The position of lead fullback sometimes can be a thankless job.
Thomas Jones and the offensive line received and deserved a lot of credit for Jones' 130-yard effort against the Eagles, but the play of fullback Darian Barnes may have been overshadowed. The 6'2", 240-pound thumper did a nice job clearing space for his running back.
"The guy is running hard, making great moves and just going," Barnes said. "Thomas is a one-cut guy and he's gone. He is so explosive through the hole. I don't see what's going on. Last week, I just heard the roar of the crowd and I knew something was good."
Barnes, who has played four games in his first season with the Jets and made three starts, has been in the backfield for both of Jones' 100-yard rushing days.
"I think he's playing well," said guard Brandon Moore of Barnes. "The way he attacks those linebackers, he's like a lineman in the backfield."
Nicknamed "Full-Tilt" by his Dolphins teammates in Miami because of his non-stop motor, Barnes has brought the same mentality up north.
"He's very physical and you have to be that way at fullback," Moore said. "You see it at practice and you see it carry over to games. He's not afraid to get up on linebackers and that's what you want out of your fullback."
Barnes thinks the Jets have the ability to be "as good as anybody" in the run game. They are averaging just 90.5 yards per contest, but that number will improve with more outings like this past week.
"I think we're on the right track," he said. "I have been saying constantly that we have to jell and I think this was a step in the right direction."
The key now is following it up with another ground surge in Cincinnati. The Bengals are the NFL's 29th-ranked rushing defense, yielding 145.8 yards per game.
"They are a really fast defense. They are a 4-3 quick defense that is incredibly aggressive, the way they blitz and the way they stunt," Barnes said. "They are a heavy blitzing team, so I think it's going to be a big week in terms of understanding what they are trying to do so we can be successful."
On paper, the Bengals don't compare very well up with the Eagles' run D. That would seem to be good news for the Green & White, but they have yet to run the football well on the road and Jones is still searching for his first touchdown of '07.
In three losses, Jones was held to 67 yards at Baltimore, 35 yards at Buffalo and 36 at the Giants. Leon Washington scored against the Bills but his highest road output was 24 yards against he Bills.
"We have only a one-game streak of being halfway successful in running the ball. I think guys realize what we did last week and are trying to copy that," Moore said. "That was the approach at practice and that's how it started. Hopefully guys buy into that and carry it over into this game."
The Bengals attacking defense has produced 12 takeaways, having generated a half dozen of both interceptions and fumble recoveries.
"You can slow anybody down if you pound away, but they are a good defense," Barnes said. "It seems like every week we're playing a great defense so it should make us better. They are highly aggressive and their turnover ratio is really good. When you give the ball up, these guys are going to win. It's kind of been their staple."
Even if the run is in motion, Moore said you shouldn't expect a change in the Bengals' philosophy.
"You'd like to think that you run the ball on someone and it will get them out of pressure. But this is a team that is going to pressure you no matter what. They are going to keep doing it and you've seen it on film. You want to run the ball every game. It helps you in a lot of areas — in the passing game, in the fakes and in the play action. So we'll see if we can get it going again."
A week after hearing the roar of the Meadowlands, Barnes would like to hear silence at Paul Brown Stadium. If that happens, Jones will probably have found space.
"He's not jittery. He understands the defense and where the blocks are set up at and what everybody is supposed to be doing, so it's easy to be patient," Barnes said of his backfield mate. "He is a guy who is smart and does a really good job of knowing the situation. That's half of the job of being a running back and just comes with the veteran status."