When the Jets signed future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson, it was widely assumed that he'd play a complementary role, with Shonn Greene rising to "feature-back" status. Hold everything. According to running backs coach Anthony Lynn, "I see myself as having two starters."
What Lynn meant is this: Playing time will be determined, in large part, by game situations and matchups. As he explained the other day, "It depends on the flow of the game. If we're better off in our big personnel, Shonn will get more touches. If we go little, like we did last year with Leon (Washington) in our nickel package, L.T. will get more touches. It's all situational."
Lynn compared it to the Washington-Thomas Jones tandem last season. If that's the case, the workloads will be fairly close to even. Before Washington's season-ending injury in Week 7, he had 70 carries and 15 catches for 85 touches. Jones had 96 carries and four receptions for 100 touches. That's almost a 50-50 split.
Is Tomlinson, who turns 31 on Wednesday, up to 14 touches per game -- 14 productive touches? There was nothing he did in OTAs or minicamp (at least nothing open to the media) that made you say, "Wow, he's back." But let's not send him to the glue factory just yet. Making a definitive statement about a running back in non-contact drills is like critiquing a movie based on the trailer.
The organization has two concerns about Greene: Durability and weight. His ideal weight is 226 to 228 pounds, according to Lynn, but he showed up seven pounds overweight at the start of the off-season program. That's not a whole lot -- his rib injury in the AFC Championship Game may have affected his post-season conditioning -- but it's still something to keep an eye on.
As for injuries, Greene's physical running style will always make him more vulnerable to dings than most backs. But as Lynn said, "Down the road, he has to learn to play with pain and discomfort." He wasn't questioning Greene's toughness. Actually, Lynn recalled Greene's ankle injury in training camp, thinking at the time that he "snapped it ... It was ugly." It wasn't a long-term injury, as Greene made it back relatively quickly, but part of being an every-down back -- the Jets' goal for Greene -- is performing at less than 100%. Curtis Martin made a career of it, and he's going to Canton.