Battle Of New York: Jets Rushing Offense vs. Giants Rushing Defense

A breakdown of the Jets rushing attack versus the Giants rushing defense, with commentary from TJ Rosenthal, Kristine Reese, and Rob Celletti

Part one of our series breaking down the Christmas Eve match-up between the New York Jets and New York Giants, looks at the Jets rushing attack versus the Giants rushing defense, with featured commentary from TJ Rosenthal, Kristine Reese, Rob Celletti, and yours truly —

New York Jets Rushing Yards Per Game – 104.1 (21st in NFL)

New York Giants Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game – 127.6 (22nd in NFL)

TJ Rosenthal: The Giants are 22nd in the NFL against the run at 127.6 per game. Big Blue’s current LB’s are not of the Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks mold. The Jets though, went away from this similar advantage in Philadelphia and wound up out of the game by halftime down 28-3. The matchup between these units gives the Jets room to maneuver, but how committed the Jets will be to the ground attack this time around, is the bigger question.

Kristine Reese: The traditionally stout Giants run defense has faltered a bit this season and opponents are averaging 127.6 yards per game against them on 4.5 yards per carry. They are currently ranked 22nd after ranking in the top 10 last season (hmm that sounds familiar).

When the Jets offense isn’t playing from behind and forced to throw, they have run the ball well. One thing we know for sure is that it they will continue to try to run and the ball, so long as Greene and Tomlinson are both healthy. Ground and Pound is paramount to the entire offensive plan as they look to balance the attack, control the clock, keep Eli off the field, take pressure off Sanchez and relieve the offensive line from constant pass protection. (And yes, I realize that is a long list).

The Giants rush defense has mostly suffered from inconsistency, so there is no telling what effort the running game might face come Saturday. The Giants weakness is so clearly their secondary -they likely know it – and they may do their best to force the ball into Sanchez hands. Regardless, the running effort has to stay consistent.

Rob Celletti: For all of the hemming and hawing about the play of Mark Sanchez, the Jets’ offense has struggled in an area that it hasn’t in Rex Ryan’s previous two seasons: running the football.  Shonn Greene has only recently shown signs that he can be the lead back in a NFL offense, and he does usually improve as the weather turns cold.  But there has been very little consistency for the Jets on the ground this season. Injuries and a lack of depth have also hurt Gang Green.The Giants are difficult to read when it comes to stopping the run. Despite major injuries to the front seven, they still have a seemingly countless number of playmakers. However, it is a defensive line that’s built to rush the passer with speed, and the Jets should be able to exploit that by running between the tackles.

With the exception of last Sunday’s debacle in Philadelphia, the Jets’ ground game has been steadily improving through the second half of the season, with impressive performances against formidable defensive units in Washington and Kansas City. As long as the Jets’ defense doesn’t let the game get out of hand early, I’d expect a heavy workload for Greene.  And don’t sleep on Mark Sanchez when the Jets are in the red zone: he has 5 rushing touchdowns of his own.

Joe Caporoso: I have been critical of the New York Jets linebackers all season, but if you want to see a linebacker group that is truly struggling look the at the New York Giants and their collection of castoffs at linebacker. We know their defensive line can get after the quarterback but stopping the run isn’t their area of expertise. Basically what I am saying is the opportunity is there for the Jets to run the football if they commit to it. Outside of the last week’s hiccup (okay it was a big hiccup) Shonn Greene and the running game have been surging. The Jets are at their best when their running backs combine for 25-35 carries and I expect that to be the case on Saturday.

New York Jets Need Shonn Greene Now More Than Ever

TOJ on the importance of Shonn Greene continuing to assert himself as a true lead back down the stretch

Shonn Greene still has not truly asserted himself as a full time lead back for the New York Jets, yet he is slowly moving in that direction. His continued movement in that direction will go a long way to determining whether or not this football team will make the playoffs.

