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Greene ready to take mantle of Jets' featured back

Shonn Greene runs the ball during Jets training

Shonn Greene runs the ball during Jets training camp in Cortland, N.Y. (Aug. 4, 2010) Credit: AP

CORTLAND, N.Y. - Shonn Greene burst onto the scene during the Jets' postseason run, hitting the national stage with the same ferocity that he uses to blast through a hole and power through unsuspecting defenders.

Greene's playoff performance was a historical one, churning out the most yardage by a rookie in his first two postseason games since Dallas' Duane Thomas racked up 278 yards in 1970. Greene gobbled up 263 yards in his first two playoff games, essentially unseating Thomas Jones as the Jets' featured running back and opening more than a few eyes.

"It felt good because I prepared hard and worked to show everybody that I can do things like that," Greene said Wednesday. "It was just a waiting game and that's how it's going to be in this league. You've got to wait your turn. But in the meantime, you've got to prepare and focus because you never know. Your name will be called at any time."

Greene should hear his name called plenty in 2010. With Jones now in Kansas City and Leon Washington shipped off to Seattle, Greene has climbed up the depth chart, one that running backs coach Anthony Lynn said has the 25-year-old Sicklerville, N.J., native neck-and-neck with future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson.

"It's a lot different because I've got a lot more responsibility," Greene said. "So I've got to be on point with everything. I can't sit back and learn from . . . who else? Because I'm the guy that's going to be up there. So I've got to be focused, on point and I've got to learn my stuff."

Greene's explosive talents were never really questioned during his rookie season. His powerful 5-11, 226-pound frame combined with his sneaky speed had the Jets salivating on draft day, and that's why they traded up to select him with the 65th overall pick.

However, he had some durability issues, fighting through ankle and rib injuries. The Jets' ground game was never the same in their loss to the Colts in the AFC Championship Game once he left two plays into the third quarter with a rib injury.

"Not to take anything away from T.J.," Lynn said, "but losing Shonn did hurt."

Getting banged up was about the only thing that could stop Greene, who ran for 540 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season to go along with his 304 yards and two scores in the postseason.

"The injuries is what really slowed him down because as a rookie, he wasn't practicing," Lynn said. "He needed those reps. That slowed him down more than anything. But now he's had a whole a year under his belt, he's very familiar with the system and I expect him to step in and do good things and pick up where he left off."

In order to do that, though, Green knows he has to choose his spots. Trying to bulldoze every defender who's brave enough to stick his head in for a tackle isn't the smartest of things for a player's longevity.

"I try to get around some tackles instead of running through them," he said. "I think there's a time and place for everything with your talents."

The Jets and Greene hope to ride those talents to their first title in four-plus decades.

"I think this team is ready for a Super Bowl now, so that's my whole goal," he said. "I want to win a Super Bowl. It doesn't matter how many yards I get, if I'm the starter or not. Our goal has been to win the Super Bowl, and I think all the backs in our group are thinking the same thing."

New York Sports