I have seldom seen a back who ran for 1,054 yards at a 4.2 clip per carry take the kind scrutiny Shonn Greene has this year. His first year as a full time starter was a productive one. Greene ran for good numbers even though the Jets did not use him as effectively as they might have. Greene is a pounding runner. He runs through contact and churns out every yard he can muster. He would probably be best served in an offense that put an emphasis on the power run game so that he could pound on defenses all game long and then pop some big runs late as the opposition fatigues.
Greene showed that he is a number one caliber back in the NFL. Anybody who puts up the kind of numbers he did is a number one back. The criticism people have of him seems to be that he is not an elite number one back. That is fair. Greene does not do it all. He does not change directions well. He is more of a straight ahead runner. Shonn is also not great at reading his blocks or defenders. He leaves yardage on the field cutting the wrong way. While he registered a career high 30 receptions and showed some signs midyear of developing as a receiver, his shaky hands reemerged late in the year. He is clearly not the most natural receiver out of the backfield. In addition, the second gear he flashed in his first two years was nowhere to be found. Greene was churning out consistent 4 to 5 yard runs but seldom broke anything huge.
Yes, in an ideal world, the Jets would be able to find an elite back. That is not a necessity, though. Every down backs are becoming rarer and rarer in the NFL. What would really help the team is a back who can do the things Shonn does not do well to serve as a compliment. I am thinking of a guy with homerun speed who is an outside runner. This guy would also be a good pass catcher. I think the Jets actually have this guy, Joe McKnight. They just used him sparingly unless injuries forced them to. The one game Greene and McKnight played extensively as a one-two punch came against the Bills. The duo combined for 130 combined rushing and receiving yards that day.
I think offensive line play is more important to the run game than the backs. In a perfect world, the Jets would be able to find an upgrade for Greene, but resources are limited. There are a lot of other areas that are in much greater need of an upgrade than running back. One of them is right tackle. Finding a really strong run blocker could be a boon to the run game. So could Tony Sparano's probably increased focus on running the ball. I would probably take 2011 Greene over 2010 LaDainian Tomlinson or 2009 Thomas Jones, the featured runners in years the Jets were thought to have exceptional rushing attacks. Give Greene a better line and a chance to wear down defenders next year, and I think his production will improve.
I vote stay. How do you vote?