Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said the Jets' running game is about Thomas Jones but it's about more than just TJ.
"Obviously, Thomas is always a big part of what we're trying to do," Schottenheimer said during an informal news conference this afternoon, two days before the Jets try to run against the Cincinnati Bengals and their 29th-ranked run defense.
"But we're always trying to get everybody involved. We go into the game with multiple formations, multiple personnel groupings, trying to get everyone involved."
That flexibility was displayed when Arizona came to town, with Leon Washington starting the game at running back. Head coach Eric Mangini said this week there was no significance to who started the game at tailback.
"Leon playing or Jesse [Chatman] playing, any of those guys playing, that's not a function of a shift in who the starter is," said Mangini. "I like the idea of being able to play multiple backs and being successful with multiple backs."
But Jones — whether it be sharing the ball with his fellow RBs or helping protect his passer — understands that balance is key.
"We are working well as an offense. We are running the ball when we need to and we are throwing the ball when we need to," Jones said in the locker room today. "You want to have a balanced offense. At the end of the day you want to win the football game.
The Jets are still seeking that consistency on offense. However, Mangini said the team has not run the ball poorly — "I think we've run the ball well at times," he said. "I think we've run the ball really well at times." The coach said the Jets' rushing average of 3.8 yards per carry is reflective of a few negative-yardage plays.
He might be onto something.
The Jets have had nine rushing attempts in which the runner has been tackled behind the line of scrimmage, resulting in a loss of 17 yards. Those negative-yardage plays are more significant, given that the Jets have rushed the ball the fourth-fewest times in the league after five weeks.
Quarterback Brett Favre this week praised Jones for his leadership and character.
"He's always the one calling us up, breaking the team down. After a tough loss he's the first one to speak up in the locker room. Those are things you can't coach," said Favre. "The guy is a tremendous running back.
The Jets are striving for balance so that they can be a multidimensional offense, but they realize that the most important goal is winning games.
"We just have to be able to take what the defense is giving us and be productive," Favre said. "Up to this point, we've done a pretty good job of that."
Jones reiterated that outlook in the locker room earlier today.
"I am sure we will do what is working," he said. "If the passing game is working, well, then I am sure we will work the passing game. The games are unpredictable. You never know what is going to happen. You have to take it as it comes."
Jones, the Jets and their fans would like to eclipse his season-high 101 yards and the team's season-high 112 yards, both in their season-opening victory at Miami. Perhaps that can come Sunday against the Bengals, who've given up an average of 171 yards on the ground per game this season.