Bilal Powell in 2013. But Johnson is in Arizona now and Powell is a versatile, jack-of-all-trades in New York's offense, which leaves Ivory to do the heavy lifting in the run game.
''I feel like I've always been doing that,'' Ivory said of being a featured back. ''Since I've been here with the Jets, splitting carries is not a problem with me. I feel like it saves our bodies and (if) we have two, three good backs in the backfield, why not use everybody?''
Ivory might make it tough for the Jets to not have him on the field. He was limited Thursday and Friday with a groin issue, but is expected to be fine for New York's game at Indianapolis on Monday night.
The 27-year-old Ivory has improved his strength, speed and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, making it more likely that he can be a three-down back in Gailey's offense. That wasn't always Ivory's reputation when then-GM John Idzik acquired him from the Saints during the 2013 draft.
''I'm shocked that the world really doesn't know about him,'' wide receiver Brandon Marshall said. ''I didn't know much about him. I remember the Jets trading for him and I didn't get it. I didn't understand what was the big deal, but now I understand.''
Ivory is far from flashy. He's extremely soft-spoken with the media. He doesn't seek the spotlight. He can walk through the locker room and almost seem invisible.
''There's a lot of guys out there that are super humble and just go about their business with their pads,'' Marshall said, ''and he's one of them.''
Marshall went so far as to say that if he played fantasy football, Ivory would be his No. 1 pick. No, not Jamaal Charles or Eddie Lacy or Adrian Peterson or whomever else might have gone first in your league's draft.
''I mean, for us, he makes everything go,'' Marshall said. ''It starts with him and our offensive line up front.''
Marshall mentioned how in a recent practice, Ivory was about to break loose on a run to the left side when second-year cornerback Dexter McDougle had an ''uh-oh'' moment as the running back came barreling toward him.
''We obviously weren't tackling each other to the ground, but that's the defender's mentality,'' Marshall said. ''He's a tough person to take down.''
Violent. Physical. Powerful. They're all words used to describe Ivory's running style.
For the Jets, they're just happy Ivory is on their side, leaving opponents to dread the dreads.
''It makes me feel good and it just lets me know that they're seeing the work that I'm putting in,'' Ivory said. ''I don't really think I've changed too much, but I did have one of my better camps this year. Those guys are my peers and they're all around so they see what I'm capable of and what I do every day.''
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