It was no secret that the New York Jets offense failed the team miserably last season. A majority of the blame goes to quarterback Mark Sanchez, but the running backs should be grouped into that discussion. The team currently has five running backs on the roster but this is an area that needs an upgrade going into next year.
The starting running back the past two years has been Shonn Greene. Greene has actually rushed for over 1,000 yards the past two years but the Jets might look to upgrade his spot. He’s been a slow starter the last two seasons and doesn’t add much in the receiving game. He started to share carries later in the season with Bilal Powell, so he could be on the way out. Greene is an unrestricted free agent, and it’s at best 50/50 that he returns.
Powell was arguably the most improved player for the Jets the past season. After being drafted by the Jets in 2011 from Louisville, Powell only saw action in two games. He touched the ball 14 times during that rookie season, and started to raise some eyes in training camp and continued that into the regular season. Powell ran for 437 yards with four touchdowns. He also caught 17 passes. If Greene leaves via free agency, Powell will be the starter next season unless the team drafts a running back early.
The biggest enigma on the offensive side of the ball is Joe McKnight. McKnight seems to be the only player who could potentially score from anywhere on the field. On a team that could barely get a first down, it didn’t make sense why he wouldn’t touch the ball. He averaged six yards a carry last year on his 30 touches, yet only caught one pass. He’s one of the best kick returners in the league. The knock against him has been his inability to pick up the blitz and his knack for putting the ball on the ground. He’s fumbled the ball three times each the past two years.
Lex Hilliard was picked up off waivers during the year and eventually became the starting fullback. He had ties to former offensive coordinator Tony Sparano from their days with the Miami Dolphins. Hilliard carried the ball 31 times and caught four passes. He’s an unrestricted free agent and he could be brought back.
John Griffin is the only other back on the roster. He was signed to a futures deal after being on the practice squad. He has no professional carries after entering the NFL from UMass.
It’s almost certain the Jets will acquire a running back through the NFL Draft or free agency.