Florham Park, N.J.– After 16 grueling regular season games teams heading to the playoffs tend to be nicked up with various minor injuries and feeling a bit worn down as they begin their preparation for the second season.
One of the goals of the regular season is to earn one of the top two seeds in your conference so you can benefit from the bye week by getting players a weeks worth of rest. The Jets weren’t able to achieve that goal this season, but the way things panned out might actually be better for them than having a week off.
Since they wrapped up their playoff spot, with no room to move up or down in seeding, before last week’s game against the Bills they were able to rest the players who needed it, all while still keeping them on a normal routine.
It’s always helpful to get banged up players some rest, but for this Jets team keeping players in a steady routine might be even more vital.
The Jets worst games of the season both came after an extended break, this time their modus-operandi changed as they decided how to approach the meaningless Bills game. All last week, Ryan was determined to have his players spend the week preparing as if they were going to play, but come Sunday morning the in-actives list was littered with star players.
This week the players are reaping the benefit from the day off as many players say they feel like they are playing with fresh legs under them. On top of this, every player on the active roster is expected to be ready for Sunday’s game, leaving the Jets feeling pretty good about their chances.
“Yeah everybody is expected to play.” Rex Ryan said today, “Period.”
Damien Woody has missed the last couple of games with a knee injury, but since Tuesday he has been telling everyone who would listen that he was ready to play the Colts. In fact Woody says his knee feels even better than it did before he got hurt and expects to come back stronger than before.
“I feel great. I mean I feel like, what we call fresh legs, because I haven’t been practicing really and the surgery really did me a lot of justice.” Woody said, “They went in and fixed some things in there and I feel great, I really do.”
Woody certainly isn’t the only player who benefited from some time off. Sanchez started the game last week, but that was just to keep him in a routine as he only played eight snaps and handed the ball off every time. Apparently the severity of Sanchez’s shoulder injury has been blown out of proportion, he kept saying it was just sore, yet for some reason many refused to believe him. Even if he did go on to have two of his best games as a Jet after injuring the shoulder. Still to take a week off from getting hit can only help a quarterback’s entire body feel better this time of year.
Other in-actives for the Bills game included Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, the team’s top two corners, as well as the one-two running back punch of LT and Shonn Greene.
“It’s funny, I went to LT last week and I said, ‘I feel good that we can get you over 1,000 yards.’ I think we all did. But I said, ‘I’m thinking about resting you, but I want it to be your decision.’ He said that he was here to be fresh during the playoffs.” Ryan said, “He is fresh right now and I think we’re going to have a big game from him. There’s going to be opportunities for both of those backs.”
Later LT confirmed what his coach said, saying “1,000 yards, it would’ve been great, no question, but I didn’t come here to rush for 1,000 yards. I’ve had a lot of 1,000-yard (seasons) in my career. That’s not important to me. What’s important to me is playing in this tournament and having that opportunity to win the championship.”
It’s good for the Jets that these players got to take the game off, but there is one specific player who should benefit from what seems like a year’s worth of rest, and that’s running back Shonn Greene.
Jets fans across the world have been frustrated all season long by the lack of carries Greene has been getting. The addition of LT has been great, but along with the concerted effort to pass the ball more, it’s also been to the detriment to Greene and in some ways, the team.
Greene is a strong and powerful downhill runner who gets better as the game goes on, giving him only a handful of carries takes away from his impact. All season long reporters inside the Jets facilities speculated that maybe the idea was to make sure Greene was rested and ready for the playoffs, after all, backs that run with the same physical style of Greene often have trouble avoiding breaking down at some point in the season.
Whether or not that was the original plan, we may never know, but what is known is that Greene is about as fresh as a running back can hope for heading into the playoffs. Now Jets fans just have to hope Brian Schottenheimer recognizes this and takes full advantage of Greene’s ability to wear down the defense and chew up clock with Peyton Manning sitting waiting on the sideline.
“I think anytime you talk about a power back like that, I think it helps, just to not take getting dinged and getting hit and things like that.” Schottenheimer said, “Shonn wants to play all the time, but I think in the long run, as we gear up for, hopefully, a long stretch, it will help him.”
Schottenheimer’s boss couldn’t agree more.
“Just like last year, he’s entering this game fresh. So is LT (LaDainian Tomlinson). I think we’ll have both those backs fresh and obviously that’s what you want heading into the playoffs.” Ryan said, “It’s straight ahead, no fair dodging and full speed. Our guys are at their best right now. It’s rare to have two backs healthy like this. We’re lucky and fortunate we have those two guys ready to go.”
Ryan followed that thought up by saying something to give credence to the theory members of the media had concocted about why Greene had limited carries throughout the season.
“We had two great backs and we were going to use both of them. Once it was clear that we got into (the playoffs), we wanted to be fresh at the end of the season and that’s what we did. LT was running it primarily at the beginning and as the year went on maybe Shonn picked it up a little bit. We’ll see what happens now. Both of them are ready to give 100 percent. They are fresh, healthy and we’ll see what happens.”
Obviously the Jets want to run to set up the pass and everyone who knows the rules of football knows an effective running game is one of the best ways to stop Peyton Manning. After all it’s much easier to stop Manning from scoring when he is sitting on the sidelines anxiously pacing up and down the field itching to get the ball in his hands. But in the end the only reason that really matters is, the Jets are simply a better football team when Greene gets to flex his muscles and steadily chip away at the defense and clock simultaneously.
The Jets say they know that they need everyone to be at their best to win these playoff games, what’s unclear is if they realize riding Greene is when their at their best.
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