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Sports

November 21, 2012

3's not a crowd, but 'ideal' for Jets running backs

(Continued)

“I think that’s where the league is going to,” Ryan said. “You don’t necessarily have that guy that does it all every snap anymore the way you used to with a Walter Payton. You kind of divide those things up.”

Ryan also noted that the Jets’ three AFC East rivals — New England, Miami and Buffalo — all use multiple players in their backfields.

The Jets will get a close look at the Patriots’ unpredictable running back rotation Thursday night at MetLife Stadium. While Stevan Ridley is the primary ballcarrier with 842 yards on 185 attempts, Brandon Bolden (43 for 234), Danny Woodhead (49 for 179) and Shane Vereen (33 for 117) have all rushed at least 30 times.

“If you have the talent and the guys are healthy and fresh,” Ryan said, “I think that’s the best way to do it.”

That approach worked effectively for the Jets in 2009 — Greene’s rookie season — when he, Thomas Jones and Leon Washington shared the load, until Washington was lost for the season with a broken leg. The Jets still led the NFL with 2,756 yards rushing that season under then-offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

New York cut Jones and traded Washington the following offseason, but still finished fourth in rushing with the arrival of LaDainian Tomlinson. Greene was the primary backup, with McKnight getting some snaps and wide receiver Brad Smith effectively used in wildcat packages.

The Jets slumped to 22nd in the league in rushing last year as Greene assumed the starting role, Tomlinson was relegated to the third-down back and McKnight and Powell saw limited carries. When Sparano was hired this past offseason as the offensive coordinator, he talked about a return to the run-first mentality Ryan loves.

It has taken a while, but the Jets might be on the verge of getting back to “Ground-and-Pound” on a regular basis. They’re 15th in rushing, and rising.

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