Call it an identity crisis, call it a poor execution, but whatever the case may be the Jets are simply inferior when it comes to running the football. Never in Rex Ryan’s most surreal nightmares did he see his Jets at the bottom of the NFL rankings both against the run and in rushing offense. A hard-nosed ground game has not only been a staple of a Ryan’s teams, it’s been a way of life for New York’s fiery head coach.
Now with his team mired in a two-game slide and with questions mounting regarding the future of quarterback Mark Sanchez’s as the starter, the Jets’ offense appears to be in a complete state of disarray. Newly hired offensive coordinator Tony Sparano was intent on keeping the Jets’ ground-and-pound philosophy intact, while adding his own flare of creativity by utilizing Tim Tebow in a revamped Wildcat package.
Unfortunately for Gang Green, Tebow’s snaps have been few and far between and the bigger story at hand is that third-year tailback Shonn Greene has been one of the biggest disappointments so far this season. Through four games, Greene has 76 rushing attempts for 217 yards, producing a paltry 2.9 yards per carry average. New York’s rushing game has failed to produce any big yardage plays with Greene in the midst of his worst season as a pro.
Given Greene’s lack of a speed burst and inability to move the chains, speculation is growing that former Louisville standout Bilal Powell could start to take over the rushing workload. During training camp, Powell beat out Joe McKnight for the third-down running back spot and excels as a receiving option for Sanchez. For reasons not yet known, the coaching staff refuses to give McKnight more carries out of the backfield, initiating a move to the cornerback before letting him play his natural position of running back.
In any case, McKnight is slated for kick return duties, with Powell quickly emerging as a threat to Greene’s status as starter. When the Jets made consecutive AFC championship appearances in 2009 and 2010, Greene was a change-of-pace back who punished fatigue defenses in the second half and helped the Jets salt away victories. Thrust into the starting role last season, Greene struggled to regain the form that made him one of the NFL’s up and coming power backs.
With the Jets searching for a solution to their rushing woes, Greene may have to take a backseat to the more explosive Powell in an effort to jumpstart New York’s ground-and-pound attack.