FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- His carries have decreased, and the Jets' backup quarterback has averaged more yards per run. And yet Shonn Greene didn't hesitate when questioned about his role.
"I am the No. 1 back," he said Thursday.
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The Jets' running game has been woeful (83 yards a game), and Greene hasn't looked like a featured back since the Week 1 blowout of Buffalo. Although his line has failed to open holes, Greene hasn't broken many tackles, either. And with no semblance of a ground game, there is no hope for Mark Sanchez's passing game.
It's a multilayered issue, and Rex Ryan said there is no "magic scheme" that can fix it all. Still, the coach said he is confident his running game will improve. He also made it clear Thursday that Greene shouldn't be the scapegoat for the Jets' absent ground-and-pound attack.
"We've just got to block, open things up and get some running room,'' Ryan said. "That's the main thing."
Right guard Brandon Moore agreed, saying, "I guess we're not moving people." When asked if the continuity of the line is compromised by Ryan's in-game rotation of Matt Slauson and Vladimir Ducasse at left guard, Moore said, "It shouldn't.''
But it seems Tim Tebow has managed to hit more holes than Greene. The backup quarterback is averaging 4.1 yards a carry, ahead of running backs Bilal Powell (3.9), Greene (2.9) and Joe McKnight (2.7).
Through five games in 2011, Greene averaged 3.3 yards (73 carries, 240 yards), scored two touchdowns and had 12 receptions for 69 yards. This season, he has more carries (76) but fewer yards (217) and only one touchdown. He has caught only three passes for 28 yards.
Ryan said Powell has "earned a right to play some" and has been "absolutely tremendous in pass protection." Yet although Greene's snap totals went down from 50 in Week 3 against Miami to 18 against the 49ers and 24 against Houston, Ryan said he will remain his No. 1 rusher.
"In an ideal world, you have two or three guys that you feel really good about," Ryan said. "But have I lost confidence in Shonn Greene? The answer is no. I think we just keep giving him the ball. He's working extremely hard. I just think it's a matter of time before he really starts popping. And we all know the whole team is lifted when your big back is running."
Perhaps Greene is struggling partly because the Jets haven't run the ball that much. In Monday night's 23-17 loss to the Texans, Greene had only eight carries. If you take out Tebow's five runs, the running backs had a grand total of 16 rushes.
But Greene, who had his first 1,000-yard rushing season last year under former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, said Tony Sparano's system is "working just fine. We just need to execute better." Greene also said he doesn't care about his carry totals as long as the Jets (2-3) are winning.
McKnight said he has no doubt the Jets can still be "that No. 1 run-first team" in the NFL. But to do that, the defense has to do its part, too.
The Jets trailed in the first quarter in their past four games. When you're playing "catch-up," McKnight and Greene said, there's a tendency to stray from the running game. Said McKnight: "By the time we run the ball, we're down in points."