New York Jets running back Jonathan Grimes is an undrafted rookie free agent out of William & Mary.
If the Jets want to win on Sunday in New England, they will need Grimes to step up and be productive. That may be a tall order, but it is the case nonetheless.
The Jets' Running Game
Starting running back Shonn Greene has earned a week of feeling good after his career day—161 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries.
One thing to keep in mind though is how much of Greene's great night had to do with his offensive line. While Greene was resilient and solid, he did little more than follow his blockers and take the holes that were there.
The Jets repeatedly ran basic running plays, such as a trap-block with right guard Brandon Moore coming behind center Nick Mangold. Mangold, Moore and left guard Matt Slauson were all very successful at clearing out blockers and opening huge holes for Greene.
One of the most defining plays of the game was a play in which Greene ran straight up the middle through a gaping hole, going 21 yards before being touched.
The Jets running game generally rises and falls with the offensive line. This goes for all three of their heavily-used backs—Greene, Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell. Greene has not been consistently better than his own backups.
Greene is averaging 3.5 yards per carry this season, while Powell is averaging 3.9 and McKnight is averaging 9.0. Unfortunately for the Jets, both of Greene's main backups were injured and will most likely not be playing on Sunday.
Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano will not be happy with a gameplan that involves running Greene over and over again. It is vital for the Jets to have a second back to carry the load, and this week the only person who can do that job is Grimes.
Who is Jonathan Grimes?
In 48 college starts, Grimes averaged 94 yards per game on five yards per carry. He scored 41 touchdowns (34 rushing, seven receiving) and threw for one touchdown.
During the preseason, he saw some NFL action playing with the Texans' backups. He garnered 170 yards and a touchdown on 4.6 yards per carry. He runs a 4.53 forty-yard dash and a 4.03 short shuttle.
One concern is that Grimes played in a zone running system in college, whereas the Jets switched to a power running system this season under new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. Greene took some time to make the adjustment, but seems to have figured it out finally this past weekend.
Grimes has had a few weeks to learn the system in practice, so hopefully he at least grasps the basics. The Jets' hopes of winning and gaining control of the AFC East this weekend depend on it.
If Greene and Grimes can combine for 100 yards or more on the ground, this game suddenly becomes an even match, even in New England.
If they cannot, then quarterback Mark Sanchez will need to move the ball efficiently through the air without reliance on play action. Even with New England's less-than-stellar defensive backs, this is not a situation in which the Jets are likely to get a win.
Keep an eye on Grimes throughout the game. If he has going to have a breakout day in the NFL, this is the perfect opportunity.