Shonn Greene is a physical force, so one might wonder if the third-year back was a little bit disappointed by new language in the new CBA that limits hitting in practice.
"I don't think anyone was upset," Greene said this week. "I do love the contact, but I do think we'll get a little bit of that in training camp. When it comes gametime, we just have to be ready to perform."
The Jets know they have a primetime performer in Greene and they plan on using the talented runner more in 2011.
"We really think Shonn is going to have a breakout season," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said.
"I felt very good about it," Greene said, "just to know that he believes in me and he has that confidence in me that I can get the job done."
The 25-year-old Greene followed up a 540-yard ground total as a rookie with 766 yards his sophomore campaign. And he paced New York's AFC representative in the playoffs on the ground for a second consecutive year, amassing 198 yards while averaging 4.4 yards a carry. It's safe to think 1,000 yards is in reach for the first time in Greene's career and his attempts should exceed the 185 he logged in 2010.
"He knows how to take care of his body, he knows what the workload is like and he knows the preparation that has to take place during the week," Schottenheimer said. "He's proven he can be the guy and he's ready to take that next step."
Greene might have statistical goals in mind, but he's not saying if that's the case. He prefers to talk about the collective goal and that, of course, is winning the Super Bowl.
"We have all the pieces to the puzzle," he said. "We have a great offensive line, we have great wide receivers who can block, and Mark is doing his thing. I think we have all the pieces and we can make that happen."
A Humble Mentor
LaDainian Tomlinson led the club with 914 rush yards and six rush TDs last season and the future Hall of Famer remains an attractive backfield option. But the 32-year-old is pleased to hand off the leading role after tallying 34 more carries than Greene in 2010.
"I always saw myself as I got later in my career — this is what I wanted to do," said Tomlinson. "In order to take a role like this, you can't have an ego. That's not what it's about for me. Like I said last year, I wanted to come here and have a role. I was hoping that would be my role last year, but it just didn't shake out like that. I think that's the way it's going to be this year, and I'm looking forward to it."
Greene, a Sicklerville, N.J., native, feels fortunate to work side by side with one of the game's all-time greats.
"It was great last year," Greene said. "I picked up a lot from him — not even on-the-field stuff but off the field as far as being a professional, handling your business and being responsible. On the field running routes, he's a great back out of the backfield, catching balls and watching film and stuff like that."
The Jets are in a favorable spot because not only can Tomlinson still play but he's taken on a mentoring role with Greene.
"Just to have a sounding board, it's like Mark having Brunell," Schottenheimer said. "He's been there, done that. He can give you insight on the different ways to prepare and the different things to try. That stuff is invaluable. I see them talking all the time. You see them working early in the morning with Anthony [Lynn]. And all that stuff is going to pay off."
'I've Come a Long Ways'
Greene, who worked out at Velocity Sports Performance in Cherry Hill, N.J., during the lockout, looks to be a solid 235 pounds and will likely suit up between 228 and 230 once the regular season commences. After rushing for 1,850 yards and 20 TDs at Iowa in 2008, he has worked hard to become a complete running back by improving in pass protection and catching the ball.
"I see a lot of improvement in his pass protection and pass receiving," said Lynn, the Jets' RB coach. "His hands have developed tremendously. He was behind when he came in this league. He was primarily just a runner and we used him only in those situations."
"Those two things I've come a long ways from coming out of college," Greene said. "Anybody can run the ball in this league, but you have to learn how to protect your quarterback — pass pro, running routes of the backfield and stuff like that. So I came a long ways."
The Jets are very deep at running back. Joe McKnight, the fourth-round pick out of USC in 2009, looks explosive and head coach Rex Ryan wants to get him the ball more. They added Bilal Powell in the fourth round out of Louisville in April. And FB John "The Terminator" Conner is ready to do some thumping.
"I think it's a very talented group with me, LT, Joe and Bilal and John," said Greene. "We are all capable of doing different things and that's what I think makes us so versatile. We all can do different things and give defenses a whole lot of trouble."
Bell Cow of the Backfield
But a handoff has taken place. The Jets' hard-hitting, leg-churning No. 23 has assumed the mantle of workhorse.
"This year I see Shonn being that guy, the bell cow on first and second down," Ryan said today, "with LT moving to that third-down role and having Joe back up both areas, then bringing along Powell and we'll see how he progresses as well. We think were loaded in the backfield."
Opposing defenders had better button up their chinstraps. Sure, the Jets might throw it more in 2011, but the Ground & Pound attack is going to feature more of a Greene tint.
"We'll try to get everybody involved early on," Schottenheimer said, "but in terms of Shonn, as much as he can handle he'll get."