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Jets' Big 3 backfield make for intimidating threat

CORTLAND, N.Y. (AP) - An intimidating triple threat is developing in the New York Jets' backfield.

The Jets already had one of the league's best running games a year ago with AFC rushing leader Thomas Jones and the quick and versatile Leon Washington. Throw in bruising rookie Shonn Greene and a coach intent on running the football, and this group could cause plenty of trouble for defenses.

"We haven't come up with a name for all three of us," Washington said with a smile, "but I do know we want to be the best backs in the league."

The Three Amigos? Nah. The Three Horsemen? Uh-uh. Boom, Boom, Pow? Maybe. Coach Rex Ryan has a simple, less-creative moniker for his three-headed backfield.

"The Big Three," Ryan said Sunday, "are going to give us an opportunity where you can keep a guy fresh. It's not necessarily where you're sharing the load because they're not all going to get the same carries, but you can use them to your advantage."

Last year, Ryan's Baltimore Ravens made it to the AFC championship with Le'Ron McClain, Willis McGahee and Ray Rice all getting more than 100 carries.

"We had three real good backs and we used every one of them," Ryan said. "I think we should use all these guys because it's a stable. We've got something that most teams don't have, and that's a great group of backs. It's kind of like the old Csonka, Kiick and Mercury Morris days. They had three of them and found a way to use them, and we'll do the same."

The comparison to the 1972 Miami Dolphins is a bit premature, but Ryan isn't afraid to place high expectations on himself or his team.

"It's definitely flattering to know the coach thinks so highly of you and thinks you can do the job," Jones said. "I know we definitely have the potential to be a good running team. We know that we won't have any dropoff if any of us come out of the game."

While the focus in training camp has been on the quarterback competition between veteran Kellen Clemens and rookie Mark Sanchez, a solid running game is expected to alleviate a lot of the pressure on whoever wins the job.

"With the offensive line we have, those guys up front are tremendous, and the backs we have, we've got a good mix of old guys, in between and a hungry rookie," Washington said. "And, to compete against the defense we have now, we have a chance to be a pretty good backfield."

Many teams have moved from the traditional practice of having a featured running back, with only 16 of the 32 NFL teams - including the Jets - having one player take more than half the team's carries last season.

"I don't think about shared carries," said Jones, who led the AFC with 1,312 yards on 290 carries and set franchise marks with 13 rushing TDs and 15 overall. "You can only control what you do. For me, I'm coming off a pretty good run where I've rushed for over 1,000 yards four years in a row. At this point, I just want to make it to the playoffs and I want to win the Super Bowl."

Other than Baltimore, only New Orleans had three running backs each carry the ball 100 times or more - and that was because the Saints had injuries to Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister.

"As far as three guys, it's really out of our control," said the 30-year-old Jones, who feels he could play another four or five seasons. "Our goal is to be the best backfield in the league and we're very talented, and it's not just us three."

Jones and Washington are in camp despite sitting out voluntary workouts during the offseason because of contract disputes. It was speculated that the Jets drafted Greene in the third round out of Iowa just as insurance.

"I don't ever read the papers," Jones said. "When it comes to speculation, that's old news. I'm not looking for individual honors or attention. My job is to run the football and be a great teammate. I go to war with these guys everyday."

Last season, fans and members of the media clamored for the Jets to get the ball into the hands of Washington - who had 448 yards on 76 carries - more often. With Greene's arrival, it was uncertain if there would be enough carries to keep everyone satisfied.

"I think there's going to be enough work to go around because we're all capable of producing on the field," said Greene, who has looked impressive early in camp despite a sore ankle. "I have no worries about that. We're all going to get our work and everybody will be happy."

NOTES: Clemens had an outstanding practice working with the second-team offense, going 10 of 16. Sanchez went 1 of 6 with the first team. ... C Nick Mangold left early after injuring his right knee, but Ryan said it wasn't serious. ... Despite a published report that DE Shaun Ellis is expected to be suspended by the NFL for the season opener stemming from his arrest in November for marijuana possession, he and the team said they hadn't heard anything official from the league.

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