These 5 assistant coaches on Robert Saleh’s NY Jets staff have excellent resumes and should thrive at developing the Jets’ young talent.
Tony Oden (Senior Defensive Assistant/Cornerbacks)
|Defensive Backs||Eastern Michigan||2003|
|Outside Linebackers||East Carolina||2000|
|Head JV Coach||Army||1999|
|Graduate Assistant||Boston College||1997|
|Assistant Defensive Backs||Millersville University (PA)||1996|
Tony Oden has built an outstanding resume as a defensive backs coach in the NFL.
Oden helped former Lions cornerback Darius Slay become a star in the league. Slay had a poor rookie season in 2013, posting a 50.8 overall grade at Pro Football Focus (9th percentile). Oden arrived in Detroit the following year, and Slay took off. Slay improved his overall grade to 71.0 in 2014, placing at the 84th percentile. He took another jump in 2015, earning a 78.1 grade (93rd percentile).
Slay improved his grade in the following two seasons as well, going four-for-four in improving his overall grade during the span in which Oden was his coach.
Following Oden’s exit in 2018, Slay’s grade declined in back-to-back seasons.
Upon joining the Dolphins in 2018, Oden helped another young cornerback elevate to stardom: Xavien Howard.
Howard had been a mediocre starter prior to Oden’s arrival, ranking at the 29th percentile among qualified corners in Pro Football Focus’ overall grade during the 2017 season. With Oden as his DBs coach in 2018, Howard elevated to the 83rd percentile.
Oden had a fantastic season with Robert Saleh and the 49ers in 2020. Despite battling numerous injuries, the San Francisco defense earned the third-best PFF coverage grade in the NFL (81.4) and allowed the fourth-fewest yards per pass attempt (4.4).
Plenty of San Francisco defensive backs found new life under Oden. Jason Verrett was the most notable of them, enjoying a career resurgence. He had missed 58 games over the previous four seasons, but in 2020, Verrett earned the eighth-best overall PFF grade among all cornerbacks (77.6), rediscovering the early-career promise that he showed with the Chargers.
Oden also oversaw Ahkello Witherspoon ranking fifth-best among cornerbacks with a career-high 80.2 grade, while K’Waun Williams allowed the fewest yards per cover snap out of the slot (0.80) among all qualified corners in the league.
In 2021, Oden will be one of the most important assistants on the Jets’ staff, as they have an extremely young cornerback position where the most experienced starter is Bless Austin with 16 career starts.
Oden will have his work cut out for him, but he has shown more than once that he can turn struggling young players into stars.
Ricky Manning Jr. (Defensive Assistant)
|Assistant Defensive Backs||Seahawks||2016-17|
|Graduate Assistant||Fresno St.||2015|
|Defensive Backs and Special Teams||Fresno City College||2013-14|
Ricky Manning’s resume is short, but he contributed to something great during his only NFL stint: the development of Shaquill Griffin.
A third-round pick out of Central Florida, Griffin had an excellent rookie season with Manning as one of his position coaches. He set himself up for what has been a solid career as he collected 15 passes defended (4th among rookies) and allowed only 6.3 yards per target on throws in his direction (the typical average for CBs is around 8.0).
Manning will hope to work the same magic with one of the three cornerbacks the Jets selected post-round-one in the 2021 draft.
Rob Calabrese (Quarterbacks)
|Offensive Quality Control||Broncos||2019-20|
|Offensive Coordinator||Wagner College||2017-18|
|Running Backs and Assistant Special Teams||Wagner College||2016|
|Graduate Assistant||Central Florida||2014-15|
Rob Calabrese had a tremendously positive net impact as the offensive coordinator at Wagner College in Staten Island from 2017-18.
In 2018, Calabrese led the Wagner Seahawks offense to 28.0 points per game, the school’s best mark since 2009. The year following Calabrese’s exit to serve as the offensive quality control coach for the Denver Broncos, Wagner’s offense tumbled down to 13.8 points per game. In 2020, Wagner scored seven points over two games (3.5 per game).
