Shonn Greene has been a fixture in the New York Jets backfield since he was drafted out of Iowa University in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft. During Greene's first season with the Green and White he split time with veteran running back Thomas Jones. Greene made his first appearance of the 2009 season during Week 7, filling in for an injured Leon Washington. He finished the 2009 campaign with 508 yards on 108 attempts and rushed for two touchdowns, but Greene made a huge impact during the playoffs where he rush for over 100 yards in two out of the three games.
During the 2010 season Greene spelled future hall-of-famer LaDainian Tomlinson, yet still managed to rush for 766 yards on 185 carries including two touchdowns. Greene was named the starting running back before the 2011 season. He finally eclipsed the 1,000 yard plateau, rushing for 1,054 yards and six touchdowns, but Gang Green fell short of the playoffs for the first time since Greene entered the league.
Last season was a roller coaster ride for Greene and the rest of the Jets' backfield. He split carries with fellow running backs Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight. Greene finished with a career-high 1,063 rushing yards and a personal best in touchdowns with eight. He also finished with a career-high in rushing yards in a game with 161 yards along with three touchdowns in the Jets Week 6 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
Top Free Agent Running Backs:
1. Ahmad Bradshaw-
Bradshaw had great success with the Jetst cross-town rivals, the New York Giants. He has been a warrior for Big Blue since being selected in the seventh round of the 2007 draft. Bradshaw may be willing to negotiate with the Jets front office and settle on a reasonable contract. The biggest reason is that he has only played in New York since joining the NFL and has become a fan favorite at MetLife stadium. Bradshaw is willing to take on any defender possesses elite breakaway speed. There are nagging foot injuries that Bradshaw has dealt with in the past that slowed him down, but this offseason would be an opportune time for Gang Green to take a chance.
Despite the injuries, Bradshaw still finished with 1,015 yards in 2012. He is a two-time Super Bowl champion, so he knows what the postseason tastes like. The ex-Giants running back showed signs of recovery in the last game of the 2012 season against the Philadelphia Eagles when he rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown. Bradshaw is 26, which is still young by NFL standards and there's plenty of reason to believe he has a few more productive years ahead of him.
2. Peyton Hillis- Hillis is another running back who has a great deal of question marks surrounding him. Hillis burst onto the NFL scene at full force in 2010 when he took over as the running back for the Cleveland Browns. He rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns. Hillis has been nearly nonexistent since that season. Last season he played for the Kansas City Chiefs serving as the backup to Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones. He is a high-risk, high-reward type of player. Hillis is a physical runner who is built like a fullback. Like Bradshaw, Hillis is relatively young. He would most likely have a low asking price and could yield positive results if given another chance to start.
3. Chris Ivory- Ivory has been battling for playing time since he joined the NFL in 2010. The Saints signed Ivory during his rookie season as an undrafted free agent. This season Ivory had only 40 carries because Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles all were ahead of him on the depth chart. His rookie season was his best year by far. Ivory rushed for 716 yards and had five touchdowns. Ivory has rushed for 5.1 yards per carry during his career showing a penchant for productivity. Ivory may open some eyes if he is given a chance to start. If the Jets signed Ivory he would most like compete with Powell and McKnight for the starting job.
Top Running Backs in the Draft
1. Montee Ball (Wisconsin)- The Jets franchise enjoys high profile names. Ball is one of the best college football running backs of all-time. He constantly tore apart opposing Big Ten defenses while he played at Wisconsin University. He is the 2012 Doak Walker Award winner which is given to the top college football running back. Ball rushed for 1,923 yards during his junior year in 2011 and followed that up with 1,830 yards during his senior campaign. Ball is the FBS all-time leader in total touchdowns and became the first ever player to score a touchdown in three straight Rose Bowls. Some scouts question his size and speed, but the numbers don't lie, he has potential to be an elite running back.
2. Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina)- Lattimore may not be the safest draft pick, but he is worth the risk. When healthy, he can put on a clinic against opposing defenses. He is a physical running back who possesses the ability to bust into the secondary and breakaway. But, there are still the injury concerns. In 2011 he sustained a season-ending knee injury. Last season, Lattimore had one of the ugliest injuries of the 2012 college football season when he tore his ACL, PCL, and MCL against Tennessee University. That kind of injury may scare away other teams, but he could be a nice pickup in the later rounds.
3. Stepfan Taylor (Stanford)- Taylor had an impressive career at Stanford, but he may be looked at as a dark horse in this year's draft. Like Ball, he does not possess top speed or strength, but he gets the job done. He is another running back who could drop to the late rounds. Taylor played well at the practices leading up to Senior Bowl. Taylor is Stanford's all-time leading rusher with 4,300 yards and finished as the schol's all-leader in touchdowns with 45. He is the complete package because he can pass block and is a good receiver. Taylor could be a solid pick in the 2013 draft.
The Jets had an inconsistent season on the offensive side of the ball. The running game did not show up every week and that is why there may be a new face in the Jets' back field. Yes, you can blame the offensive line, but the Green and White may want a fresh start. Gang Green could save some money by picking a rookie in this year's draft, and any of those players would be good choices. They would also be able to have a young player in the backfield.
Free agency would also be a good option. Some players like Bradshaw and Hillis may come to the Jets for cheap because of they're injury prone. Ivory could also be a nice option because he is begging for more carries. Former general manager Mike Tannenbaum left the Jets in a bad salary cap situation so they will be unable to go after big name running backs like Steven Jackson and Reggie Bush. A fresh look in the backfield is one of the many offensive "woes" the Jets need to address, but it is a good start.