The Jets Ground Game Will Fly With Shonn Greene & Danny Woodhead
Unfortunately for New York (4-3), their dominating triumph came at a great expense.
One week after the Jets lost defensive standout Kris Jenkins for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, offensive sparkplug Leon Washington fractured his right fibula on his first carry of the game.
Washington, 27, a 2008 Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection, had his lower leg snapped when he was tackled by Raiders defenders and the broken bone grotesquely pierced his skin.
“I could see blood spurting out,” said one player of Washington’s compound fracture. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
Running back Thomas Jones, who had shared carries with Washington in the backfield to date, said the Jets as a team are demoralized by the loss.
“The team is devastated; I know I’m devastated,” said Jones, 31, who rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown in the victory. “Honestly, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.”
Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan stated that he believes Washington will fully recover from the injury and be ready to play by the start of the 2010 season.
“It’s a pretty severe injury,” Ryan conceded. “We expect a good outcome. Hopefully, he’ll rejoin us sooner than later.”
The Jets will likely be a different and far less explosive team without their best playmaker on the offensive side of the ball.
On the positive side of an otherwise glum trip out west, Jets rookie running backs Shonn Greene and Danny Woodhead showed flashes of pleasant brilliance on the gridiron.
Greene, 24, the winner of both the Doak Walker Award and Jim Brown Trophy in 2008 when he played for the University of Iowa, ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns against the Raiders anemic defense.
“Shonn Greene’s an outstanding player,” Ryan said of the back the Jets traded up twelve spots to select in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft. “That’s what we’ve been trying to say since we drafted him in the third round and traded up to get him. There is a reason we had him rated as a first-round talent.”
Greene has a chance to be a very forceful and productive player in the NFL.
However, he is not considered a viable option to catch passes out of the backfield.
“He’s more of a bulldozer type…great vision, great feet,” said Ryan of Greene. “Where Leon is kind of a homerun hitter…catch the ball…you name it.”
In an effort to compensate for the loss of Washington and boost the short-yardage passing game, Ryan said that he intends to utilize Woodhead, 24, in the role of a flanker.
Woodhead, who was awarded the Harlon Trophy Award for the best player in NCAA Division II football at Chadron State College in Nebraska in 2006 and 2007, was signed by the Jets as an undrafted free agent running back in 2008.
Woodhead, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds at his pro day workout, was the all-time NCAA leading rusher until his mark was broken last winter.
Sunday, Woodhead exhibited his quickness and he rushed the ball three times for 24 yards.
Greene and Woodhead could very well develop into a formidable trio in the backfield with Jones.
However, Ryan quickly squashed any talk that Washington’s injury could be a blessing in disguise for the Jets.
“Maybe three or four guys have to replace him,” Ryan said of the former Florida State University star.
“He’s so versatile. He’s a Pro Bowl returner. Then you’ve got a back than can run the ball inside and outside. He’s not just a change-of-pace type back, he can do it all. He’s great out of the backfield, he can protect the quarterback. He can run the Seminole package and you can flex him out as a receiver. Really, he is a great versatile player and there is no way one person can replace him.”
Jets Pro-Bowl center Nick Mangold claimed that Greene says “about five words” every day.
Still, Greene did make it clear that he’s “not going to fill Leon’s shoes.”
Nevertheless, Greene is confident that the Jets ground game will continue to fly despite the loss of Washington.
“I think we’re running on all cylinders now,” said Greene. “It’s going to be scary.”
If Jones, Greene and Woodhead prove to be an effective trio, the Jets are “going to be scary” for all of their opponents henceforth.
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