- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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The New York Jets have their deepest backfield since 2009, and the obvious question is playing-time distribution. Put another way, who gets the rock and how much?
Ryan said all three running backs are "capable of being starters themselves, so I think we'll play all of them. Will we ride the hot hand? Sure, that's always a possibility also."
In '09, the Jets had Thomas Jones, Leon Washington and Shonn Greene, but it never really became a three-headed monster. Jones was the constant, the No. 1 back. Greene, a rookie, was injured and got off to a slow start, not becoming a factor until the seventh game. That's when Washington suffered his devastating leg injury, ending his season. Jones ended up with 331 carries, Greene 108 and Washington 72.
The last time they had three backs with at least 100 carries each was 2006, when then-coach Eric Mangini somehow got to the playoffs with a rookie (Washington) and two pedestrian runners, Kevan Barlow and Cedric Houston. The split was Washington 151, Barlow 131 and Houston 113.
It's really hard to keep three backs involved in the game, even for a run-oriented team like the Jets. Depth is important, though, because there's such a high injury rate at the position. The hunch here is that Johnson will end up with the most carries, but it won't be close to his yearly average (290) and it won't be a landslide over Ivory and Powell. Don't forget, Johnson will be involved in the passing game, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he catches at least 40 passes.
Another factor to remember is that neither Ivory nor Powell has rushed more than 182 times in a season. The challenge in the preseason, and early in the regular season, will be defining roles -- third-down back, goal line and short yardage, four-minute back, etc. Chances are it will continue to evolve throughout the season.