Mehta: Jets expect a 'monster season' from Shonn Greene in 2012
BY Manish Mehta
CORTLAND – The Jets have made it clear what they expect from Shonn Greene this season. The fourth-year running back will be the engine for an offense that hopes to revive its ground-and-pound attack.
“I’m asking for a monster season,” running backs coach Anthony Lynn told me. “I think he’s one of the best power backs in the game. Why wouldn’t you?”
Greene, coming off a 1,054-yard season, admitted that there’s additional incentive to play better in the final year of his contract and “get a fresh new start” under new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who could turn him into the bellcow running back that Rex Ryan claimed he would be prior to last season.
Greene posted career highs in carries (253) and yards last season, but he never became the centerpiece of an offense in perpetual flux. He averaged 39 yards and 3.1 yards per carry through the first four games when the Jets leaned on Mark Sanchez to beat teams through the air. After Ryan made an executive decision to return their run-first roots, Greene averaged 75 yards and 4.4 yards per carry in the final 12 games, which would project to a 1,196-yard season. He averaged 31 percent more carries per game (16.8) in the final 12 games than he did in the first month (12.8).
“He was frustrated as hell last year,” Lynn said.
The quiet Greene never allowed those frustrations to bubble to the surface.
He hasn’t gone to Ryan, Sparano or Lynn to demand more carries this offseason, either.
“I said, ‘Whatever y’all need me to do, I’m going to do,” Greene told me.
“This a team sport. Nobody should be selfish. Whatever we got to do to win games, that’s what everybody should do.”
He remained confident that he could become an elite back. “I think I can do it,” he said.
Although Greene admitted that he felt fresh by season’s end, could he withstand the rigors of a 300-carry season?
“I had 250 last year,” Greene said. “So 50 more ain’t nothing.”
How about 350? “Whatever it takes,” he said.
Greene hasn’t approached the coaches with the 300 mark in mind, Lynn said, because, “at least he thinks he knows that he’s going to get it 300-350 times.”
“I don’t know,” Lynn said about the number of touches that Greene could get this season. “We’re going to do whatever it takes to win. That’s all we’re going to do. We give him the ball. He’s a power back. He gets better as the game goes on. If we give him the ball, he’ll help us. If he touches it 10-12 times, he’ll help us.”
“We talk about winning,” Lynn added. “And we know the formula to winning is rush attempts plus completions. We’re just trying to get back to our formula. Rex has been preaching that from Day One.”
To that end, Gang Green’s rush attempts-plus-completions numbers took a hit last season. The Jets totaled 817 and 822 rushes plus completions in 2009 and 2010 before recording 753 last season, an 8.5 percent reduction.
Greene, who has also adopted a big brother role to the young core of backs after learning from Thomas Jones and LaDainian Tomlinson, could finally be primed for the type of year that he envisioned in 2011. Could this be his breakout year?
“If I knew, I’d be in Vegas,” Lynn said. “But we sure plan on it happening this year.”
NOTE: The Jets still haven’t decided between Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell for the third-down back job.
“That job’s open right now,” Lynn said. “Bilal has done more (blocking in the past). I’m not saying that he’s better than Joe. That’s why we have camp.
When we leave Cortland, we’ll know. But those two are competing for that job. Shonn Green can always go in and do it. Shonn did it some last season, because he had to. But we would rather rest him on that down.”