But another Jets rookie, running back Shonn Greene, could end up stealing the spotlight.
Greene, a halfback from Iowa who runs with abandon, has been the talk of Jets’ camp.
Before the year is out, Greene, whom the Jets traded up to select with the 65th pick, could be considered the steal of the 2009 draft.
“He has more of a combination to him: he’s part-battering ram, part-finesse,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said at his news conference in Florham Park, N.J. today. “I think he can be a special back. I really do.”
Unlike Sanchez, who has to develop timing with his receivers and chemistry with his offensive linemen, Greene can play mostly on instincts while he masters the playbook.
See the hole, hit the hole. See the blitzing linebacker or safety, pick him up.
Although it’s only a preseason game, the proud Ravens defense is always eager to make a statement. So if Greene excels against Ray Lewis & Co., then he’ll be in line for significant playing time once the real games begin.
Should the Jets decide Thomas Jones to be expendable, Greene will be the reason. He runs hard, breaks tackles, and likes contact.
That’s understandable, considering he played running back and linebacker at Winslow Township High School in Atco, N.J.
And Greene, who turned 24 yesterday, is not averse to hard work.
After playing for the Iowa Hawkeyes in 2005 and 2006, Greene spent 2007 working in a furniture store while attending Kirkwood Community College. Why? He needed to raise his grade point average to become academically eligible to return to Iowa.
To say Greene came back with a vengeance would be an understatement.
In 2008, Greene won the Doak Walker and Jim Brown awards as the best running back in college football. He was the only running back in major college football to gain more than 100 yards in every game last year.
Despite some concerns about the health of his ankle, Greene felt ready to play for pay. And he’s proving his readiness every day in Jets’ camp.
“I still don’t think he’s 100 percent [healthy] from that ankle [injury],” Ryan says, “but he’s toughing it out.”
Last year, legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno gave Greene the kind of compliment the rookie hopes to hear from NFL coaches.
“He’s one of those guys who takes a good tackle and doesn’t get knocked down,” Paterno told the Reading (Pa.) Eagle. “He’s always going down the field. And he seems to know where the second [would-be tackler] is.”
Greene hasn’t received much media hype yet.
But once the season starts, opposing teams would be wise not to sleep on him.