A Closer Look at Shonn Greene

SB Nation's University of Iowa blog, Black Heart Gold Pants was kind enough to answer a few questions so Jets fans could get an insider opinion of the next great back to don the green and white, Shonn Greene.

1. Could you provide a bio of Green's time with the Hawkeyes?

Oh, where to begin.  Greene was initially recruited to Iowa from New Jersey as part of the incoming class of 2004.  His test scores were low, however, and he spent a year in prep school before joining the team in 2005.  At the time, he was third on the depth chart, buried behind Albert Young (now scout teaming with the Vikings) and Damien Sims.  He played sparingly over the next two seasons, primarily in clean-up time against cupcakes, but immediately showed a knack for running people over.

Unfortunately, the classroom problems persisted.  In 2007, as he was set to finally make a significant contribution, he was suspended indefinitely for failing to make grades.  He enrolled at Kirkwood Community College, burned a redshirt season, worked as a furniture deliveryman, and by all accounts ate, slept, and breathed football.

Due to graduation and attrition, Iowa entered 2008 without an experienced scholarship back on the roster.  Greene's grades were salvaged, and so his suspension was lifted and he rejoined the team.  You could almost hear the sigh of relief from the coaches when they saw him play; he was as well-conditioned as you could expect from a guy who hadn't played in 18 months, and he was determined.  Running back, which had been the primary source of concern for 8 months, was no longer a problem.

Greene proceeded to turn in the best season by an Iowa running back since Nile Kinnick won the Heisman in 1939.  He ran for more than 1800 yards and 20 touchdowns, played his ass off in a win over then-undefeated Penn State (on a student-led "Greene Out" day), and won the Doak Walker Award for college's best running back and the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year award.  He destroyed South Carolina on New Years' Day, then announced he was turning pro before he had even left the field.

(Details of the season are all in here: http://www.blackheartgoldpants.com/2008/12/10/688974/the-greene-party)


2. How was his offensive line? Was he a Superman who overcame suspect blocking, a guy who took advantage of holes I could run through, or something in between?

Iowa's offensive line was probably the best we've had since 2002, and maybe even better than that.  Considering the 2002 line included Robert Gallery, Eric Steinbach, and Bruce Nelson (all of whom are playing on Sundays, though we won't talk about Gallery's issues), that's saying something.  Kirk Ferentz is, at his heart, an offensive line expert; he's the man who brought you Jonathan Ogden as Ravens o-line coach before taking the Iowa job.  Iowa runs the same zone blocking scheme that the Broncos, Packers, and Redskins have used for years (not being overly familiar with Rex Ryan or your OC, I can't tell you how similar it is to anything the Jets are running).  It was a perfect system for Greene, because he had just enough shiftiness to make the one-cut, and enough size to roll through any linebacker or safety who got in the way.  Would he have run for 1850 yards if the line wasn't any good?  Of course not.  But the line didn't make him, either.

3. How was he against the best competition? Did he take advantage of cupcakes, or did he shine when the lights were the brightest?

His biggest games were against Wisconsin, who certainly had their share of trouble against the run last season, but the remarkable thing about Greene was his consistency, both game-to-game and play-to-play.  He ran for over 100 yards in each game last year, and was the only back in the country to do so.  Against our best opponent, Penn State, he ran 28 times for 117 and two scores.  Against our worst, Iowa State and Indiana (I'm omitting the cupcakes early on, both because Maine and Florida International aren't great yardsticks and because he still wasn't up to game speed at that time), he ran for 120 and 115, respectively.

Just as impressive was the way he did it.  I'm a Vikings fan, and I love Adrian Peterson.  But during Minnesota games, Fox shows that play-by-play list of his carries that always reads "2, 2, 1, -1, 3, 2, 67, 0, 2" and, before you know it, AP has 130 yards on 2 breakaways and 18 plays for little to no gain.  Greene only had 3 breakaway carries during the Big Ten season; he averaged 6 yards per carry largely by running for 6 yards with every carry. It's not that Greene doesn't have breakaway speed, but rather that he ran inside and drug defenders downfield with him.

4. Do you think Greene is a complete enough back to play every down in the pros, or do you think he needs to be part of a rotation?

It all depends on what you want from him.  Iowa rarely uses running backs in the passing game; they're generally kept inside to protect the quarterback.  As a result, Shonn doesn't have a lot of pass-catching experience (and, judging from what I'm reading from rookie minicamp, not a lot of God-given talent either).  If you want a back who can consistently run between the tackles, take the punishment, stay healthy, and keep your quarterback upright, you have your guy.  If you want someone who can release into the flat, take a swing pass, make a defender miss, and go for 30 yards, well, you still have Leon Washington.  I always envisioned Greene as a first- and second-down back, with someone like Washington taking over in passing situations.  It's why I think New York is a perfect spot for him.

5. Many expected him to go higher than the third round. Do you think he is the type who will use this as extra motivation and have a bigger impact than he otherwise might have?

No doubt about it.  Greene had every right to quit in 2006; he had been run off his team and out of school, he was paying his way to a community college 1500 miles from home by delivering mattresses, and his ex-roommate (the aforementioned Al Young) was telling reporters how much Shonn liked his television.  Instead, he took it as a challenge, got into shape, and ran over everything in his path.  The best way to describe Greene last season was that he ran every play like it was his last.  He'll have no problem finding motivation in getting taken behind Beanie Wells (who we didn't play this season, but who every coach in the league put behind Greene) and Shady McCoy (who Greene outplayed when we went to Pitt).  Congrats, Jets fans.  You got yourself one hell of a football player.

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