New York Jets Roster Rundown: Breaking Down the Running Back Depth on the 2012 Jets Roster

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Arguably no offseason move was bigger for the New York Jets than the hiring of former Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano as their new offensive coordinator.

Gone are the overly complex, often confusing offensive schemes of Brian Schottenheimer, and in their place are the no-nonsense, smash-mouth philosophies of Sparano.

Fourth-year head coach Rex Ryan has never been the type of guy to place blame on any of his coaches or players, but it was no secret that Schottenheimer’s offensive philosophies clashed with what Ryan prefers.

Ryan is a defensive coach. Always has been, always will be. He won a ring on the Baltimore Ravens coaching staff with a team that dominated on defense and had an offense that simply didn’t screw anything up.

For better or for worse, that’s the blueprint Ryan’s always looked for. A dominant defense that forces three-and-outs and turnovers, and a ball-control offense that can control the clock and keep that defense fresh.

With Sparano at the helm, that Jets will likely return to that ball-control style of offense that worked so well for them in the past, and that means they’ll need their rushing attack to bounce back with a big season.

Fourth-year running back Shonn Greene has a golden opportunity to seize the reigns this year, with the departure of veteran LaDainian Tomlinson.

Greene reached the 1000 rushing yard plateau for the first time in 2011, and he’s improved as a receiver, but he’s still pretty inconsistent both as a pass protector and as a receiver out of the backfield.

Greene is also entering his age 27 season in 2012, so it’s really now or never for him to either emerge as a true feature back or fall back into a change-of-pace role.

Third-year running back Joe McKnight has the potential to break out. The 24-year-old former college teammate of Mark Sanchez at USC has gone from special teamer to all-purpose player in his first two seasons.

Last year, McKnight had an outstanding season as the Jets’ primary kick returner, while also emerging as a weapon on offense at running back and receiver, and he even lined up at cornerback on defense at times.

With his speed and athleticism, McKnight brings an element to the running game that Greene cannot. He is dangerous in the open field, he can make a man miss, and he can turn on the burners with his breakaway speed.

Second-year man Bilal Powell has a lot to prove. The Jets drafted another running back in Terrance Ganaway this past April, and it’s likely that only one of them will have the chance to suit up on Sundays.

Another option is first-year man John Griffin, a 23-year-old running back out of UMass who will also be in camp this year. There’s no telling exactly how much of an impact he’ll be able to make, however.

Earlier in the offseason, I floated out the idea of a possible trade for Carolina Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart, but the Panthers never did make him available.

Instead, the Jets found a creative way to add a big-bodied, bruising runner when they acquired the enigmatic Tim Tebow from the Denver Broncos, who they plan to use in a variety of situations.

Tebow weighs 245 pounds, with the size of a fullback and the athleticism of a running back. Of course, he’s listed as a quarterback, but don’t be surprised to see him as a big part of the Jets “ground-and-pound” attack.

The fullbacks the Jets do have on the roster are third-year man John Conner and the newly signed Fui Vakapuna. Josh Baker can also contribute as a halfback at times from his tight end/H-back role.

Certainly, the Jets will have plenty of options with their 2012 rushing attack. The trade market is always a possibility as well.

The play of the offensive line is going to be a big factor as well, of course. But the guys that run that football, especially Shonn Greene, need to have a big year for the Jets offense to be successful.


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