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A significant reason the New York Jets are confident they can locate Brett Favre's replacement by sorting through their existing depth chart is because new head coach Rex Ryan is committed to the ground game.
"We're going to run the ball," Ryan said Wednesday on a conference call. "We're going to run it more this year. When you got Thomas Jones and Leon Washington, that's a strength there. There's a lot of positives about our offense."
Ryan pointed out all the offensive components that will be back. Ryan called the Jets' offensive line, which will remain intact, "one of the premier offensive lines in the league." Jones and Washington made the Pro Bowl. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and offensive line coach Bill Callahan were retained.
Aside from the quarterback and fired head coach Eric Mangini, the Jets essentially will have the same offensive group that went 9-7 last year and failed to make the playoffs.
The Jets consistently won when they ran. They were 7-2 when Jones scored a rushing touchdown. They went 2-5 when he didn't score a touchdown. They were 2-6 when he had 17 or fewer carries.
Ryan politely declined to explain the trends because he wasn't around then.
I'll answer for him: The more Favre threw, the more he killed the Jets. Favre's departure will be addition by subtraction for the offense.
Ryan said he and Schottenheimer intend to operate an "all-weather offense."
"You have to be able to run the ball when the snow flies," Ryan said. "You don't win consistently by throwing every single snap. You have to be able to run the ball. I think our team is built for it with our offensive line and when you look at your backfield, that's a pretty good start."
Jones led the AFC in rushing with 1,312 yards. He had a 4.5-yard average and scored 13 touchdowns. Washington was honored for his kick return skills, but he is a dangerous offensive weapon who ran for 448 yards and caught 47 pass for 355 yards.
Ryan sounded undeterred by the fact the three quarterbacks on his roster -- Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge -- have a combined eight NFL starts. Ryan, who was the Baltimore Ravens' defensive mastermind since 2000, watched rookie Joe Flacco guide them to the AFC championship game.
"It's definitely possible to win with a young quarterback," Ryan said.
"These guys don't have to be the solution. They just have to be part of the solution. We feel very good about our offense being a tremendous offense this year.
"This offense is going to move. The quarterback is a big part of that but you don't have to do things yourself. You just have to be part of the system."