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Did Shonn Greene's ineffectiveness prompt Jets to get Tim Tebow?

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com
NFL Films' Greg Cosell calls Greene a 'one-speed-runner.' (US PRESSWIRE)

After helping the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship appearances in his first two NFL seasons, quarterback Mark Sanchez regressed in 2011 (along with many of his teammates). It's led to the annual speculation about his job security, which was only exacerbated by the team trading for Tim Tebow this spring.

General manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan insist that Sanchez is their starter (we remain skeptical) but maybe the issue isn't so much that he plateaued in Year 3 but that another member of the backfield -- and his draft class -- running back Shonn Greene, hasn't been the Ground & Pound workhorse that Ryan had hoped.

After a promising rookie season in which Greene averaged 5.0 yards per carry in limited duty, he's seen those number drop to 4.1 in 2010 and 4.2 last season. (Put differently: he was 19th in Football Outsiders' RB value-per-play metric in '09, but 35th in '11.)

Part of the problem: Greene has one gear. NFL Films' Greg Cosell explains:

“I think he's a little bit of a one-speed runner,” Cosell told Rotoworld.com's Evan Silva. "And I think that's caught up to him a little bit. I think that he's a strong kid. I think he can run downhill. I think he can move the pile because he's got natural strength. But I don't think there's much burst to him. I think he's pretty much of a one-speed runner. And I think those guys eventually struggle.

“He can gain yards, there's no question. But I don't think he gives you much more than what's there. And I think it's tough for those kinds of backs to truly be foundation backs.”

Cosell doesn't see much "creativity to (Greene's) running," which means that defenses have less trouble stopping him compared to more dynamic backs. The implication, of course, is that the Jets have to lean on the passing game. In recent seasons that meant an inconsistent quarterback in Sanchez paired with a sometimes-too-cute-for-his-own-good offensive coordinator in Brian Schottenheimer. The results were predictably muddled. Sometimes Sanchez looked like a bona fide franchise player, more often he looked confused and erratic.

"I think there's no way you can be an elite back or a top-level back if you can't make unblocked defenders miss," Cosell continued. "Because in the run game, there's always going to be a defender that can't be blocked. That's what teams do, defensively. You must be able to make unblocked defenders miss. (Greene's) not gonna do that."

If Cosell knows this then so do the Jets' coaches. In fact, Tebow's arrival may have more to do with Greene's ineffectiveness (made worse by LaDainian Tomlinson's retirement) than Sanchez's future as the Jets' starter. Most of us assumed that Tebow would be taking snaps from Sanchez when the reality could be that he'll be taking snaps from Greene. Ryan said several times this offseason that he plans to use Tebow as Wildcat specialist and wants him on the field for some 20 snaps a game. There's only one ball to go around and that could mean fewer touches for Greene.

Maybe former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly targeted the wrong locker-room rivalry; instead of Tebow-Sanchez perhaps we should be talking about Tebow-Greene.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our Pick-6 Podcast and NFL newsletter. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.

 
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