Greene has taken slack for not being durable but so far he has missed only 3 quarters of football this season and is currently playing effectively through a rib injury. LaDainian Tomlinson is banged up with knee issues and Joe McKnight has a hyperextended elbow. Rookie running back Bilal Powell didn’t look ready to be a contributor when he received a chance earlier in the year. Without question, it is looking like the Jets are going to need Greene to carry the load like the lead back they talked him up to be all off-season.

Against Washington, he finished with 88 yards on 22 carries with 3 touchdowns and also added 3 receptions for 26 yards, including a huge third down conversion late in the game. Greene has quietly improved substantially as a receiver, pulling in 23 catches so far this year.

This past Sunday was the fifth time in six games that he averaged at least four yards per carry as he continued a career trend of improving as it gets deeper in the season. We all know the Jets offense thrives when they are working off a power rushing attack. It will be Greene who has to answer that call with 18-22 carries each week now with Tomlinson and McKnight’s health being a question mark.

A strong finish will go a long way to the Jets deciding to commit to Greene long term as their number one back, instead of exploring other options via free agency or the draft. Greene is carrying both his future with the team and their playoff hopes in these next four games.

New York Jets: How To Distribute The Carries

How should the New York Jets distribute the workload between Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Joe McKnight

The New York Jets are going to need their running game to lead the way on offense if they have hopes of making a playoff run. Despite not having a true lead back (no, I am not giving Shonn Greene that status yet), they do have enough between their top three runners to put together a quality rushing attack. The key is going to be getting the most out of Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Joe McKnight’s skill set.

Greene is coming off a solid game against Buffalo, where he averaged 6 yards per carry. However, he is admittedly still suffering from a rib injury and looked in pain for most of the game. He only had 13 carries against the Bills. Tomlinson is returning after missing the past two games with a knee injury and should be fresh for the stretch run. Joe McKnight has gradually been becoming a bigger part of the offense and averaged 6 yards per touch against Buffalo.

If the Jets are smart, they will keep Greene in the 12-15 carry range. The rib injury isn’t going to get better with each passing week and he showed he could be effective with that amount of touches last week. Tomlinson can spell him for a few series each half, handle short yardage duties, and be the primary third down back. McKnight should be getting at least 8-10 touches as a runner and receiver. He should be the guy catching most of the screen passes and has the ability to line up out wide. On the Jets outside handoffs and tosses, he should also be the first option.

Between their three running backs, the Jets should be able to hand the ball off 30-35 times a game to keep their offense balanced and set up their play action passing attack.

As Jets Regroup, Time To Consider A Three Headed Monster

TJ on how using a three headed monster at running back could help open up the Jets offense

It might be late in the game for an entire overhaul of the offense. From airing it out, to grounding and pounding, to a recent attempt at balance, the Jets have tried almost everything in 2011. Except for a three headed attack out of the backfield. Which won’t require an arduous rewriting of the playbook on the fly, in order to do so.

BIG PLAYS FROM SPEEDY MCKNIGHT WILL EASE THE HEAT ON SANCHEZ

QB Mark Sanchez is in desperate need of confidence and rhythm. He has to be better. Perhaps using Joe McKnight as a Dexter McCluster type can help. The second year McKnight can give the Jets a chance for big plays both with some extra pitches outside, and bubble screens from the slot position. Going in motion towards a WR position after initially lining up in the backfield. All of which require little from Sanchez, as far as reading defenses and making tough choices go.

LET GREENE HAMMER, BUT USE HIM LESS

Shonn Greene can continue to hammer away inside. However, despite what the Jets brass will tell you when they say that Greene gets going once his numbers INCREASE, a few less carries will limit the potential of the nagging injuries that seem to plague Greene the MORE he touches the ball.

LT IS A VINTAGE CAR, USE HIM WISELY

LaDainian Tomlinson changes the pace in the screen game and in tough yardage scenarios, where both experience and vision become top priority. His recent MCL sprain though, may require the curtailing of any foreseeable heavy work loads. LT will be key in keeping drives alive, but like a classic and effective vintage car, must be used wisely.

