By Shane Hewitt, Staff Writer
For the first time in Rex Ryan’s career as head coach of the New York Jets, there isn’t a single running back on the roster with at least five years of experience. With a re-commitment to the “ground and pound” philosophy and Mark Sanchez thriving off play-action, a lack of experience at the position could hurt the Jets moving forward if someone from this group of players fails to step up.
Starter: Shonn Greene
Shonn Greene emerged late into his rookie season during the playoffs in 2009. In three playoff games Greene rushed 54 times for 304 yards, two touchdowns and averaged 5.6 yards per carry (YPC). Greene looked like the back of the future for the Jets but since then has been mediocre at best.
Seemingly a believer in his ability to break tackles Greene instead of even trying to run past defenders decides to run right into them and constantly leaves yards on the field.
“There’s no question that there’s no creativity to his running, … He’s not a guy who’s really going to make people miss. I think there’s no way you can be an elite back or a top-level back if you can’t make unblocked defenders miss.”
Overall he is a solid workhorse of a back that can be dangerous late in the season and late in games when opposing defenses are tired and he gets into a rhythm; however, Greene needs to show more play making ability or define himself as an elite powerback that can churn out that 4-5 yards every time he puts his hands on the ball.
Entering his final year of his rookie contract, it seems likely Greene won’t be on the roster come the 2013 season. If he does well this season and proves he’s the back the Jets thought he could be he might not come too cheap for the Jets who are strapped for cash. If he dissapoints it might be time for the Jets to move on.
2nd String: Joe McKnight
With LaDainian Tomlinson retiring this year, McKnight looks to take over right where he left off as a change of pace back to Shonn Greene. A lot is going to be expected of Joe McKnight in 2012.
After a rough start into the NFL, McKnight has shown flashes of greatness. In 2010 against the Bills, McKnight ran for 158 yards on 32 carries. In 2011 McKnight led the NFL in kick returns averaged with 31.6 yards and had a good game coming out of the backfield catching the ball six times for 62 yards against the Broncos.
Whether or not McKnight can perform at that same level in a more prominent role with the offense has yet to be seen, but the spot is his to lose when you look at who else is on the roster behind him.
Bubble players: Bilal Powell, Terrance Ganaway and John Griffin.
Last season in two games Bilal Powell racked up an underwhelming 21 yards on 13 carries for a 1.6 YPC and fumbled once a yard from the endzone. A lot of fans have called for him to be cut but others make a great point when they say you haven’t seen enough. After sitting out OTA’s and minicamp with a hamstring injury he has done nothing to help his cause so far.
At 6’0 feet and 240 lbs Terrance Ganaway out of Baylor looks to be another big and brusing back that is physical and can break a tackle. In his final year at Baylor Ganaway ran for 1547 yards on 250 carries with 21 touchdowns. Ganaway appears to be the potential replacement for Greene as the power back next year when the Jets are likely to move on based either on how much he will cost to keep or how little he performs.
John Griffin was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cincinnati Bengals but soon after was released. In November of 2011, Griffin worked out for the Jets and in January signed with the team to a reserve/future contracts.
According to Kristian Dyer of Metro New York Griffin “…has good speed and feet and has shown some nice cutback ability. With the Jets looking for a change of pace back after Shonn Greene, Griffin’s ability to change directions and catch balls out of the backfield has created a bit of a buzz around Florham Park.”
What the Jets lack in experience with their RBs they more than make up for in potential. Only time will tell if any of these players live up to it, but with training camp right around the corner, for some, that time is now.