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Jets RB Greene must understand his time to shine is now

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Kirby Lee / US Presswire
Jets running back Shonn Greene is good, but how good? He'd better be ready to shine in his third year.


During a conversation with New York Jets running backs coach Anthony Lynn last training camp, he told me that he didn't care about Shonn Greene being younger than LaDainian Tomlinson. Lynn was rolling with the hot back.

For the most part, that turned out to be Tomlinson. At 31, he proved he still had something left by rushing for 914 yards and averaging 4.2 yards per carry, nearly a yard more than his average during his final season with the Chargers in 2009.

Andrew Mills / US Presswire
LaDainian Tomlinson (left) outperformed Shonn Greene last season.
Tomlinson vs. Greene (2010)
Player Yds Att. Avg. TDs
Tomlinson 914 219 4.2 6
Greene 766 185 4.1 2

Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer laid high expectations in Greene's lap late last week, telling the New York Daily News that he expects Greene -- not L.T -- to step up as the primary ball carrier next season. Tomlinson fueled those expectations by saying he'd be OK being a third-down back and playing whatever role the Jets had in mind for him.

"We expect a breakout season for him," Schottenheimer told the Daily News. "He's a guy that's got just huge, huge, huge potential that we think is right there, ready for him to grab."

Greene had better see this for what it is: a challenge. He's about to enter his third season, and if he doesn't step into a starring role now, it might never happen. Greene gained 766 yards and scored two touchdowns on 185 carries last season. He's a good player, but how good?

Greene shared the backfield with Thomas Jones as a rookie in 2009 and Tomlinson last season, but that's how backfields are in the NFL. Still, for the most part, players have managed to distinguish themselves.

We've seen more players step up at running back when given the opportunity than maybe any other position, even when initially projected to share carries: Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster, Peyton Hillis, Ray Rice, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart among them. Though it's a position to shine, it's also one where turnover comes quickly if you don't.

With regard to Greene, two years is enough of a grace period. The Jets drafted tough-running Bilal Powell from Louisville in the fourth round to push Tomlinson and Greene. Based on how Lynn runs things, if Powell pushes hard enough, he'll be in play. That means Greene better be ready.

Schottenheimer cited Greene's improved pass-blocking skills and improved durability as reasons for a bigger role in the offense. Green also is a powerful runner who seems to get better as the game, and season, go on. That's old-school stuff right there.

Another reason to expect more from Greene is that he's had a season to learn from one of the best running backs to ever put on a pair of cleats. To that point, don't buy into Tomlinson being cool as a situational player. He's going to give Greene just as much of a challenge as he did last season. If Greene beats him out, then he'll have earned it, and Tomlinson might then accept his role as a third-down back.

Only then will Greene know he's in good shape.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89

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