What will the Jets’ running back depth chart look like Sunday? Rex Ryan seemed to pull a play out of the old Bill Parcells playbook by saying in so many words, “Lookit, fellas, you’re just gonna have to come to the game and find out.”
Asked if he had a feeling on if RBs Bilal Powell (shoulder) and Joe McKnight (ankle) would be able to play against the Patriots, Ryan replied: “Yeah, I have a feeling on it, but I’m not necessarily going to share it with you. Both of those guys won’t practice today. We’ll see how the week goes on, if they’ll be available or not.”
Might that make RB Jonathan Grimes, perhaps, a candidate for some third-down work?
“I think Grimes will probably be up this week. That’s a possibility,” the coach said. “But to say he’s our third-down back, I don’t think so.”
Which led inexorably to the latest wrinkle in the Tim Tebow tapestry. Could we see No. 15 lining up at tailback behind Mark Sanchez on occasions at Gillette Stadium on Sunday?
That’s a possibility. The thing about Tim, with him being a football player like we’ve always talked about, by playing quarterback, he knows all the positions. Can you plug him in at running back? Can you plug him in at tight end? I think the answer is yes.”
Is that likely? Well, it’s likely that it will spark the next Tebow feeding frenzy. He’s been available in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room generally on Wednesdays and Fridays. Yesterday he was asked a very preliminary question about playing some RB.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s not something that’s been talked or planned or worked on at all, so probably not.”
But that was yesterday.
Shonn Greene is the No. 1 back, of course. He was asked about Tebow at tailback.
“Who’s that,” he replied. “I never heard of him.”
But seriously, Shonn, how do you think Tebow would look carrying the ball in a non-Wildcat role?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I guess I’ll see just like you guys.”
Greene, of course, is coming off of his career highs of 32 carries and 161 yards and a franchise-record-tying three TD runs against Indy. He had 15 of the Jets’ last 18 carries of the game (Tebow had two out of the ‘Cat and Sanchez had a kneeldown) because of the Powell and McKnight injuries.
He was serious about the Tebow angle, saying, “Whatever it takes for us to win,” but that also includes taking the rock 40 times if he has to.
“Whatever they ask me to do,” he said. “I’m ready to do whatever they want me to do. If need be, all the snaps, then that’s what it’ll take to win.”
To be sure, Greene moving the chains and reaching paydirt once or twice would be important pieces to the puzzle of trying to keep Tom Brady and the Pats offense off the field. And it’s something he’s been good at up in the Massachusetts countryside. He’s had three, if not spectacular, at least efficient games running the ball at New England, averaging 4.4 yards on 51 carries with two TDs and 14 first downs.
He said there’s nothing about the Gillette turf or anything else he can remember as to why he runs well at New England. More important, he thought, was building on the momentum he and his blockers finally captured in running the Colts ragged.
“I think so, I think so,” he said. “We have to stay with it. Sometimes it’s not going to be good. We just have to keep consistent with it and we’ll be all right.”
C Nick Mangold was also optimistic about keeping the ground game grinding away, but disagreed that the Jets’ rushing offense, which improved to 15th in the NFL in yards per game but is still 23rd in yards per carry, is now “fixed” after its 252 yards vs. Indy.
“No, it’s another step in the process,” Mangold said. “I think we made good strides, but nothing is ever completely fixed. There’s always something to tinker. So we’ve been continuing to do that and continuing to try to focus and get better.”
Thursday Injury Reports
Injury report movement is a poor predictor of teams’ performances in an upcoming game, but today’s I-movement on the Jets and Patriots lists would appear to favor the Green & White.
For the first time in four weeks, both TE Dustin Keller (hamstring) and WR Stephen Hill (hamstring) were full-go in practice. DT Sione Po‘uha (back), who had sat out the previous seven practices and two games, was limited today, as was WR Clyde Gates (shoulder).
There’s not much concern for Nick Mangold’s ankle, primarily because he came back to play on it after he hurt it in the third quarter against Houston and went the first 58 of the Jets’ 64 offensive plays on it vs. the Colts.
Mangold has been a DNP for both practices this week. Asked how his ankle is feeling today, he said, “It’s fine. How’s yours doing?” As for the prospect of having Vince Wilfork’s 325 pounds leaning on it Sunday, the affable center replied, “That probably won’t help anything. But I assume it’ll be up for the test.”
Meanwhile, the Patriots’ DNP list grew from two to five as TE Aaron Hernandez (ankle), G Logan Mankins (calf/hip) and S Steve Gregory (hip) sat things out in Foxboro along with rookie RB Brandon Bolden (knee) and LB Tracy White (foot).
TE Rob Gronkowski (hip) and WR Wes Welker (ankle) were among the nine Pats listed as limited. New to the limited list was DT Ron Brace (back). New England lists 15 players on its latest report.
We began the season by playing up the number of yellow flags WR Santonio Holmes was getting thrown at the opponents trying to cover him. This week it’s the opposite side of the coin: Antonio Cromartie got four flags thrown at him for his coverage of Colts receivers on Sunday.
The three penalties that were marked off against Cro were all for fouls against Reggie Wayne — two pass interferences, one of which cost him an INT-return TD, and an illegal contact. And his first flag of the day was a holding against Donnie Avery that was declined.
That equaled Cromartie’s high as a Jet, which he established against the Ravens in the 2010 opener with a PI, two holds and an offside, and equaled last season at Oakland when he was caught on two PIs and two holds. So the bad news is that he has one four-penalty game in him per season. The good news is that once that game in the first half of the season is out of the way, he doesn’t have anything close to it the rest of the season.
One other penalty note: Mark Sanchez drew his first hard-count penalty of the season when he got LB Jerry Hughes to jump offsides in the second quarter.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Bilal Powell, Gillette Stadium, joe McKnight, Mark Sanchez, New England Patriots, Nick Mangold, Rex Ryan, Shonn Greene
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