One year after signing a surprisingly large deal in free agency, Chris Ivory is a candidate to either lose playing time or be off the Jaguars entirely in 2017.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have made big changes to the defensive side of the ball since the end of the 2016 regular season, adding a handful of big name free agents who should start and contribute immediately. A.J. Bouye, Calais Campbell, and Barry Church should change the defense dramatically as they provide high end play at positions that were weaknesses last year.
Conversely, the Jaguars have not made the same kind of changes on offense – that means Blake Bortles and company will likely roll out a very similar looking group of skill position talent in 2017.
The one spot we could see a completely different rotation at is running back. Last offseason, the offense actually looked somewhat intriguing thanks to the addition of Chris Ivory in free agency. Ivory and former second round pick T.J. Yeldon looked like a solid pairing that complemented each other well in terms of skill sets.
Unfortunately, Yeldon and Ivory were arguably two of the least impressive running backs in the league in 2016. Yeldon in particular has the look of a bust after only two full seasons, but Ivory also shoulders a large portion of the blame for the unproductive running game. As Pro Football Focus recently discussed, Ivory was a huge liability as a ball carrier because of his ball security issues:
"Worse yet for Ivory, he fumbled the ball five times on 117 carries in 2016, which is a fumble 4.3 percent of the time. He tied for the league lead in running back fumbles, and the two players who also had five had 322 and 293 carries (Ezekiel Elliott and David Johnson, respectively). In the last 10 years, among running backs with at least 100 carries in a season, only Reggie Bush in 2007 (4.5 percent) fumbled the ball more often than Ivory did in 2016."
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Ivory was solid in 2015 for the New York Jets, but he came to Jacksonville as an older back who relied heavily on his physicality to grind out yards. Overall he was better in terms of producing yards than Yeldon, but his injury issues cropped up yet again and his overall play didn’t merit more carries. PFF also noted that fumbling issues are usually a prelude to more poor seasons:
"High fumble rates do not bode well for future running-back usage. All told, 30 running backs in the last 10 years have recorded 100-plus carries with fumbles on at least 2.5 percent of those carries (interestingly, none did it in either 2013 or 2014, but five did in 2015). Two of those players (2008-09 Chris Perry and 2010-11 Mike Goodson) had zero carries the year after the bad fumble rate. Ivory was the only player to cross that threshold in 2016. So among the other 27 players, the average number of carries went from 159.0 in the year of the high fumble rate to 135.9 the year after."
Two things are also going against Ivory as we head towards the meat of the offseason – new executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin is a stickler for ball security, and the Jaguars have increasingly been linked to a running back in the draft. If the Jaguars opt to go for someone like Leonard Fournette in the first round, it likely means the end of Yeldon or Ivory as a Jaguar. My guess for the odd man out in that scenario is Ivory, as his running style would seem redundant.
Ivory has an uphill battle and he might not get too many chances to show his worth.