NOTHING WILL HELP THE OFFENSE IF THE JETS DON’T OPEN IT UP

The switch to three instead of two won’t solve everything on. The notion of injecting more of McKnight only helps if the Jets ALSO remember to open up their passing game downfield. Stretching the defense has been the very reason why the eternally emerging TE Dustin Keller, has found little room to work in.

The unwillingness to try many deep throws stifles the Jets many quick slants and five yard outs. Predictable routes that have allowed defenses to pack it in, leaving no room for receivers Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley to run after the catch.

SHORT RANGE CAN WORK IF THE BALL IS SPREAD AROUND

After keeping teams honest by going deep, the Jets can take solace in knowing that teams CAN be effective when employing a predominantly short range ideology. Take Denver and Tim Tebow as even the most extreme example. Most plays nowadays in the Mile High city, start with footballs being tossed as options BEHIND the line of scrimmage. Yet it is  anyone’s guess as to which Broncos ball carrier or receiver ends up with it.

GO DOWNFIELD, USE THREE RBs, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

So then, what should come first? Throwing downfield to guys like Holmes in order to back the opposing defenses up? Or should the Jets try to spring a few quick pitches and screens for yardage in order to utilize a Sanchez favorite, the play action, to go deep with purpose? Our answer is, it doesn’t matter which of the two is higher up on the scripted play chart. As long as both are tended to, and a potential threat, throughout the game.

THREE RBs WIDENS THE ATTACK WHILE PRESERVING GREENE, LT

Opening it up downfield is a must. Going with a committed three pronged attack out of the backfield is an idea for an offense that certainly needs a spark. What do the Jets have to lose by widening the line of scrimmage with McKnight? Adding his speed and carries to keep the oft injured Greene, and currently banged up Tomlinson, rested.

In order to survive long enough to even attempt a 5-1 finish, the Jets must get more out of Mark Sanchez AND go downfield already. Yet they should consider how a three headed rushing attack could aid in the process.

New York Jets Ground and Pound Should Lead Way Against Bills

The New York Jets rushing attack needs to carry them to a victory against Buffalo

Over the past few years, the New York Jets have destroyed the Buffalo Bills with their rushing attack. Even though Buffalo is improved in 2011, it doesn’t mean they haven’t struggled stopping the running game. The Bills have allowed at least 100 yards rushing in every game this season up until last week, where they were facing the pathetic Washington Redskins. Overall, they don’t have a strong defense but have been able to thrive off turnovers and creating points from them. Their high powered offense is truly what has led the way to the Bills early success.

Enter the Jets, who have been improving their running game and have a quarterback, who despite improving is still prone to a few erratic interceptions here or there. It shouldn’t take a genius to compose the blueprint for a victory this Sunday: run the football and don’t turn the football over, by limiting the number of pass attempts. The ground it out game-plan, will keep Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson off the field, where they can’t rack up another 30 point performance.

This is the type of game where Shonn Greene’s 20-25 carries needs to be supported by another 12-15 from the LaDainian Tomlinson/Joe McKnight combination. The Jets should be relentless with their rushing attack, as they have the talent on the offensive line and at running back to dominate the Bills front seven. Mark Sanchez can take his shots, but they should be few and far between and built to take advantage of Buffalo overreacting to the Jets commitment to the run by stuffing the box. If the Jets offense is running the way they should, you can bet Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller will be able to get wide open down the field off play action.

There appears to be some swag returning to the Ground portion of the Jets “Ground and Pound,” which is good timing because the cold weather is here and the formula for this team’s success is built around confidence, running the football, and smashmouth defense.

New York Jets: What Is A Reasonable Offensive Gameplan?

What is a reasonable offensive game plan for the New York Jets to put together this Sunday?

The big talk of the week for the New York Jets is the return of the “Ground and Pound.” It is a sensible move to pull back the passing offense, which has created too many turnovers and moved the Jets away from a successful identity. However, there needs to be some type of happy medium in the offensive game-plan. The running game needs to set up the passing game, hence there still needs to be an existence of some type of passing game. Mark Sanchez does need to throw more than 12 passes on Sunday.

