I have been consistent in my support of Shonn Greene as the New York Jets lead back since he burst on the scene midway through the 2009 season. Unfortunately, after watching him finally spend a full season in that coveted lead back role it is hard to believe that the Jets offense doesn’t need to add another back to take co-ownership or full ownership of that job.
His stat line of 253 carries, 1,054 yards, and 6 touchdowns is somewhat disappointing enough. However, a closer look at his stats from Pro Football Focus paints a clearer picture of Greene’s shortcomings in 2011. They have something called an “elusive rating” which breaks down like this -
“We combine a runner’s carries and receptions to give a total ball handling opportunities figure. We then combine the number of missed tackles that player forced against both the run and the pass to get a total missed tackles forced figure, which is then divided by the ball-handling opportunities. This figure then gets multiplied by a player’s yards after contact per carry average (*100) to get the final Elusive Rating. In essence the rating is a combination of how often players force missed tackles and how much yardage they generate after contact on a per carry basis.”
Greene ranked 47th in this category among halfbacks in the 2011 season and finished 24th in rushing missed tackles total. If you watched every Jets snap this season, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. I am aware of the struggles on the Jets offensive line but the bottom line is Greene simply doesn’t make enough people miss and doesn’t make enough big plays. His longest run since the 2009 playoffs is for 31 yards. He only had 4 runs of 20 yards or more this past season.
Greene is a good, not great player who some offenses could get away with being their lead back. Not this offense. Michael Lombardi made a great point the other day when discussing the Jets in 2012
“If they want Mark Sanchez to be a great quarterback, they need to have a blue-chip running back around him. If they want to be ground and pound, then you can’t be ground and pound and [tight end] Dustin Keller can’t block anybody. It’s tough to be ground and pound when everybody knows the tight end isn’t going to block anyone. So now you have to substitute to get the blocking tight end in. And, oh yeah, by the way we’re going to run now that [Matthew] Mulligan is in the game. Why don’t you just put up a red flag that you’re going to run it? I think they need to change their roster to suit that [style]. I don’t think Shonn Greene is the guy to be the blue-chip running back.”
This argument also supports potentially moving Dustin Keller. Yet focusing on running back, if the Jets want to have a dominant running game to support Sanchez, they are going to need more at running back than Greene, Joe McKnight, and Bilal Powell.
Getting a “blue-chip” player isn’t going to be an easy process. In the draft, they’d have to move up to acquire Trent Richardson. In free agency, they would have to put a mammoth offer together to acquire a franchised Matt Forte in a trade. They could also explore engaging other teams who have a surplus at running back (Carolina, New Orleans, Houston to name a few) but teams don’t just give away big time backs, it is going to cost the Jets. Mike Tannenbaum has got creative in the past and he may have to do it again.
A cheaper scenario would be the Jets adding a running back in the middle rounds and then adding a mid-level free agent, maybe a Ryan Grant or Tashard Choice. You then have the new additions compete with the current backs on the roster and find the best committee approach possible.
When you are a “Ground and Pound” team, 22nd in rushing yards per game doesn’t cut it.