Rookie RB Shonn Greene had a small case of butterflies when he got his first offensive touches as a pro running back in the second quarter in New Orleans on Sunday, but they didn't last long.
"It was great. I was a little nervous when I first went in there, but once I started moving it was just like playing all over again," Greene told newyorkjets.com this week. "It was good times. I was mad about the loss but I got my feet wet and I'm looking forward to building from there."
With the Jets down, 17-0, and 9:00 left in the second quarter, the Jets inserted the 5'11", 226-pounder, whom they traded up to get at the top of Round 3 in the April draft.
"We got some passes with him in there, don't we? They're going to have nine guys down there if we don't," said head coach Rex Ryan. "It was funny because when he came in the game, it was like 'Well, he's going to get the ball.' "
The Saints had seven players in the box on the first play and Greene ran the ball for 9 yards. When he stayed on the field on second-and-3, they brought one more defender into the box and No. 23 again ran the ball, this time for 7 yards. He carried once more on that drive for 3 yards as the play selection (nine runs, four passes) favored the run on the Jets longest drive of the day — 13 plays, 60 yards and 7:12 before Jay Feely kicked a 38-yard field goal.
"I have to give a lot of credit to the offensive line. They do a great job out there," Greene said. "They open up a hole wide enough for anybody to run through there, so I just saw it and hit it and did the play a couple times over and it worked."
On the day, Greene ran four times for 23 yards, a solid 5.8 a carry. He came out after tweaking his ankle on the first drive of the third quarter, but said he's fine and is not listed on this week's injury report in advance of Monday night's game at Miami.
Ryan would like to get the rookie the ball more, but Thomas Jones and Leon Washington, both of whom played in the Pro Bowl in February, are ahead of him on the depth chart.
"I think it's funny because you've got two pretty good backs that are in front of you," said Ryan. "Thomas gets beat up because maybe he doesn't have the average per carry that some of the other guys do, but he's doing all the heavy lifting — all the short yardage runs, he gets every one of those.
"And you've got Leon. We were disappointed as a football team when he only got the eight touches."
Jones and Washington combined for 17 carries against the Saints and have averaged 26.5 combined in each of the first four games. But Greene is used to this position and has the patience to wait for his opportunity to come.
While in college at Iowa in '08, he was seventh on the depth chart to start the season but his hard work allowed him to move up to number one. And he ended the season with 1,850 yards, second-best in the nation, and added 20 TDs.
"That was a blessing in disguise, I never thought I would be in that position," he said. "And then just to be the starter and get that many yards. I'm definitely blessed.
"I think we have one of the best lines here in the NFL and I thought that with my line in school, too. It's like the same thing, almost, but they do a great job pass-blocking and in the rushing game. Hats off to them. They do a good job week in and week out."
Greene has a relentless running style, powering through the line, and he rarely goes down on the first hit.
"That's part of my game," he said. "That's what the game of football is all about, being physical and trying to be more dominant than your opponent. That's one thing I take into my running style, just being dominant and being physical."
There might be enough carries for all three backs going up against the NFL's second-ranked rushing defense in the Dolphins, who have allowed 61.0 yards a game through four weeks. If Greene's number gets called again, he'll definitely be ready.
"I'm real excited. The whole world is going to be watching. It's going to be a big challenge," he said. "Everybody's going to be juiced up, including them, but we look forward to getting the job done."