Rex Ryan said he hasn't lost faith in Shonn Greene.
Despite his featured back averaging just 2.9 yards per attempt (good for 28th in the NFL), the Jets coach said Greene isn't the issue in the running game.
For a team that prides itself on a ground-and-pound approach, the Jets have just 83 rushing yards a game -- unlike the 49ers, who have the No. 1 rushing attack with 196.2 yards per contest. But the Jets running woes have more to do with the lack of holes than Greene's inability to run the football, Ryan said.
"There's no magic scheme to try to run," the coach said Thursday, when asked if the coaches have made any adjustments in practice to energize the ground game. "...We've just got to block, open things up and get some running room. That’s the main thing. I know there’s a lot of criticism that’s directed at Shonn specifically. I don’t know if you have whoever as your running back – we have to create some running room. And I think that’s the big thing, that’s what we’re working on. I know we’re working on it and I think we’ll see improvements. I do.”
Aside from a few more gap runs here and there, Ryan said their offensive line adjustments with Tony Sparano and Dave DeGuglielmo aren’t much different than what former coaches Brian Schottenheimer and Bill Callhan. “It’s still about getting movement and it’s about widening the hole if we can to get our guy to get to the second level,” Ryan explained.
The “competition” between Matt Slauson and Vladimir Ducasse apparently is still on-going, as the pair of lineman have been rotating in games in recent weeks. But Ryan doesn’t believe the constant shuffling will affect the continuity of the line.
“Vlad’s part of that unit,” he said. “So is (Jumbo tight end/backup lineman) Jason Smith. They’re all part of that unit. The big thing is, we all sing out of the same hymnal. I think that’s kind of, maybe, overblown a little bit. I think that’s probably a bigger issue in pass protection communication. But these seven guys make up that unit and they have to know each other. And you’re not going to know each other if you don’t play with the guys.
“Vlad’s earned that right to play. It’s not a whole lot different than rotating a defensive lineman or whoever. To become comfortable, you have to be in there with each other.”
Despite Greene’s 217 yards on 76 carries (24th among NFL running backs), Ryan said his confidence in the fourth-year back hasn’t wavered. That being said, the coach believes Bilal Powell – 117 yards on 30 attempts (3.9 average) – also has made a case for more playing time.
“I think Powell has really earned a right to play some, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” Ryan said. “He’s been absolutely tremendous in pass protection. And he’s shown some ability to run and things. In an ideal world, you have two or three guys that you feel really good about.
“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, once he gets rolling … the whole team is lifted when you’re big back is running.”
Greene blew off reporters after Monday night’s 23-17 loss to Houston, and also did the same after Wednesday’s practice. But even though there has been a definite change in Greene’s demeanor around reporters, his coach said it has nothing to do with the running back being frustrated.
“I don’t sense it,” said Ryan. “I see him really working. Like, he’s wanting it. That’s the feeling that I get. He’s wanting that ball under his arm and I don’t think he’s lost any confidence whatsoever. I just think he’s really trying to get rolling …Hopefully we get him rolling this week. And the way we’ve been working, I believe it’s going to get better.”