Commentary

Jets need to get running game going

Oakland is humorous to LT and Shonn Greene, but their production is no laughing matter

Updated: September 22, 2011, 9:14 PM ET
By Jane McManus | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Shonn Greene's first trip to the Black Hole was indelible.

He was a rookie running back who, in 2009, had shown potential but not mastery of his position. When Leon Washington's leg was broken, Greene was in. And when the dust cleared, he had 19 carried for 144 yards and looked up at the crowd.

"They have some crazy fans, die-hard fans," Greene said. "They're all dressed up in black with the makeup on their face. All the 'Black Hole' thing. That was kind of interesting, I remember that."

His current position mate, veteran LaDainian Tomlinson, has a different memory. He was with the San Diego Chargers in 2002 and had a 19-yard touchdown run in overtime for the win.

"When I got to the end zone, everyone piled on me and pretty soon they start throwing stuff at us, beer bottles, everything thrown at us," Tomlinson said. "So we hurry up and got off the field and continued our celebration in the locker room, because we weren't going to celebrate on their field."

Those two can laugh about the comedy in Oakland, but the New York Jets lack of a running game has been serious this season. In two games, Greene has 75 yards on 26 attempts, and three catches for 13 yards. Tomlinson has caught seven passes for 80 yards, but has run the ball 11 times for just 24 yards.

Tomlinson has accepted that his numbers will go down this season. His role is as the third-down back on paper, although in reality the Jets are using him a little more than that. But Greene, now in his third year, is ready to put up numbers.

"The thing that I try to tell him is just be patient, these days have a different way to playing out," Tomlinson said. "And there's different ways to win ball games. Some days Shonn is going to carry 25 times and we're going to need him to."

This will be a tough week to have the running game at the forefront with rookie Colin Baxter likely to start in place of injured center Nick Mangold. Not only is Baxter new to the NFL, but the Jets didn't pick him up off waivers until Sept. 4. Does Greene expect the offense to look the same this week?

"It's not going to just work like that all of the sudden," Greene said. "It's a chemistry thing, those guys up front working together, getting on the same page. Us as running backs learning [about] those guys, [the] offensive linemen and which techniques they're using, but we'll be all right."

Tomlinson agreed.

"It's an important part of our offensive line, when you talk about the center," Tomlinson said. "He makes all the calls, he gets us in the right protections a lot of times, and so it's a challenge."

Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, taking questions on Greene, Tomlinson, Plaxico Burress and the other tight ends and receivers, said he wished he had more balls to distribute. Greene said the one stat he cares most about is in the wins and loss column.

"Lot of offenses out there have a lot of people capable of being the superstar," Greene said. "But like I said it's a team sport and you've got to get it done the way that week is looking against your opponent."

And then again, Greene -- for one -- has fond memories of Oakland.

"It's probably one of the weirdest places to play," Tomlinson said. "Just cause the fans are really into it, but it's Halloween every Sunday."

Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.

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