Push to Start


While most believe the biggest battle in camp is between Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, there is another position battle brewing in the backfield. Incumbent starter and last year’s 1,000 yard rusher Shonn Greene is suddenly feeling the pressure from second year back Bilal Powell.

Powell has been the surprise of training camp and seems to be getting praise from coach Rex Ryan on a daily basis. While Powell has been lighting it up, Shonn Greene has been rather quiet throughout training camp. I was never one who though Greene was the answer in the backfield for the Jets. I find him eerily similar to Cedric Benson in his skill set, which is not necessarily a good thing. Greene is a plodder who can consistently gain yardage up the middle and rarely loses yards or gets stuffed in the backfield. He is a consistent blocker in pass protection but struggles to catch the football with subpar hands and less than perfect route running.

So what does this mean for Bilal Powell? Powell is a north/south type runner but at 204lbs has enough burst and quickness to find seems in the second level for big gains. His pass blocking and route running have improved with a full year of offseason workouts and he is showing far fewer mental mistakes than in 2011. It’s not even the first preseason game yet and Powell has already gained first team reps in practice, showing the amount of confidence first year offensive coordinator Tony Sparano has in his young runningback.

If Powell continues his camp dominance and performs well in the preseason it seems very likely that he may jump ahead of fellow runningback Joe McKnight for number two on the depth chart. While no back on the roster may have the speed and quickness of McKnight, Powell may be the more reliable performer. If Greene begins to struggle in the preseason or early on in the regular season the door may be wide open for Bilal Powell to take over the starting role in the Jets Backfield.

While the Jets seem rather committed to Greene for the foreseeable future everybody knows Tony Sparano loves to run the ball, and if Powell is the hot hand he will most definitely steal touches and cement his role in the new run based offense. Greene will always get his carries around the goal line and in short yardage situations but the pressure is on for him to perform early and often, the opportunities will be there and he must take advantage to retain his spot on the depth chart.

I’ve always been a Joe McKnight fan because I realize the things he can do with the football. He can be a solid ball carrier and a true weapon out of the backfield, but his mental mistakes and pass blocking ability may limit his touches late in close games. I think McKnight still gets 6-10 touches a game both catching the football and on draw plays and misdirection, hopefully having significant impact in his given opportunities.

In the end only time will tell how the Jets backfield situation pans out. Greene is a known commodity who can deliver consistent performances and has the ability to close out games. The physical talents of Joe McKnight will ensure he gets enough touches to have an impact in addition to what he brings to the table in the return game. The wild card in all this is Bilal Powell. If he can deliver big performances early in the season don’t be surprised to see him get the nod as the starter. If not, he still seems to be a promising back with lots of upside who adds versatility to a backfield lacking a breakout star.

Predicted Week 1 Depth Chart

  1. Shonn Greene
  2. Bilal Powell
  3. Joe McKnight 3rd Down/ Scatback
  4. Terrence Ganaway

Predicted Week 6 Depth Chart

  1. Bilal Powell
  2. Shonn Greene
  3. Joe McKnight 3rd Down/ Scatback
  4. Terrence Ganaway