FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Matt Forte’s big toe will keep him sidelined, and Bilal Powell is ready to step in for him.
Forte won’t play in the New York Jets’ game Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars because of turf toe that kept him out of practice all week. He injured the big toe on his left foot last Sunday on a 12-yard run early in the third quarter against Miami.
That puts Powell in the spotlight — something to which he’s no stranger. The fourth-round pick out of Louisville in 2011 has established himself as one of the NFL’s most versatile running backs.
He took over as the Jets’ lead back late last season when Forte was dealing with a knee injury, and ran for 411 yards in the final four games while also catching 21 passes in that span.
“I try not to get too caught up in the hype,” Powell said Friday after practice. “I don’t listen to what everybody else says. I just go out and do my job when it’s time for me to do it. … Whenever your number’s called, just take full advantage of the opportunity.”
Forte leads the Jets with 94 yards rushing on 23 carries this season. Powell has 72 yards and will likely share the workload with rookie Elijah McGuire, who has 63 yards rushing. New York also signed Travaris Cadet this week.
“He can be an every-down back,” offensive coordinator John Morton said of Powell. “So can Eli, he can be an every-down back. But that’s not the way we do things here. I like keeping guys fresh. Playing a lot of different guys in different roles. Try to keep the defense on their toes. I think when you do that and you have a back that is really fresh, you can play more at a high level during the game.”
McGuire saw his most significant game action last week with 34 yards rushing on seven carries. The sixth-round pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette has impressed his teammates and coaches with his maturity during his first season in the NFL.
“He’s got a great approach to the game like he’s a three- or four-year vet,” Morton said. “I think it’s his preparation — everyone helping, the coaches — and it’s him wanting to do it. It’s hard for a rookie to come in and play right away in this league. I think he’s done a really good job and that’s because he prepares. He gets a lot of reps in practice and that helps.”
Meanwhile, defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson is questionable with a sprained shoulder that limited him in practice.
Earlier in the week, Wilkerson said he’s dealing with a Grade 1 sprain of the AC joint in his left shoulder, and it’s something that he might need to play through all season.
Tight end Jordan Leggett (foot) is out for the game, while right tackle Brandon Shell (shoulder) and backup linebacker Josh Martin (ankle) are doubtful. If Shell can’t play, coach Todd Bowles said either Brent Qvale or Ben Ijalana will get the start.