FLORHAM PARK, NJ – Going in to Week 4 of the NFL season, and LaDanian Tomlinson looks to have taken his perch as a starting running back in the league. Shonn Greene, who was named the Week 1 starter after his strong playoff performance, has struggled mightily out of the gates.
The Jets might not come outright and say that Tomlinson is the official starter, but the proof is in the playing time.
He started in first game as a New York Jet in Sunday night’s 31-23 win over the Miami Dolphins. He was on the field over 80% of the time to Greene’s 20 percent. By the looks of it, they don’t seem to be equal interchangeable parts, at least thus far.
Coming into the season, Tomlinson, 31, was signed to a back-up role for Greene. He would spell Greene on third downs and catch a few balls out of the backfield, and perhaps mentor the young second-year back about the nuances of becoming a successful back in the league.
However his fast start has the Jets envisioning the glory days Tomlinson had during his tenure with San Diego. While the disparage in carries is minor, Tomlinson has 37 carries to Greene’s 30, what both have been able to do with those carries is alarming. Tomlinson has rushed for 208 yards while Greene has a feeble 106 yards.
Pepper in Tomlinson’s nine receptions for 60 yards and it’s no wonder his game and Brian Schottenheimer’s system has made for a recipe of success.
Thus far, the fact of the matter is the Jets offense is more predictable with Greene in the backfield than with Tomlinson. Greene is a traditional north-south, between the tackles running back. As we saw in the game against Baltimore, he isn’t the best at catching the ball out of the backfield. Knowing that, defenses can send run stuffers to the middle in anticipation of the up-the-gut run.
Schottenheimer’s offense thrives off people who can be utilized in multiple alignments, and in return create mismatches in the offense’s favor. This offense has helped the likes of Dustin Keller and Brad Smith make the most of their abilities and capitalize on those mismatches. Tomlinson is a perfect fit for Schotty’s offense, where he can run inside and outside while being a legitimate pass-catching threat as well.
From the beginning Schottenheimer has said that they would play the hot hand as far as playing time goes for Tomlinson and Greene. Tomlinson may have the hot start, but as the season continues it might be likely to see Tomlinson’s 31-year-old legs wear down. Greene, the younger and stronger back, may enjoy a second-half surge after seeing less time in the first eight weeks.
NOTES: While we’re talking about running backs, yesterday the St. Louis Rams signed RB Chauncey Washington from the Jets practice squad. Washington is the second running back to be signed from the Jets practice squad after the Patriots plucked Danny Woodhead from the Jets before their Week 2 match-up. Woodhead scored his first NFL touchdown on a 22-yard run against the Buffalo Bills last week.
Both Washington and Woodhead outplayed rookie RB Joe McKnight in preseason despite McKnight getting a roster spot and the vote of confidence from the Jets. So far, McKnight has been inactive in all three regular season games.