Florham Park, N.J.– From the very second Tim Tebow was traded to the Jets the talk has been about how this Jets offense will change, but the majority of the focus has been on the change in the quarterback situation while the running game has become something of an afterthought. This won’t be the case once we get closer to the start of the season and the conversation steers back to actual football talk. As we all know Rex Ryan and Tony Sparano intend to run the ball and their hope is that the simplification of the offensive playbook will be what spurs the resurgence of their rushing attack.
The problems many players had with former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer are well documented, with most of them pertaining to the playbook simply being too big and too complicated. Schottenheimer’s system was heavy with pre-snap movement and adjusting the play call according to the way the defense lined up.
“It just had so much stuff in the offense. If the defense came out and lined up one way, we had to change the way we ran our routes up
another way.” Joe McKnight said. “When Sparano came we just run routes, no changes just go out there and play football.”
Last year this proved to do more harm than good and the player’s genuinely seem relieved to not have to worry about such a complex system anymore.
“I mean yeah, everybody had a sigh of relief.” McKnight said. “We just didn’t have the same amount of plays we had last year, we had a lot of plays and a lot of things to go with the plays. Right now the plays here, you just got to go out and run the play and you just got to win your matchup.”
“It’s been fun, to get an opportunity to get to see a different side of offense, I’ve seen the same offense for six years so being able to learn something new has been an exciting challenge.” Nick Mangold said, “I think it’s making us better because everyone really has to focus in and make sure that you’re on your game and I think that we’ve put a lot of good work in and we’ll continue to do that throughout phase three I believe.
“I think it’s pretty simple, you have to do your job and expect that everyone around you is going to do their job. I think if we all do that we should be able to do some pretty good things… You got to block ’em up and I don’t think anything is going to change in that regard. Calls are different, different language, but guys are taking to it, guys are learning and doing good things.”
With Greene and McKnight the system and playbook aren’t the only changes they are dealing with. McKnight has tacked on 16 pounds from last year’s playing weight as he wants to become a more complete running back and prove his body can take the punishment of running in between the tackles. Greene is only entering his fourth season, but with LT gone Greene becomes the elder statesmen among the running backs and has welcomed the challenge of becoming the leader of the group.
The departure of LT also means the number two running back spot is up for grabs and McKnight intends to stake his claim to that role.
“I mean it’s a good opportunity for me but I just got to make sure I know what I’m doing.” McKnight said, “Because LT without question knew what he was doing. So I just want to make sure I know what I’m doing so when the time come I’m the second guy that can be that back and just keep going forward.
“The goal was I wanted to comeback and not just be labeled as specialty back that just catches receiving routes out of the backfield and spread the defense out. I wanted to show people I can run in between the tackles and that’s one of the reasons to put the weight on. I just had to make sure it was the right weight.”
When asked how he gained the weight McKnight joked, “Man, a lot of McDonald’s. I was, what? 198? I mean I had to eat.”
“Yeah, I mean I gained it the right way then went and worked out and it changed to muscle. I wasn’t eating everything bad, I cheated a couple of days. You get your cheat days every once in awhile, I might of cheated more than I was supposed to (smiling). I kind of stuck to my plan though.”
McKnight said the heaviest he’s ever played at is 200, but he said he’s been working with a plan the trainers gave him. He said the trainers, “know about my fat mass, my muscle mass. They know all about that stuff.” His joke about McDonald’s were apparently taken seriously by many on Twitter earlier today, but McKnight confirmed he was joking before turning in one final joke while admitting he wasn’t perfect with his diet, “I ain’t going to say I was eating healthy, like I was eating all the right stuff like Tim Tebow.”
When asked if he thinks he can sustain the weight McKnight said, “No I don’t think I can sustain it because I think I’m going to lose a couple when I go into camp. You know with the pads, the heat and everything I’ll probably start the season at probably between 210 and 205. That’s where I want to be at by the time the season starts. When I go into camp I don’t want to lose too much weight and then be underweight. So I just put the weight on so when I get to camp I can lose the right amount of weight and go into the season ready to run.”
Naturally when someone as quick and fast as McKnight tacks on extra weight the first question many will have is what effect will the weight gain have on their speed?
“Gaining the weight, it hasn’t slowed me down. I mean I don’t feel like I’ve slowed down and from what I’ve heard it doesn’t look like I’ve slowed down.” McKnight said. “I got more explosive and more powerful out of my cuts, I can say that.”
As McKnight is staking his claim for the number two running back spot, Greene is taking to his new leadership role with relative ease as he has transitioned into the coach of the running back group and helping teach the new guys, just like LT and Thomas Jones helped teach him. Still he admits it’s kind of weird to be the veteran of the group.
“Yeah it’s been kind of weird, but Joe (McKnight) and Bilal (Powell) have been along here with me as well and the young guys, they’re catching on kind of fast so I don’t think I’m more so the old head, but I’m kind of the leader in that room and I’m going to make sure we’re ready to go.”
The plan is to simplify the offense and make each player win their one-on-one battles. If the player’s execute they will find success running the ball, it really can be that simple. And while Reggie Bush recently said his goal for the season is to lead the NFL in rushing, Greene’s goal is far more simplistic, just how Ryan and Sparano like it.
“(My) Goal going into the season? Just to win games.” Greene said, “One game at a time. I mean that’s what football is all about, winning. That’s my goal.”
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