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Is Shonn Greene and the West Coast Offense a Good Marriage?

By Alan Schechter
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Dec 30, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets running back Shonn Greene (23) during the game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bills beat the Jets 28-9. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

One of the early decisions that John Idzik will have to make will be about Shonn Greene. Shonn Greene is an unrestricted free agent. Quietly, he is coming off of his second straight 1,000 yard season, setting career highs in yardage(1,063), and TDs (8). But, we all know the areas that he is deficient in. Just watch him play and you see it. He doesn’t break off big runs very often anymore. It’s hard to remember ever seeing Shonn Greene make somebody miss, isn’t it?

The Jets are headed in a new direction offensively, with the addition of Marty Mornhinweg. The Ground and Pound is forever gone away, replaced by the West Coast offense. The question is, does Shonn Greene fit into the new concept? Is he a fit for the West Coast offense? Let’s talk about it.

We talked about the basics of the West Coast offense yesterday. Essentially, it uses a short passing game to open up the running lanes, and the deeper passes. It’s based on horizontal pass routes that flood and confuse the defense, giving them more routes than they have players to cover them. Keeping all of that in mind, what type of running back do you need in this system?

Basically, you need a running back that is elusive. You need a guy that can get yards after the catch, and yards after contact. You need a running back that can make the catch out of the backfield and get up the field. Let’s not talk about it, let me show you the prototypical West Coast offense running back:

For my younger subscribers/readers, that my friends, is Roger Craig. He played for the 49ers in the 80s, and into the 90s, and was EXPLOSIVE. He was the first back to run for 1,000 yards, and record 1,000 yards receiving in the same season, a feat that has only been matched once, by Marshall Faulk in 1999. He was the back for this system. Can Shonn Greene be that guy? We’ll look at the numbers on the next page (courtesy as always of PFF)

Dec. 30, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets running back Shonn Greene (23) during the first half against the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

At his best, Shonn Greene has recorded 30 receptions in a season, ranking him 11th. For reference, Ray Rice was the leader that season(2011) with 76 receptions. Let’s look at some of the numbers a little bit closer. In 2012, out of 26 targets, 22 of them catchable, Shonn Greene dropped 13.64% of the passes thrown his way. CJ Spiller, on the other hand, had a 2.27% drop rate out of 44 catchable passes thrown his way. Ray Rice had a 6.15% drop rate out of 65 passes thrown his way. For the amount of passes thrown in Shonn Greene’s direction, he certainly mis-handles a great deal.

You all saw how Roger Craig could make people miss on that video. How was Shonn Greene in that area? His average yards after contact per rushing attempt was 2.15 last year. Adrian Peterson? 3.93. CJ Spiller? 3.58. Shonn Greene recorded 15 missed tackles running the football, and 1 in receiving, which landed him with a PFF elusive rating of 11.7. Even Ahmad Bradhsaw, who is a power runner similar to Greene, had an elusive rating of over 27. Shonn Greene is not an elusive runner, we saw it on the field and the numbers bare it out. Shonn Greene had a whopping 7 runs that went for over 15 yards in 2012. Alfred Morris had 24. Only 13% of Shonn Greene’s 1,063 yards came on runs of 15 yards or longer. What does that tell us? That Shonn Greene never breaks off big runs.

So, to run the West Coast offense, you need a running back that can catch the football out of the backfield. You need a guy that can make people miss, and gain yards after the reception, or YAC. You need a running back that can break tackles, and gain yardage after contact, a la Roger Craig.

Is Shonn Greene any one of those things? We all knew this already, but the numbers prove it. Prove what? That the answer is, no. Shonn Greene is not any of those things. He would not be a good match with the West Coast offense, and should be allowed to walk.

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