Ideally, he will throw roughly 25 times, which is the number he has averaged in his three career victories over New England. You would like to see Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Joe McKnight (who needs to be involved on offense) combine for about 32-35 carries. That type of consistency in the running game will open up play action attempts down the field, even if the runs are only going for 2-3 yards a pop. When Sanchez does go play action he should find favorable match-ups for Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, and Dustin Keller.

The Jets also need to expand their screen game. A good way to get Sanchez’s confidence going early is to set up a few screens for Tomlinson and McKnight, along with their receivers. Let him get a few completions under his belt and get into the rhythm of the game before pushing the football down the field. One other comment on the passing game, where is the back shoulder fade to Plaxico Burres down the sideline? In single coverage, that pass is an indefensible way to gain a quick 15 yards. It needs to be worked into the Jets playbook.

In the running game, the Jets need to press the edges and consider giving the Wildcat a few snaps. Jeremy Kerley can be a weapon in the open field, especially if he is working in tandem with McKnight.

Brian Schottenheimer receives his share of criticism but he has come up with a few clutch game-plans in his day. Most notably, playoff victories over Cincinnati and New England in previous years. He needs to come up with another one on Sunday.

Timing Is Right For McKnight, As Jets Revisit Ground Attack

Joe McKnight first joined the Jets last year as a nervous, fumbling fourth round selection. A player whose real first notable performance in Green and White entailed vomiting during minicamp. Thus earning him an underachieving label that the former USC tailback almost couldn’t shake. Until now. One blocked punt and the longest play in Jets history later, McKnight’s moment has clearly arrived. The timing of it couldn’t be better for an offense that has lost their identity, while a special teams unit perhaps found the answer to the loss of Brad Smith. As the Jets return to the “Ground and Pound” mentality this week, they must add to it more plays designed for McKnight. A guy who can break off big runs from a variety of places.

On special teams McKnight has found his rythym. His solid forty plus yard second half return in Oakland following Antonio Cromartie’s injury (occurring while trying to retrieve his own fumble during the prior kickoff) was followed by his 107 yard TD encore in Baltimore this past Sunday. McKnight’s blazing speed, and quick cuts are finally beginning to make their way to the surface.  Natural instinct is starting to topple what has been a paralyzing habit of overthinking by McKnight during runbacks.

On offense the 5’11 198 pound McKnight can become the speedy outside rushing threat that without him, the new version of the Ground and Pound doesn’t have. After weeks of horrid blocking in pass protection and too much of a focus on throwing the ball, Ryan wants to return to running the ball. Additional speed like McKnights’ would certainly help provide another choice within that concept.

McKnight could also make things happen in the passing game. Prior to becoming a Jet, many NFL draft scouting reports highlighted his hands, and pass catching abilities as a strengths as well. Now may be the perfect time for offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to add McKnight’s tools into the gameplan both on the ground and through the air.

The reasoning being simple. McKnight can score. From anywhere. Yet the offensive line and feature back Shonn Greene have struggled. A weekly change of pace from a pair of breakaway speed legs provided by McKnight might provide the remedy. With the ball in the hands of McKnight, plays won’t take very long to develop, but will still retain the upside potential for long gains.

McKnight could also line up in the slot. For bubble screens and quick outs into the flat. Both of which could turn into favorable one on one situations against much slower defenders. Line McKnight up as the “QB” of the Wildcat as well. This to obtain the ability to work the option on the perimeter. All to be used as a way to allow McKnight a few more opportunities to break free and change games. The way Smith used to from whatever position HE was put in.

Sometimes an offense just needs a little boost. A new look that turns into a big play. McKnight could be the one to provide this. At 2-2, with the notion of returning to a ball control style on offense, the Jets must go beyond simply PONDERING the idea of using him more frequently. Instead, they must see that now IS the right time to explore just how big of a weapon Joe McKnight truly CAN be.