Calabrese has yet to serve as a quarterbacks coach, but he has a solid background at the position himself, as he broke Boomer Esiason’s school records for passing yards and passing touchdowns at East Islip High School on Long Island.
John Benton (Offensive Line)
|Assistant Offensive Line||Jaguars||2016|
|Offensive Line||Colorado St.||1995-02|
|Recruiting Coordinator||California (PA)||1990-94|
|Graduate Assistant||Colorado St.||1987-89|
John Benton led a complete turnaround of the San Francisco 49ers offensive line.
Benton took over a very bad unit. In 2016 (the season prior to his arrival), all offensive linemen on the 49ers’ roster combined for an overall PFF grade of 63.8. That’s awful – it placed fourth-worst in the league that year.
In no time, Benton turned the San Francisco offensive front into one of the most respected units in football. Over his four years helming the unit (2017-20), the 49ers’ offensive linemen posted a cumulative PFF grade of 69.8, ranking seventh-best in the league across that time period.
The 49ers did improve their offensive line talent during Benton’s tenure, but Benton showed early on that he didn’t necessarily need a major infusion of talent to positively impact the players he was coaching.
In Benton’s first season as the OL coach, the 49ers returned three of the same five starters from the previous year, and the two additions were hardly spectacular – Laken Tomlinson, a first-round-pick disappointment from the Lions, and Brandon Fusco, a longtime mediocre starter with the Vikings.
Despite hardly improving the offensive line’s talent level, San Francisco jumped to 14th in PFF’s team pass-blocking grade and sixth in PFF’s team run-blocking grade after ranking 29th and 27th, respectively, in those two categories the previous year.
The offensive line that Benton is inheriting in New York certainly has more talent than the one he took over in San Francisco. If Benton can forge a similar level of improvement as he did back then, the sky is the limit.
Jake Moreland (Assistant Offensive Line)
|Offensive Coordinator/Tight Ends||Western Michigan||2020|
|Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line||Western Michigan||2018-19|
|Co-Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line||Western Michigan||2017|
|Wide Receivers||Air Force||2016|
|Offensive Tackles/Tight Ends||Syracuse||2015|
|Tight Ends||Air Force||2012-14|
|Tight Ends/Assistant Offensive Line||Western Michigan||2005-11|
|Special Teams Coordinator||Saint Joseph's (IN)||2004|
The Western Michigan offense has typically been great throughout the past decade, but during Jake Moreland’s tenure as the offensive coordinator, it gradually improved year-over-year and hit a supremely high peak in 2020.
Moreland led Western Michigan to 40th in the nation (out of 130 teams) in scoring with 32.0 points per game in his first season as the lead OC in 2018. The unit improved to 33rd in 2019 with 33.1 PPG, and in 2020, Moreland led them up to 42.0 PPG, placing 10th-best in the country.
One of the most impressive aspects of Western Michigan’s offense throughout Moreland’s tenure there was the offensive line. Moreland played a big hand in that unit’s success, doubling up as Western Michigan’s offensive line coach from 2017-19 before dropping the role in 2020 (switching to tight ends). His background lies in the offensive trenches, as he was a fullback and tight end in the NFL and has primarily coached tight ends and the offensive line throughout his coaching career.
Western Michigan ranked in the nation’s better half of sacks allowed per game in each of the past four seasons, improving their average every year. They tied for the 11th-fewest sacks allowed per game in 2020 (1.2), 20th-fewest in 2019 (1.4), 31st-fewest in 2018 (1.7), and 58th-fewest in 2017 (2.0).
PFF’s team pass-blocking grade also supports the notion that Western Michigan’s offensive line was consistently great and only got better over time. Western Michigan ranked 7th-best in 2020, 25th-best in 2019, 13th-best in 2018, and 43rd-best in 2017. They also ranked top-40 in PFF’s team run-blocking grade each year.
John Benton and Jake Moreland are quite the dynamic duo to spearhead the rebirth of a long-dormant Jets offensive line.
