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Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Camp preview: Running Backs

By Rich Cimini

Part II in our unit-by-unit camp preview, leading up to Aug. 1 -- reporting day in Cortland, N.Y.

Unit: Running Backs

Depth Chart: (RBs) Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson, Joe McKnight, Danny Woodhead, Chauncey Washington. (FBs) Tony Richardson, John Conner, Jason Davis.

On the Bubble: Woodhead, Washington, Davis.

Player to Watch: Tomlinson. The future Hall of Famer is fighting Father Time, the ghost of Thomas Jones and the perception that he’s washed up.

Wild Card: McKnight. He has ability, no doubt about it, but the questions are whether he can stay healthy, learn the offense and adapt to the third-down role.

Analysis: It’s kind of amazing. The Jets led the NFL in rushing, yet 50% of that league-leading backfield is gone – Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. Training camp will be about trying to define roles for Shonn Greene (is he well-rounded enough to play on any down?), LaDainian Tomlinson (can he adjust to a complementary role?) and Joe McKnight (can he replace Washington as the third-down back?)

On many levels, this will be a new experience for Tomlinson. In San Diego, he barely broke a sweat in pre-season games, but now he’ll be asked to carry a decent workload as he assimilates into the Jets’ system and tries to convince the coaches he’s still worthy of a significant role. Greene missed a chunk of his rookie camp with a sprained ankle, so his No. 1 goal is to stay healthy. The coaches are eager to see if his receiving skills have improved to the point where he can be trusted in any situation. Don’t expect to see a lot of Tony Richardson in camp; at 38, he’ll be used judiciously. That will allow to the two young battering rams, rookie John Conner and Jason Davis, to receive more reps.

Danny Woodhead, Chauncey Washington and Davis will be battling for the sixth spot – if there is a sixth spot. Woodhead has the edge because of his versatility as a wide receiver. A player who can play two different positions is a valuable commodity on a 53-man roster. Davis and Washington have some ability, but they likely will fall victim to the numbers game.