Final Thoughts On Jets/Raiders

Game MVP – LaDainian Tomlinson, who ripped apart the Oakland defense as a receiver out of the backfield. For the second year in a row he is off to a very strong start.

Game Goat – Antonio Cromartie…the feast or famine act is growing old very quickly.

Play of the Game – Cromartie’s muffed kick is where the game went down the toilet. Fortunately, I can’t find a YouTube video link of it because I don’t want to see it again.

Trending Up

  • LaDainian Tomlinson – The Jets most consistent playmaker on offense through three weeks.
  • Plaxico Burress – He is still a match-up nightmare when given the chance.
  • Derrick Mason – Finished with 6 receptions and a handful of huge third down conversions.
  • Colin Baxter – Held his own in his first NFL start.

Trending Down

  • Wayne Hunter – A weekly regular in this category.
  • Antonio Cromartie – A lung injury could keep him out this week.
  • Santonio Holmes – Not necessarily on him but Jets must do a better job of getting #10 involved.
  • Bart Scott/ Calvin Pace/Bryan Thomas/David Harris – Not a pretty week for the Jets highly touted LBs.

1. I said before this game that the only way the Jets would lose is if they laid a complete egg. They found a way to do that in spectacular fashion for a key stretch of the game that put them in too big of a hole to climb out of. Penalties, turnovers, and missed tackles equal losses. It happens in the NFL. Too many people are making broad proclamations about the implications of this game as I will get into later today.

2. Jamaal Westerman is not an answer as a pass rusher. This team has to stop procrastinating each off-season when it comes to adding a player who can get after the quarterback.

3. Look for more Joe McKnight on kick return, especially if Antonio Cromartie will be nursing an injury. If Cromartie can’t play on defense, Kyle Wilson will likely get the start. He will get quite the chance for redemption after his rough season opener against the Baltimore Ravens in 2010.

TJ reviews his top five from the game

NFL Week 3 highlights

Jets Won’t Force It, Yet Better Find Their Rushing Attack

The flexibility in Rex Ryan’s approach to gameday was needed and welcome last Sunday night but the Jets running game must deliver better in 2011 than it did against Dallas. Otherwise, Mark Sanchez and the Jets defense must both reach much higher levels of output, in order to help Gang Green return to playing games in late January.

At a press conference earlier this week Rex Ryan spoke about a coaching error he made halfway through the 2010 campaign that may have played into his thinking against the ‘Boys. The mistake occurred in Detroit, when Ryan declared that the club HAD to run the ball a specific amount of times. Thirty five times to be exact, against the Lions. The rushing attack then of course struggled all day. Worse, the albatross of having to reach a carries quota almost did the entire team in. Ryan jumped ship though, reneging on that plan. This allowed the Jets time for some late heroics through the air, on their way to a 23-20 comeback win in OT.

Fast forward to the Cowboys, where the Jets abandoned the run sooner than anyone expected them to. Sixteen carries for a paltry 45 yards. A 2.8 average that forced Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to rethink things at halftime, trailing 10-7.

Ryan admitted Tuesday, that since the Lions game, he’s gone with the idea that the method of attack will be based not upon a script to follow, but in assessing the flow of the game and what opposing defenses want to take away. Hopefully for the Jets, Ryan’s talk of reacting rather than force feeding rushing attempts, is not a cover up for a “Ground and Pound” mentality that has been grounded more than it has pounded since the departure of Thomas Jones prior to the 2010 season.

The original plan as far as bringing in future Hall of Fame RB LaDainian Tomlinson was NOT to switch the 2009 roles of a backfield that let Jones plow ahead for three quarters while letting Greene add the final punishing late game blows to a worn out opposition. It was rather to expand the variety. Tomlinson was seen as a player who could open up the screen game and widen the field while Greene was projected as a younger version of the hard hitting inside running Jones.

