Welcome to the Spotlight, Shonn Greene

Rookie running back will play a big role in the Jets offense

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images

    Opinions may vary about the appropriateness of Mark Sanchez eating a hot dog on the Jets bench during the waning moments of their 38-0 rout of the Raiders on Sunday afternoon or about the wisdom of ingesting a tube steak as a way to battle the indigestion Sanchez claimed he was experiencing. There's little doubt that it served as a perfect summary for the competitiveness of the game, though. When the starting quarterback has a chance to snack on the bench, there's not much of a contest on the field and not much of a chance to gauge your team's fitness.

    Stopping the bleeding after three straight losses was clearly important and it's always good to see a team win a laugher when the stage is set for one, but we won't learn much about the long-term outlook for Gang Green until the Dolphins come a-calling on Sunday. That's when we'll see if this team is going to continue making playoff noise or if they're destined to remain in the muddy midsection of the league going forward.

    The answer to that question may come down to Shonn Greene. Leon Washington's gruesome injury was hard to watch, especially if you're chowing on an Oakland Coliseum wiener, and the image might not go away anytime soon if the Jets can't replace the lightning bug's contributions to the offense.

    Greene, a third-round pick from Iowa, gave reason to believe that they can get by without Washington with 144 yards and two touchdowns but, again, that's against the Raiders. With the way the Jets are running the ball right now -- they're just the sixth team in history with back-to-back 300-yard games -- Blair Thomas could probably put up those numbers against a team like Oakland. If he can't consistently balance Thomas Jones's load and, perhaps more significantly, if he can't provide Sanchez with a target in the passing game, the Jets offense will be hard-pressed to churn out the six wins it needs to advance to the postseason tournament.

    We'd be remiss if we didn't mention how sad Washington's injury is beyond the impact it has on the offense. For two years Jets fans have been screaming to see more of the running back in the offense, and to see him carted off the field with a horrific broken leg when it finally happens was a real damper on what should have been a happy day. We hope for a speedy recovery, but with word that he's snapped both the tibia and fibula it's hard to imagine that will happen. That it all happened without Washington ever getting a contract extension and a salary equal to his contributions makes it all the sadder and provides a reminder of what players go through for our enjoyment.  

    It's funny how sports works sometimes. Greene was drafted to be the replacement for Thomas Jones in 2010 but now he's going to be the immediate replacement for a guy who may never be able to recover his role on the Jets offense. He was also supposed to be an afterthought to Sanchez when it came to the team's rookie class but now he's almost as important as the Hebrew National-loving cover boy. 

    What a difference a day makes, huh?  

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.