New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, right, talks to running...

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, right, talks to running back Shonn Greene at training camp. (Aug. 2, 2011) Credit: AP

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Shonn Greene didn't exactly have a necklace with a No. 1 charm dangling from his neck Wednesday, signaling he's indeed the Jets' main man.

But there's no debating his status among the stable of running backs. The third-year pro is going to get a bulk of the Jets' carries this season, serving as their primary ball carrier with his pinball-style attack.

"Obviously, you guys heard I've got a bigger role," Greene said. "That's a challenge, and I'm willing to take that challenge, and do the best I can to help my team out."

Even with a crop of running backs that includes future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson, second-year man Joe McKnight and rookie Bilal Powell, the success of the Jets' running game probably rests on the shoulders of the 5-11, 226-pound Greene. He was an understudy to Thomas Jones and Leon Washington in his rookie season and was in a dual role with Tomlinson a season ago, starting in two games and churning out 766 yards and two touchdowns on 185 carries.

The natural progression for Greene, whom the Jets traded up for and selected in the third round in 2009, is to finally be that "bell cow" Rex Ryan keeps saying he wants to see. It remains to be seen if he can stay healthy after he battled through injuries -- such as a strained calf and torn rib cartilage -- during his first two seasons.

"I think he's ready. I don't think there's any doubt he's ready," Ryan said Wednesday. "The other thing is I want to help L.T. stay fresh for that third-down responsibility and then hammer teams with Shonn."

Ryan then caught himself a bit, thinking about the talent behind Greene and Tomlinson on the depth chart.

"Let's not forget Joe McKnight," Ryan said. "Joe McKnight came a million miles and he's ready to go. So we are going to have some explosiveness out of him and we'll see about this Powell. You know me, I love to fire a fresh back at you. But to start with, I'm thinking the plan is that you are going to a heavy dose of Shonn Greene."

Ryan is impressed with one area of improvement in Greene's repertoire.

"He's catching the ball much better than he has, which isn't saying much for when he first got here," Ryan said. "Remember that? It was like, 'Somebody make two guys run to the same spot and play the deflection.' But now, he's catching the ball well."

Greene is also cognizant he's going to have to hold the ball tight, gripping it like it's the last piece of food on earth. He lost all but one of his six career fumbles -- a problem he never had in college at Iowa -- and said he has an understanding there are times when he has to go down and not fight for that extra yardage.

"Coming in as a rookie, you don't really understand that, so you are just running how you did in college," Greene said. "A guy will hold you up and the next guy is coming and he's going for the ball. Young guys coming in don't realize that and I kind of went through that."

But now he thinks he has a handle on things and Nick Mangold likes what he's seeing.

"Shonn is awesome and he's a guy who's a worker," the center said. "I think he has taken pride in the fact that he's going to have the opportunity to be the work horse. We take such a pride around here about running the ball, I think Shonn wants to live up to that and you can tell he's working for it."

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