How To Use LaDainian Tomlinson In 2011

One of the more interesting quotes from Rex Ryan out of the league meetings, was the following on their running back situation —

Rex on Joe McKnight “”I think he’s earned more opportunities, he could play ahead of Shonn and LT in some things. He’s earned that. Clearly, we have a 1-2 punch with Greene as our bell cow and LT. But I think this kid Joe McKnight has earned some reps.”

The first question might be, is how the hell did McKnight earn some reps? I assume he is talking about his strong performance in the season finale against Buffalo and perhaps he did some good work in practice. McKnight did also flash a little bit on special teams and nearly blocked a couple of punts.

Regardless of his overall lackluster rookie year, I do agree with Ryan, the Jets need to give McKnight a shot to contribute on offense. They spent a fourth round pick on him and there is no question that he has plenty of talent, speed, and versatility. Ideally, you want him to develop into the team’s long term third down back.

Ryan calling Shonn Greene the “bell cow” is also encouraging and corroborates what have heard about Greene taking over as the lead back in 2011. It is time to see if Greene has the make-up to be a 1200-1300 yard back and the only way to find out is to give him around 20 carries each week.

If everybody develops the way the organization is hoping for, the Jets will be set at fullback (John Conner), halfback (Greene), and third down back (McKnight) for a long time. However, where does that leave LaDainian Tomlinson in what will likely be his final year in the NFL?

We all saw how impressive he was the first half of the 2010 season but also saw how he gradually wore down. Tomlinson did rise up in the playoffs with a big game against the Colts and a solid effort against New England but then seemed to burn out again in the AFC Championship Game.

He will only be a year older in 2011 and with more reps needed for both Greene and McKnight, it will be on Brian Schottenheimer to figure out how to get the most out of him.

Outside of the leadership he provides, Tomlinson still has value to the Jets offense. He should be the primary third down back, with McKnight being gradually groomed into the role. Tomlinson can also contribute in short yardage, and can spell Greene for a series or two each half.

If Tomlinson’s touches are limited to around 10 a game, the Jets should be able to get a productive season from him, with LT occasionally providing big plays and giving them a consistent weapon on third down. He is a good check down option for Mark Sanchez and with Tony Richardson and Damien Woody likely not returning in 2011, he will be a necessary veteran voice in the huddle.

I will post it any chance I get —

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the VP of Social Media at Whistle Sports