Ground and Pound! That was the mantra last year with Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, and Shonn Greene, and it didn’t miss a beat when Leon Washington went down and Thomas Jones hit a wall – Shonn Greene carried the load valiantly in the playoffs last year, and he’s expected to carry the load for the full season in 2010. LaDainian Tomlinson was brought in to share that load, and provide a target for Mark Sanchez in the passing game. Rex Ryan is on record as saying that Tony Richardson and John Conner should feel safe, and you get the feeling that if he were running the offense we’d get to see a lot of two FB sets.
Now if you had a chance to look at the screen shots of the roster board on Hard Knocks, you know that the Jets only plan on carrying 5 running backs this year. With four of those spots locked up, let’s look at the rest of the guys competing.
- Joe McKnight – has been a bit of a lightening rod in JetNation. He lost his stomach in OTA’s, failed his first conditioning test to start training camp, and was featured in a long rough segment in the second episode of Hard Knocks. All those negatives -plus the fact that he’s often seen as fan favorite Leon Washington’s direct replacement- have led a lot of fans to be less than supportive of the player. Lost in there is the fact that the Jets traded up in the fourth round to get this kid, and he does have some obvious talent. He showed improved toughness from the first to second preseason game, and his 67 yard punt return was the longest play for the Jets -by far- against the Panthers. In fact, it was longer than any other player’s totals for the game. The guy is a lock to make the roster.
So we’re done here then? Not quite. The Jets have spots open for two special teams specialists, and the RB’s are very much in the mix.
- Jason Davis – will not make the team. As much as Rex Ryan might want to run a triple-wing with three fullbacks, it’s just not happening. He’s a player, though, and will potentially catch on with another team.
- Danny Woodhead – is small. Really small. But he’s the incumbent, and it’s obvious that the coaches love him. The man has a huge heart, and some skill to go with it. He brings some genuine versatility as last year the Jets converted him to WR at the end of the year, flirting with the idea of making a slot receiver out of him. This year, the Jets are stacked at WR, too. He’s going to be a tough cut if it comes down to it.
- Chauncey Washington – got himself a game ball against the Panthers last week. Rex was in love with him. So much so that his fumble was completely overlooked. He ran hard inside, and made a crushing blow on punt coverage – forcing a fumble that Danny Woodhead recovered. Unlike Woodhead, he has prototypical RB size.
Fearless predictions? Chauncey Washington makes the team, and size matters in the case of Danny Woodhead’s resulting in him getting cut. C-Wash could even find himself ahead of Joe McKnight in the RB rotation, especially if Shonn Greene were to get hurt for any period of time. The Jets don’t have a bruiser on the roster after Shonn, and I’m sure they’d rather not use LT in that role if they don’t have to. They saw Thomas Jones run out of gas last year, they’re going to want to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to Tomlinson.
Now if LT were to get hurt, we could see Joe McKnight pressed into service on offense. If his punt return is any indication, it might not be the worst thing in the world if the Jets found a way to get him the ball in space on offense.
All in all some tough decisions, and a good problem for the Jets to have. Every one of these guys can play at the NFL level.
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