Jets can't hide that they can't run

Shonn Greene runs during the first half of Shonn Greene runs during the first half of a game against the Miami Dolphins. (Sept. 23, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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The calls for Tim Tebow have obscured the biggest issue facing the Jets' offense.

It's not Mark Sanchez's struggles. Nor is it that Tony Sparano's Wildcat has been tame at best.

The Jets have been unable to run the football.

They tried to distance themselves from the Brian Schottenheimer era by returning to their ground-and-pound roots. But their running game has yet to produce, and their defense has let backs break tackles at will.

The fact that this is even an issue for a "ground-and-pound" team is absurd.

Yes, the Jets are 2-2, and they're 2-0 in their division. But to stay atop the AFC East, they'll need more than 86.5 rushing yards per game.

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If you thought the 49ers' defense was stout, consider this: The Texans, the Jets' Monday night opponent, have the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL.

Featured back (at least on paper) Shonn Greene had 1,000-plus rushing yards for the first time in 2011, a season in which the Jets failed to reach the playoffs. Greene rushed for 157 yards (3.1 per carry) and a touchdown through the first four games last year. This year, the fourth-year back has 191 yards and a touchdown, but he's averaging only 2.8 yards.

Bilal Powell (99 yards, 26 carries) has showed burst at times and is getting more touches. Against the 49ers, the second-year back was on the field for 60 percent (32) of the 53 offensive plays while Greene got only 18 snaps (34 percent). Neither, however, was productive. Greene had 34 yards on 11 carries, Powell 11 yards on four carries.

The schedule has done the Jets no favors, considering three of their first five opponents are ranked in the top five in overall defense, and the Dolphins are No. 1 at stopping the run. But excuses matter little.

This offseason, the Jets handed their running game over to a back who can't create in space but, in theory, generates better results as the game wears on.

"Shonn Greene needs a lot of carries," former teammate and current NFL Network analyst LaDainian Tomlinson said this week. "He's not a guy that is going to get you a home run on one play [or] a 60-yard run. He needs to get the ball 20-25 times and wear on you. That's how he gets his long runs toward the end of the game."

Greene's longest is 14 yards against Buffalo in Week 1.

The Jets touted their recommitment to the run despite issues on the line (shuffling Matt Slauson and Vladimir Ducasse at left guard). Center Nick Mangold said holes haven't opened consistently because of "six guys doing it right and one guy messing up.

"And then the next play, we'll have the other six doing it right and then another guy will mess up," Mangold said Tuesday morning on WFAN. "I think the big thing is being on the same page, being connected and working as one unit. And unfortunately, we haven't gotten to that point yet."

With the line and extra blockers failing to clear lanes, Greene is struggling.

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"I think it starts up front," said Rex Ryan, adding that his backs also have to "run through things."

But the good news is the Jets' defense "traded" Joe McKnight back to the offense, after the third-year back spent a week trying to get acclimated to cornerback. Tuesday, they signed free-agent fullback Lex Hilliard, who was cut Sept. 19 by the Patriots. In two games, he had 2 yards on one carry.

Who says the Jets aren't committed to the running game?

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