For the Jets, this is as good as it gets.
For Jets head coach Rex Ryan, it is all simple math. At the end of the game when he examines his team’s performance, the primary stat Ryan analyzes is pass completions and rushing attempts. On Sunday afternoon, the Jets ran 65 such plays successfully, more than double the number run by Buffalo. LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene each touched the ball on 22 of those plays, more than any other offensive targets on the Jets.
Having cut Thomas Jones, the NFL’s third leading rusher in 2009 this offseason, the Jets are replacing his production with a dual-back attack. In Sunday afternoon’s 38-14 win over Buffalo, both Greene and Tomlinson topped 100 yards rushing.
“The combination of Shonn Greene and Ladainian Tomlinson – that’s as good as it gets,” Ryan said yesterday.
Coming off an injury-plagued 2009 season, Tomlinson is leading the team in rushing yards and total offense, a surprising stat for a player who wasn’t supposed to carry much of a load this year. The veteran running back had pieced together a Canton-worthy resume the past 10 years in San Diego and Tomlinson was supposed to be a change of pace out of the backfield. Instead, Tomlinson has topped six yards per carry through the season’s first four games and has shown the form that made him an All-Pro every season from 2004 through 2007.
Though he leads the league in rushing attempts, he said Ryan never made any promises about playing time when he signed as a free agent this past spring.
“He really didn’t say. He said ‘You earn your role on this team. Nobody is given anything.’ That said it all for me,” Tomlinson said. “I didn’t want to be given anything.”
Tomlinson has gotten the chunk of the carries but the emergence of Greene on Sunday could potentially stabilize the offense and ease the rushing burden on Tomlinson. Even with the recent emergence of the passing game, Ryan still wants the Jets to be a run-first offense. With his first 100-yard performance of the season, Greene’s battering-ram style could help open up not just the ground game, but also the passing attack for the Jets.
Ryan called Sunday’s smash-mouth performance “vintage Shonn Greene.”
“That’s the way he runs,” Ryan said. “Punishing style.”