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New York Jets’ Rex Ryan Vows to Fix Ground-and-Pound Running Game That’s Been Absent in 2011

In the hours following the New York Jets’ 34-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the mood from coach Rex Ryan could be described as “subdued.”

The following Monday in practice, however, was something completely different.

“He yelled at us,” said left guard Matt Slauson. “He was pissed.”

For about five minutes, according to Slauson, Ryan exploded on the Jets offense, especially the ineffective offensive line that has regressed considerably from their elite play of the past two seasons.

Asked if they’d ever been yelled at like that before, Slauson replied, “Yeah… well not quite that extensively… But, yeah, we’ve been yelled at before.”

“He said, ‘Our running game’s gonna be back, that’s gotta happen,’” Slauson continued. “‘I don’t care if we have to run it 60 times a game.’”

“I haven’t seen the room [that quiet] since [the Monday following] New England in Week 13 [last season] or whenever it was,” Slauson said.

The game he’s referring to was the Jets’ biggest blowout loss in Rex Ryan’s coaching career, a 45-3 loss at New England last season. The Jets rebounded, (albiet losing the following week as well that year) righting the ship to reach the AFC Championship, knocking the Patriots out of the playoffs in the process.

Rest assured, the Patriots have not forgotten about that home playoff loss, and they’ll get a shot at revenge when the Jets head to Foxboro this weekend.

But when Rex angrily says that he’ll run the ball 60 times just for the sake of running it, I think that’s a bit farfetched.

It’s no secret that the biggest X-factor on this team is the overall play of the offensive line. At the beginning of the season, the concern was new starting right tackle Wayne Hunter, who struggled against the Cowboys in the season opener.

However, Hunter was actually the best offensive lineman for the Jets this past week in Baltimore, surrendering zero pressures despite a heavy blitz on nearly every down.

With Nick Mangold still recovering from a high ankle sprain, right guard Brandon Moore needs to step up as he recovers from offseason hip surgery.

Shonn Greene, the third-year running back out of Iowa, has shouldered a lot of the blame of the disappointing Jets running game that ranks 30th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (71.0) and yards per carry (3.1).

Yet Greene, who is also averaging 3.1 yards per carry individually, is only averaging just 0.9 yards before contact and 2.2 yards after contact.

Compare that to last year’s numbers of 1.6 yards before contact and 2.6 yards after contact, and the reason for his lack of success this year is painfully obvious.

Without the same push from the offensive line, “ground-and-pound” is positively grounded. Through four weeks, Football Outsiders ranks the Jets offensive line 30th in run blocking and 20th in pass protection.

It’s not Shonn Greene who’s been the culprit in the Jets’ ineffective running game. It’s the guys up front, as well as the tough schedule they’ve had so far.

The Jets have already faced the Dallas Cowboys, (1st in rushing yards allowed per game, 1st in yards allowed per carry) the Jacksonville Jaguars (16th in YPG, 13th in YPC), and the Baltimore Ravens, (3rd in YPG, 3rd in YPC) which is no small task.

Oakland (29th in YPG, 32nd in YPC) is the only team they’ve faced that isn’t a solid run defense, and in that game the Jets were without Nick Mangold anyway.

The schedule will get a little bit easier as far the defenses the Jets will face, and when Nick Mangold comes back (possibly as early as this week) the Jets should fix a lot of the leaks in their offensive line.

Just having Mangold calling the protection schemes at the line of scrimmage will do wonders for that unit, even if Mangold isn’t 100% yet.

The bottom line is that, as bad as they were last Sunday, it’ll never be that bad again. The Ravens are no ordinary defense, but the Patriots defense is nothing special in comparison.

I expect the Jets to fix their offensive problems soon. Otherwise, it’ll be a long season for Gang Green.