Going into this season, one of the biggest questions for the Jets was at the running back position. Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum made the decision to take the risk on an aging, and under-producing running back in LaDainian Tomlinson. His pedigree enticed the Jets' front office, and Rex believed that he could make a special comeback. For the most part Rex was right, as Tomlinson, over the first 6 games, showed that he still had the burst. Unfortunately, the second half of the season saw a slow decline in production from the 31 year old back. While he was still an integral part of the offense, his leader skills outshined his skillset on the field. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but when your offense is focused around your running attack, and you become forced to throw the ball more because you can't always rely on the run to get a solid gain, something needs to be tweaked. The time that LT's production slowed was however, a benefit to the young playmakers around him. Shonne Greene and Mark Sanchez each saw more involvement, and grew from it. But, when it came down to it, the Jets just didn't have the backfield they needed to be to get past the Steel Curtain.
This stories this offseason will mainly be about the tough decisions that MT will have to make when it comes to Homes, Edwards, Harris, and Cromartie. Almost definitely, not all of them will return, which saddens us fans to see such talent disperse. However, I wonder whether the backfield will be addressed. With LT undoubtedly going into his last season, (if he does not retire by next season, whenever that may be.) The running back position is again in flux. When it comes down to crunch time, is Joe McKnight the back that should take LT's place next year, or is he even worthy of a starting spot.
Ideally, we would like to see Greene and McKnight (at their bests) as a one two punch, providing a mix of speed, with power, much like the combination of LT and Greene. However, to assume that McKnight would seamlessly fill LT's shoes and push LT to the third down back role, would be asinine. McKnight's one show of brilliance (and it was brilliant) came at the expense of the worst rushing defense in the NFL, on the last week of the year. To say that those are optimal conditions to evaluate his talents at the professional level, is humorous. Despite this, I do see his potential; he has speed, and quickness, but could work on his vision out of the backfield. It's refreshing to fast young legs at the running back position for the Jets, it's been a long time.
The fact that this kid could make an impact on the squad is a possibility, because we've already seen a development of work ethic, and maturity over the course of this past season, if anything. The one thing though, that plagues all Jets fans is DOUBT. Is it safe to put all of our eggs in this kids basket, and ride him into the start of next season? (Remember, this is hardly the first issue at the top of the list for the GM) Or, do we hinder his development, by bringing in another proven back for cheap? It's a trust thing. It's a gut call, but it's got to be made.