It was a silly small yard — make that a foolish little foot — that was navigated successfully late in the third quarter of a solid victory over a struggling opponent. But could it possibly be a sign of bigger and better things to come from the Jets’ ground game?
Do mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow?
Yes to the second, maybe to the first. But Shonn Greene’s 1-foot touchdown run to make it Jets, 29-3, against the Jaguars on Sunday sure looked like a run of beauty from the playbooks of their top-ranked ground games of 2009 and ’10.
“A play like that, it starts up front,” fullback John Conner, still feeling frisky from being introduced along with the five O-line starters as the Jets’ game captains for the Jaguars, said today in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room. “They gave a good push, and then I could get in there and get my body on somebody. Shonn’s a great physical runner, so he’s going to get in there easily.”
It was more than just Conner paving the way for Greene. LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson and LG Matt Slauson sealed off the inside — Brick, in fact, buckled DT Tyson Alualu to the ground with great leverage and a muscular push. TEs Matt Mulligan and Jeff Cumberland stoned the outside defenders. RG Brandon Moore pulled around and helped add to the bulwark. Then came Conner with the final block in the wall and as a result No. 23 had no trouble powering through the hole.
“That was actually weird,” Greene said of his first touchdown run of the season. “We usually run that play to the right side. That was the first time in a long time that we ran it to the left. It was well-executed.”
There were a few good reasons for that switch, said Slauson.
“A lot of teams know it’s a blast play — everybody runs blast. We’ve always run it to the right,” he explained. “We wanted to break that tendency because now teams are overloading like crazy on the right side. We want to say, ‘OK, you want to do that, then we’re going to run left,’ and it will balance ‘em up.”
Slauson said there was also a little back-at-you to the Jets’ defenders.
“Because our offense didn’t play as well as we would’ve liked,” he said, “we really felt like we owed it to the defense to score.”
All this may be wishful thinking for the running game, which is ranked 28th in the NFL with 73.0 yards per game and 27th with 3.0 yards per carry. But another good omen heading into the Black Hole on Sunday is that two years ago, that was the venue where Greene got his Jets career off and flying.
“That was actually my first 100-yard game, when Leon got hurt,” Greene reflected. “I was kind of shocked when I first went in but the offense was going well.”
Greene’s 144 yards, plus two TDs on 19 carries, coming off the bench that day was at the time the most yards by a Jets rookie since Matt Snell’s 1964 rookie breakout campaign. The Green & White finished that day with 316 rushing yards, 447 total and a 38-0 victory.
Logic says the game ahead against the Raiders will be tougher. It’s the Silver and Black’s home opener, and Colin Baxter appears to be on the verge of making his first pro start for Nick Mangold and his ailing ankle.
“It’s no excuses, the next man steps up,” head coach Rex Ryan said today, adding that compared to Mangold’s All-Pro level, “In Baxter’s case it’ll hard to pick it up a little. But we do want him to try and maintain it at least for one game.”
And the Jets are more upbeat inside their locker room than many fans are outside of it that their return to a top-ten running team providing offensive balance is not far away.
“We know the talent we have on this team,” Conner said. “We’re a ground-and-pound team. Once we get it going, we’re going to be hard to stop.”
Today’s injury report was unchanged from Wednesday’s, which means Ryan still doesn’t see Mangold making a miracle return to action. “Tomorrow we’ll know if he’s going or not,” the coach said. “If he’s not going to play, then obviously he won’t make the trip out there. I don’t see it happening. He seems to think he … but hey, we’ll see.”
The Raiders had some changes to their report. Still not practicing were WRs Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy and S Michael Mitchell. QB Jason Campbell, RB Darren McFadden and CB Chris Johnson were limited. WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, S Jerome Boyd and K Sebastian Janikowski were full participants along with TE Kevin Boss.
Tags: Colin Baxter, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, John Conner, Matt Slauson, Nick Mangold, Rex Ryan, Shonn Greene
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