3's not a crowd for Jets backfield
By The Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 1:42 p.m.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Shonn Greene insists he isn't really all that into numbers.
He's a rare running back who won't sulk on the sideline if his carries are down, just as long as the New York Jets are winning.
“I'm not selfish, man,” Greene said Tuesday. “You all know that. I've never been that guy who says, ‘I want this or that.' The more, the better. That's how I see it.”
After the success Greene, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight had against the Rams on Sunday, all three could expect to be in the mix for significant playing time the rest of the season. While some might see three as a crowd, the Jets believe it's the way to bring back their run-first approach on a consistent basis.
“We have three very capable backs,” coach Rex Ryan said. “Instead of just throwing one guy in there all the time to take the hits, protections and routes, when you have three guys coming in, it helps.”
That certainly was the plan going into the season for offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who was excited about bringing the “Ground and Pound” approach back to the Jets' offense — especially with backup quarterback Tim Tebow in the mix as a wildcat-style presence. While that hasn't yielded the results the Jets hoped for, it also has been rare for all three running backs to be healthy and effective in the same game, as they were in the Jets' 27-13 win over St. Louis.
Greene ran 18 times for 64 yards, Powell had 42 yards and his first two NFL touchdowns on 11 carries, and McKnight rushed for 14 yards on four carries. The Jets finished with 124 yards rushing.
“I think that's where the league is going to,” Ryan said. “You don't necessarily have that guy that does it all every snap anymore the way you used to with a Walter Payton.”
Ryan also noted that the Jets' three AFC East rivals — New England, Miami and Buffalo — all use multiple players in their backfields.
The Jets will get a close look at the Patriots' running back rotation Thursday night at MetLife Stadium. While Stevan Ridley is the primary ballcarrier with 842 yards on 185 attempts, Brandon Bolden (43 for 234), Danny Woodhead (49 for 179) and Shane Vereen (33 for 117) have rushed at least 30 times.
“If you have the talent and the guys are healthy and fresh,” Ryan said, “I think that's the best way to do it.”
That approach worked effectively for the Jets in 2009 — Greene's rookie season — when he, Thomas Jones and Leon Washington shared the load, until Washington was lost for the season with a broken leg. The Jets still led the NFL with 2,756 yards rushing that season under then-offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
New York cut Jones and traded Washington the following offseason but still finished fourth in rushing with the arrival of LaDainian Tomlinson. Greene was the primary backup, with McKnight getting some snaps and receiver Brad Smith effectively used in wildcat packages.
The Jets slumped to 22nd in the league in rushing last year as Greene assumed the starting role, Tomlinson was relegated to the third-down back, and McKnight and Powell saw limited carries. When Sparano was hired this past offseason as the offensive coordinator, he talked about a return to the run-first mentality Ryan loves.
It has taken a while, but the Jets might be on the verge of getting back to “Ground and Pound” on a regular basis. They're 15th in rushing and rising.
“It's an opportunity to keep everybody fresh,” McKnight said. “When Shonn goes in, he gets his plays, and then when Bilal goes in, it's another fresh back. When Bilal comes out, I'll go in, and it's another fresh back. It's all about keeping us fresh.”
It's also about confusing opponents with three players with different skill sets. First, there's Greene, who is a blue-collar type of running back who leads the team with 631 yards rushing. Next is Powell, also a physical back who has some speed to bounce outside but also is an excellent pass blocker. McKnight is a speedy, shifty runner who also adds a pass-catching element in the backfield.
“This is a team game and I'm more into winning games than worrying about who's getting the ball here and who's getting the ball there,” Greene said. “My mentality is: Just win games.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Rodgers out; Keisel probable versus Packers
- Steelers notebook: Snow awaits in Green Bay
- Steelers’ Foster has definitive role this year
- Steelers rookie receiver Wheaton is waiting for chance to contribute
- Steelers’ Garvin fined $25,000 for hit on Bengals punter
- Analyzing Steelers’ longshot route to the playoffs
- Steelers notebook: Polamalu, Clark back where they belong
- Steelers notebook: Packers RB Lacy unfazed by Tomlin’s ‘easy decision’ comment
- Some Steelers players see stretch run of season as opportunity
- Special-teams miscues against Steelers prove costly for Bengals
- Steelers Film Session: Bell gets ringing endorsement