Coming into the season the New York Jets picked up Zac Stacy and Stevan Ridley to add more support to their run game. However, already in the roster was a highly talented and motivated rusher, developing every part of his game in an attempt to become the featured back for Gang Green. After two seasons finishing amongst the most elusive running backs in the NFL (per PFF), Chris Ivory is being given a chance to show his full value.
We won’t be looking at all the plays from this game, but we’ll take a look at some of the ones that show what Ivory brings to the table.
1-10-NYJ 20 (15:00) 33-C.Ivory right end to NYJ 23 for 3 yards (23-J.Haden).
Jets run an inside zone play against a soft box six man box that has safety Donte Whitner in run support. The fake end around holds the backside LB long enough for the TE to come around and seal him off, creating a potential cutback lane that isn’t possible to take on this play.
Once the ball is snapped, the entire line takes a lateral step and Ivory begins going through his reads on this zone block. His original aiming point is between the C and LG, since he can see from his reads that Colon will be down blocking and Mangold will be double teaming with LG James Carpenter on NT Danny Shelton.
Everything is going fine for Ivory to begin climbing into the middle until LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson can’t reach his lineman and ends up driving him directly through the path Ivory is trying to take. This doesn’t give Ivory a chance to take that cutback lane and instead forces him to only have one direction, out to his right side. The rest is just Ivory running, taking 3 hard yards.
One thing to notice is that Ivory bends forward as he’s turning the corner, projecting himself forward in order to give Haden the lowest amount of surface area he can give him to hit and set himself up for the tackle to just slide off him. It doesn’t happen here though.
2-7-NYJ 23 (14:24) 33-C.Ivory up the middle to NYJ 27 for 4 yards (31-D.Whitner; 53-C.Robertson).
It’s a similar story on this play, as TE Jeff Cumberland gets thrown aside by DT Desmond Bryant and LB Paul Kruger pushes FB Tommy Bohanon (lined up as a TE) towards Ivory’s path, closing the amount of space he has to the play-side. Ivory’s forced to make a cutback into a hole that is covered by LB Craig Robertson (who’s waiting behind NT Danny Shelton) and S Donte Whitner. Ivory tries his hardest to make himself hard to tackle when they hit him.
1-10-NYJ 35 (1:37) 33-C.Ivory right end pushed ob at NYJ 46 for 11 yards (31-D.Whitner).
Even when the blocking goes right, the numbers are wrong- but Ivory keeps finding ways to make it work. The Jets run another inside zone and because C Nick Mangold chooses to ride NT Danny Shelton (which is the correct choice) a large hole opens behind him that the Browns inside linebackers immediately close in on. LG James Carpenter steps up to take one of the linebackers but he can’t take both, and Ivory is forced to cut outside where luckily he’s able to get 11 yards.
Note that on this play that when Ivory is handed the ball, he begins putting the ball in into his left arm, but as he realizes that he’ll have to cut outside he switches it over to his right. It’s because of the switch that he has a free arm available to keep S Whitner at bay for an extra 8 yards. It’s one of the reasons why RBs are taught to keep the ball to the opposite of play side.
1-10-CLE 10 (9:46) 33-C.Ivory up the middle for 10 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Eventually, the Jets put on the man blocking scheme.
TE Cumberland is in motion and lines up as a fullback after he takes his stance. Due to NT Danny Shelton lining up over C Mangold’s shoulder, LG Carpenter bumps him before heading up to the second level to get the ILB. The rest of the line handles each man individually, with Cumberland making a straight line behind RG Colon, who has the defensive lineman lined up over his right shoulder.
Ivory begins his run aiming for the outside foot of the LG and as Shelton begins to move Mangold over, Ivory makes a jump cut behind Mangold and runs behind Cumberland’s block. It’s an easy, decisive cut that leads to open space with only the safety to beat. Ivory gets hit low in the thigh, but has no trouble staying up from the shoulder tackle put on him from Whitner.
1-10-CLE 28 (10:42) 33-C.Ivory right guard to CLE 23 for 5 yards (58-C.Kirksey; 31-D.Whitner).
The Jets continue with man blocking on their next run with Ivory, running the same play against the same look, except everything is flipped. This time, it’s RG Colon bumping C Mangold’s man before heading into the second level and taking the ILB.
This time, the cutback lane isn’t available and Ivory is forced to pause for a moment in the backfield in order to allow Colon the time to recover from his bump and take on the ILB. Before he takes the tiny crease behind Colon, he makes a slight step to his right in order to try and further increase the amount of space he has in the hole, and it looks like it works. That small move causes the LB to open up for a moment allowing Colon to push him aside and give Ivory a 5 yard gain.
2-6-NYJ 49 (4:06) 33-C.Ivory right end to CLE 32 for 19 yards (31-D.Whitner).
The Jets head back into zone blocking with another inside zone.
At the snap, Ivory is reading the double team he has expecting to be heading inside C Nick Mangold’s block, but as he’s approaching that cluter, it’s obvious that there is no hole there. Ivory makes a very nice hard cut that he bursts out of into the wide open space that’s been vacated behind Colon’s block. That’s due to one of the ILBs biting too hard on Ivory’s first direction and the other is following TE Kellen Davis.
After his first cut, Ivory makes another subtle lateral cut to get away from one ILB, and run behind the block that RT Giacomini has set for him. He’s a little lucky that OLB Barkevious Mingo is only able to get an arm on him here because he looks like he has the position to make a tackle attempt on him but after passing him, a small head fake creates a pause in S Whitner’s pursuit and Ivory’s taken another big chunk of yards.
2-7-CLE 16 (12:06) 33-C.Ivory up the middle to CLE 4 for 12 yards (31-D.Whitner; 92-D.Bryant).
Jets continue with the zone blocking theme, this time the Browns overpursue and leave Ivory a wide open running lane.
With Chris Ivory reading C Mangold’s block on another inside zone, once he sees that Mangold has begun riding Danny Shelton (after some help from a RG Carpenter shove), Ivory cuts back while five of the six players that were originally in the box all head to the right side of the line (left side of our perspective). One of the safeties comes down and attempts to make a shoelace tackle on Ivory, but with that much space to cover, there’s nothing he can do.
Donte Whitner is again seen fighting with Ivory, and again Ivory is winning another battle against him, this time just pushing him forward through sheer will. You’ll notice that Ivory bends forward and leans into Whitners hit, like he’s hitting him as he’s being hit. Ivory also again makes a subtle switch when deciding which arm to carry the ball under as he makes his reads, and when he’s originally hit by Whitner he covers the ball with both arms as he leans forward.
2-3-CLE 3 (10:38) 33-C.Ivory right end for 3 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
When the Jets reach the redzone again, they go right back to man blocking and straight to the exact play that they had the first time they were here. This time, ILB Karlos Dansby immediately shoots the B gap that Cumberland is going to try and get through to block him, closing the main hole this play needs to go through. Ivory reacts immediately cutting outside and just outruns Donte Whitner, leading to his second touchdown of the day, and another of his best runs being at the expense of Whitner.