New York Jets: Can Shonn Greene Handle the Rushing Load for the Jets in 2011?
They didn't rush him into the fold as he only carried the ball 108 times in his rookie season. He averaged five yards per carry, and was an excellent complement to the power rushing of Thomas Jones and the breakaway speed of Leon Washington.
When Washington went down to injury, and Jones was showing signs of tiredness, Greene became a huge part of the Jets offense in the 2009 playoffs. His injury in Indianapolis was one of the turning points of the 2009 AFC Championship Game.
When Jones departed via free agency in 2009, and the Jets traded Washington, the door seemed to be open for Greene to be the Jets' featured running back.
Then, the Jets managed to acquire LaDainian Tomlinson via free agency. L.T.'s best days figured to be behind him and seemed to be signed as a complement to Greene.
Well, L.T. found the fountain of youth and carried the Jets offense in 2010 in the passing and rushing game.
Greene was once again relegated to a part-time role, but again emerged as a threat in the playoffs. Greene has also been saddled with the "oft injured" tag, but that is a bit unfair.
Will Greene rush for 1000 yards?
He has dealt with some nagging injuries, and did leave the 2009 playoff game which left a bad taste in the mouths of Jets fans. This season he missed a preseason game against the Bengals due to a foot infection.
It is worth noting, that the Jets rushing attack was dismal against an otherwise listless Bengals team. Tomlinson looked slow attacking the holes that were there.
The Jets also have Joe McKnight on their roster. McKnight once drew comparisons to Reggie Bush at USC, and has shown some flashes on the NFL level, but is not ready to take a critical role just yet. That is evident by the fact that the Jets retained Tomlinson on their roster and the drafting of Louisville's Bilal Powell.
It's obvious that if the Jets want to run the ball, Greene needs to be ready to shoulder the load for the Jets this season. He still struggles to catch the football (he had a drop against he Giants on Monday night), and needs to be effective in pass-protection.
Tomlinson still maintains an edge in pass-catching skills and pass-protection which may keep Greene off the field on third down.
Greene averaged over four yards a touch last season so it is obvious the ability is there. The team did seem to make a concerted effort to keep him fresh for the playoffs last season, but it is more and more obvious that Greene is the Jets best option to carry the ball.
Mark Sanchez has been given more to work with at the receiver position and as a third-year quarterback, will be allowed to throw the ball more often and try to win games instead of simply managing them. So, that would mean less carries for the running backs in general and would make keeping Greene fresh for the playoffs a lower priority.
If Greene can stay healthy, he will be given every opportunity to run the ball on first- and second-down carries and should be in line for a very good season with the Jets with a real shot to eclipse 1,000 yards.
He could be slated for a monster season if he can improve his receiving skills and pass-protection recognition.
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