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Friday, June 17, 2011
Pressure Point: Can Greene carry load?

By Matt Williamson
Scouts Inc.

Shonn Greene
Shonn Greene is expected to be the Jets' workhorse running back but hasn't lived up to expectations.
A weekly look at a player whose performance must improve in 2011.

A great deal was expected of Shonn Greene as the 2010 season approached, and I don't think he came close to living up to those expectations. Greene needs to step it up for the New York Jets in 2011.

Including three playoff games, Greene rushed for more than 76 yards only once -- and that game was against a horrendous Buffalo Bills run defense. In that same game, LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 133 yards. In fact, in Week 17, while Greene sat out, the Jets' blocking utterly dominated the Bills once again, allowing Joe McKnight to rack up 158 yards on the ground.

Greene found the end zone only twice last year. Of course he wasn't alone in New York's backfield, but that isn't the kind of production that the Jets need from someone billed as a workhorse running back.

Greene is big and physical. He is built to take a pounding. He needs to be a volume runner to excel. Greene runs behind an offensive line as good as any as you will find in the NFL and is in an offense geared to take the burden off the Jets' young quarterback. To me, this should be the perfect combination for Greene to excel. He didn't last season.

Tomlinson far exceeded expectations early last season. He came to the Jets and did very well for the first half-dozen games of the season, which put Greene on the back burner. But Tomlinson inevitably wore down, and it looked like a perfect situation for Greene to put the offense on his back late in the year as the weather worsened. That isn't what happened. Tomlinson is a very good goal-line and short-yardage runner, but Greene's running style should lend itself to scoring more than four career touchdowns. New York rarely gives Greene the football in the red zone.

Greene's liabilities in the passing game also hurt him. He didn't catch a regular-season pass as a rookie in 14 games and racked up just 16 receptions in 15 regular-season games last year. He can't run a variety of routes, nor does he have naturally soft hands. In protection, he is average at best.

Greene was much more impressive as a rookie -- when he averaged an even 5 yards per carry -- than he was last season in more of a featured role.

This season sets up well for Greene to be the Jets' bell cow runner. Tomlinson, an 11-year veteran, has to be at the end of his fantastic career and should not be counted on to fill a big role in 2011. McKnight could get more touches, but his running style is very different from Greene's. At most, McKnight will be a change-of-pace guy and a passing-down specialist, although the latter role probably still belongs to Tomlinson.

Many found it curious when the Jets used a fourth-round pick on Bilal Powell. I don't find it curious, at all. Powell was a tremendous value at that point of the draft. Although he's a bit smaller than Greene, Powell could give the Jets a reliable, powerful option and seriously push Greene for playing time. He might already be the better receiver and does have an excellent low-to-the-ground running style that fits New York's offense. Will all four running backs make the roster in addition to the Jets' fullbacks?

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com. Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL