He probably enjoys playing football all the time, because that job is pretty difficult to hate, especially when you’re doing it in New York. Just ask Joe Namath, who knows that playing pigskin in the Big Apple leads to adventures you can barely recall, and mornings wearing women’s pantyhose.
But recent history–and with Shonn Greene, that’s pretty much all we have–shows us that he excels when those blistery New York winds start winding up, and when children start demanding an inflatable remote control flying shark for Christmas. Back in my day the big ticket item was tabletop hockey. Now kids have sharks.
Anywho, Greene is the man in the Jets’ backfield now, a position he’s finally assumed in his third season after two years of waiting, first behind Thomas Jones, and then sharing the rock with LaDainian Tomlinson. Even earlier this year he was the top back in name only, receiving only 12.8 carries over New York’s first four games. He’s had 19.1 per game since, which excludes the Jets’ Week 11 loss to Denver when he left early with an injury.
Like any effective power running back, as the days tick by in the season, Greene gets stronger. That’s perhaps partly by design, with the Jets monitoring Greene by still giving a bit of the load to Tomlinson and, to a lesser extent, Joe McKnight. Whatever it is, it’s working, because much like Ryan Mathews, Greene is finally starting to produce consistently, and earn the trust of his coaches.
Over the Jets’ three-game winning streak that’s seen them climb back into the playoff race and at least temporarily grab a wild card spot, Greene has 295 rushing yards with four touchdowns. It’s a stretch that’s looked similar to his three-game run between Weeks 5 and 7 in which the former Hawkeye had 269 yards, with the glaring and significant difference being his yards per carry. During that October hot streak Greene was averaging 4.3 yards per carry, and over the last three weeks he’s had an even 5.0.
What’s especially encouraging, though, is Greene’s efficiency in December, a time when games matter more, or so we’ve heard. His monthly high in rushing yardage this year came with his 292 in October, and with four games that month, that adds up to a very solid but not spectacular 73 yards per game. Through two games in December, Greene already has 217 yards, putting him on pace for 434 yards in the month when
Tim Tebow Jesus was born, and putting that weekly average at 108.5.
It gets better, because as ESPN’s Rich Cimini outlined yesterday, Greene’s loving friendship with December goes beyond this year.
In regular-season games after Dec. 1, Greene has averaged 63 yards and 4.8 per carry, covering 11 games in his career. In 30 games before Dec. 1, he’s averaged 49 yards and 3.7 per carry.
And we haven’t even mentioned the playoffs. In six postseason games, Green has averaged 84 and 5.1.
The opposing run defenses so far this year in December haven’t exactly been overwhelming, with the Redskins respectable at their 113.6 yards allowed per game (17th), and the Chiefs not even a little bit respectable at 132.5 (26th).
But high-end runners should roll over low-end defenses as the opposition begins to wear down near the end of the season. Greene was missing those easy results at times earlier this year, with only 59 yards on 15 carries against an Oakland defense in Week 3 that’s allowing 141 yards per game. Going forward there should still be plenty of green grass and/or white snow ahead of Greene too, with two other weak run defenses (Philadelphia and the Giants) teed up.
Jets fans can only assume and hope that Rex Ryan and Brian Shottenheimer continue to hand Greene a football regularly, because relying on Mark Sanchez to be consistent is the alternative.