I really enjoyed listening to Tony Oden, John Benton and Greg Knapp during their interviews on the Jets media website. I honestly could have listed to them for hours. I’m just not used to it as a Jets fan eh? So refreshing to be excited about the coaches. Our boys are in good hands… It’s all about to get real man, so pumped for our future
Great innovative article. Saleh has a great supporting cast of coaches. Fascinated by the background of Jake Moreland, assisting Benton, has experience as an OC, former TE/FB, has a wealth of experience with Tackles & TE’s. Interesting perspective for this Outside Zone Running Attack
I really like Moreland’s background. He actually played some FB/TE for the Jets back in 2000. Perhaps even as the assistant OL coach he can get his fingerprints on the TEs and help Wesco at FB/Herndon with his run blocking (his pass blocking is great, I think his run blocking can improve though)
This Offense is about sealing and winning the Edge. Moreland is exceptionally qualified, and as you point out helps to integrate the efforts of the Offensive Line with the TE’s & FB. Coordination with attention to detail
I think this staff is going to be a lot more focused on integrating the skill positions with the work of the OL. Their free agent additions really showed an emphasis on skill position blocking so I think it’s going to be important that the WRs/TEs/RBs understand and are committed to the philosophies of the OL
Blocking WR’s absolutely , Davis & Mims plus Cole as a blocking slot
I truly believe our coaching will be – pardon the pun – the X-factor. If they are who we think and hope they are I agree the sky is the limit. For the whole team.
What I like is that the positions where they are the youngest and in the most need of high-quality player development are the ones where they are the strongest on the staff. At LB, Saleh and Ulbrich have been outstanding in their careers. At CB, Oden is great, and Manning is a nice assistant there. On the OL, Benton and Moreland are excellent. At QB, I’m not sure yet about Calabrese, but his impact as an OC in college was noticeable.
They’ve decided to stay young and rely on player development at the positions where they have the coaches with the best backgrounds of developing talent. I don’t know if they did that intentionally, but it’s definitely a great structure.
Right. And there will always be an option or two over the summer if we look like we need help in training camp.
Personally I’m content to let it ride with these kids. I think it’s a great way to see who and what they are as we head to next season with plenty of cap space and plenty of picks.
Going extremely young at some positions rather than plugging every single hole with a veteran should really help them establish their core going forward. Obviously, there is some short-term sacrificing when you rely on a bunch of rookies and 2nd-year guys over a veteran who you know should be just OK or pretty good, but doing it this way improves the long-term talent ceiling. Also helps to maintain financial flexibility
After having no quarterback coach, the Jets have Calabrese & Gregg Knapp, with a supportive OC. Not only for Zack but the entire QB room.
Could have included Knapp in here, he’s got some good years on his resume too. Good work with Peyton and Matt Ryan
It’s the combination of coaches Benton & Moreland , Knapp & Calabreeze. Different ages and perspectives but working for the same goal
Since you mentioned knapp, yea, i think you could do a big article on him if you wanted. Such a long career, im sure there’s plenty of nuggets to dig up. Just using wiki and pfr im finding interesting stuff. From 98-2000 he was qb coach in sf, which may seem like just a stepping stone to get to oc. But in 98, steve young had his first 4,000 yard season since 93, he was 37 yrs old! 2 seasons later, 2000, jeff garcia has a 4,000 yd season as a 2nd year qb and he never really got close to that again. Plus as you mentioned manning, he had that historical season with him and gase but knapp has a lot more to hang his hat on than gase.
My only worry about the youth at cb and lb is that id hate to waste a season of this scary DL. You know, if the coverage is so bad that guys are getting open in 1 second, lol. But hopefully yes, this coaching can get them playing decent. Couldnt expect the entire team to be fixed in 1 offseason.
The sudden loss of Greg Knapp is tragic, condolences once again to his family. With a rookie OC, and Rob Calabrese with limited NFL experience, the Jets need some experience. One route, would be to to get veteran QB backup. Another route would be to get a consultant or partial replacement for Greg Knapp , the only guy I see is former Eagle HC , Doug Pederson , Douglas has a connection