John Griffin is a realist. But he’s also extremely optimistic.
Though he’s currently dead-last on the Jets’ running backs depth chart, the former UMass product sees hope for himself whenever he spots competitor Chris Ivory.
“Chris was in the same situation, and when he did get an opportunity, he stepped up big. And that’s the main reason why he’s here right now," Griffin, a thoughtful and polite 24-year-old, said of his current situation.
“So I look up a lot to guys like Chris, who went undrafted and were at the bottom of the depth chart. When he got in, he took advantage of his opportunity. I’m the youngest guy in the group right now. So he’s living proof that it can be done no matter where you are on the depth chart.”
Griffin, 24, will be competing against Ivory, free-agent signee Mike Goodson, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight for practice reps this offseason. But Griffin – an undrafted free agent in 2011, who was signed and waived by the Jets in August 2012 before being signed to their active roster in December – believes Marty Mornhinweg’s West Coast Offense plays to his strengths.
“I like it a lot,” he said of the new system. “I feel like it suits my skill-set a lot more than last year’s offense. I pride myself on my route-running, so the backs are involved a lot more, as far as route-running and coming out the backfield.”
Griffin said Mornhinweg’s offense is “a lot quicker” than the system run by former offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who was fired in January. “So everything’s three-step, everything’s quicker, shorter verbiage, a lot faster, less time in between,” said the 5-11, 208-pound Griffin. “It’s easier to pick up for me and it better fits me because I’m kind of a smaller back in comparison to Chris (6-0, 222). So I’m used to that kind of stuff.”
While Mornhinweg must decide how to divvy up practice reps between his four quarterbacks, he also must figure out how to split carries between five running backs who are eager to showcase their talent this season. Griffin, however, said he isn’t worried about when – or if – his playing time will come on offense.
“I just try to control what I can,” he said. “And also, I’m a special teams guy and a lot of those guys don’t do special teams. So if I don’t get certain reps at running back, I know I’ll make up for them on special teams. I kind of just get in where I fit in; when my time comes, just be ready. Obviously, injuries come with training camp too.”
Regardless of who gets the bulk of the carries, he's confident the Jets running game will fare much better under Mornhinweg than Sparano.
“It was tough to see all of the stuff we were working on look so good in practice, and when we got to the game, it just didn’t go as good,” he said of last year’s struggles. The Jets offense ranked 30th overall and averaged 118.8 rushing yards per game.
“It was frustrating to see guys not get where they wanted to – Shonn (Greene) didn’t have the season he wanted to have. And I know it’s nothing against Shonn cause he was in great shape. But I think this year is going to be a big difference.”