However, Greene struggled right from day one in the feature role. Greene’s careless week one fumble late in the first half against the Ravens not only sent the momentum of a tight game to Baltimore (10-9 winners over the Jets that night), it sent Greene back to the bench.  LT was then forced back into the top billing. A status that his long time former team, the Chargers, had felt was beyond his current capabilities as a back in the latter stages of an amazing career. The very reason for LT’s availability on the open market prior to the start of last season.

Monday night the Jets were set to try it again. “Take two” if you will, using Greene as the primary, and Tomlinson as the added ten touch flavor. However, Greene struggled again with just ten carries for 26 yards.

The Jets then flipped the script on Rob Ryan’s run heavy defense. A unit also aided by the dominating pass rushing prowess of DeMarcus Ware. By using LT with screens, the Jets killed two birds with one stone. They covered up an inability to gain yardage on the ground AND slowed down the devastation that Ware was leaving in his wake on the Jets passing game.

It worked. LT was key in the come from behind win. Catching balls and moving chains the entire second half. The Jets won the game, yet there are those who wonder if we are witnessing another painfully slow start for Greene in 2011.

Greene HAS been a force though late in seasons, and especially in the playoffs for two years straight. Greene has amassed 502 total yards and three TD’s with a five yard plus per carry average in five and a half postseason games (he got injured and missed the entire second half of the AFC championship at Indy in 2009).

This year though, the Jets may not be able to wait until the year is half over. Hated AFC rival the Patriots look as explosive as ever. A three game road stretch that includes the Raiders, (where the Jets always struggle), Baltimore and Pats follows Sunday’s battle with the Jaguars. Falling behind in the standings early would mean that the Jets would be playing for a wildcard before Greene typically heats up. A troubling scenario that again would leave the Jets to have to fight their way out of the AFC playoff field on the road.

Maybe the Jets in fact, whether they want to admit it or not, wont become the pre 2010 backfield hybrid design of Greene inside and LT sprinkled in through the passing game. Rather, they will end up as one that runs and dumps off screens equally.

If so, there will be those who will find this potential “flex” like blueprint for the backfield to be a slow death sentence. Concerned with any ideas of rebranding the Ground and Pound into the Run and Screen. One of those is former Jets OL and current ESPN analyst Damien Woody who told us via twitter this week:

“that’s all good but you have to be able to run the ball in November and December.”

Sunday’s game against the 1-0 Jaguars, who have alot of late newcomers on defense due to the NFL Lockout, seems like a good place for the Jets run game to start kicking it into gear. Ryan won’t force things if it doesn’t  though, and that’s a good thing. However, if Rex has to keep pulling the plug on the run, then the onus will REALLY be on Sanchez and a Jets defense that still lacks a game changing pass rusher.

The Jets won’t shove the Ground and Pound down anyone’s throat in 2011, but they better see signs of life from Greene and co. before we reach Halloween on the calendar. Otherwise, as Woody alluded to, November and December could become empty and cruel to a franchise that has for the past two years, lived for the cold weather.

Shonn Greene In The Crosshairs

We spent a good chunk of the off-season hearing the hype about Shonn Greene becoming the lead back for the New York Jets. Many writers, including myself, were excited about the prospect and carry the belief that Greene has the ability to be a true lead back if given the appropriate amount of carries.  A strong finish to last year and a good pre-season seemed to fuel that belief.

Despite that, week one of the 2011 season was reminiscent of the early portions of the 2010 season. It was Greene not making much of an impact, while LaDainian Tomlinson was finding a way to consistently come up with big plays in a similar number of snaps. It is too early to rush to any judgment on Greene for this season. Yet, he needs to show a little punch this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars

I am aware the Jaguars have a tough run defense and the Jets gameplan will likely be more pass centric for the second week in a row. However, Greene needs to break through and at least get to the second level a few times. He will receive more than 10 carries this week, but he needs to   do more with those carries. Let’s not even worry about him ripping off the long run, how about a few 8-12 yard runs to get some confidence going?

Nobody is expecting to Greene to register a 22 carry, 150 yard performance against Jacksonville, but if he can give the Jets a solid 15 carries for 70 yards it would be a step in the right direction.