The Jets raised some eyebrows in the playoffs last season when they began handing the ball more to rookie Shonn Greene than to veteran Thomas Jones, who had a career-best 1,402 yards to rank second in the NFL. Greene more than justified the move by powering for 135 yards in a playoff win at Cincinnati and another 128 in a win at San Diego.
Nursing a 17-13 halftime lead, the Jets were prepared to put the ball in his hands to run the clock in the second half, but after two 7-yard runs, Greene (pictured above in AFC title game)left with a rib injury and didn't return. The Jets failed to generate much offense the rest of the way in a 30-17 loss.
As they head to Indianapolis for a return match in a first-round playoff game Saturday night, the running game figures to be a key element in time of possession. Now, Greene is splitting time with an even more celebrated veteran, LaDainian Tomlinson. Each one has just one 100-yard performance this season, and they have been splitting the carries with a slight edge to Tomlinson.
Asked if he can duplicate last season's playoff performance with fewer touches, Greene said, "I don't know. I just go out and play. If that happens, it's great. If it doesn't, I do my best."
The injury that knocked him out of the AFC title game hasn't lingered on Greene's mind, and he displayed some annoyance when questioned about it this week. "That's last year," Greene said. "Obviously, it was frustrating when you can't finish a game when your team needs you."
On the plus side, Greene is healthy when he needs to be at this time of year. He knows the running game is key to controlling the clock and keeping Manning off the field. The Colts have played strong run defense lately, but their defensive ends, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis like to get upfield in pass rush and could be vulnerable to running plays inside of them.
"I think we can run inside as well as outside," Greene said when asked how the Jets might attack the Colts' ends. "We're not going to let them stop us from what we do. We think that we can run anywhere we want to on the field."