Mike LaFleur’s lampooned trip to Denver had one promising aspect
Mike LaFleur is learning how quickly a honeymoon period can come to an end in the land of New York Jets football. Just three games into his first season as an offensive coordinator, he is the most wanted man in the New York/New Jersey area.
And the heat is warranted. While LaFleur’s inexperience is a viable excuse for growing paints to a certain extent, it does not give him a pass for the zero-point, 162-yard slop-fest against the Denver Broncos that Jets fans were forced to suffer through.
LaFleur made a lot of mistakes in Denver that need to be corrected as soon as possible. You can learn about those in great detail through this film breakdown.
However, there was one aspect of LaFleur’s approach that should be seen as a promising development going forward.
Prior to Week 3, I wrote about the Jets’ over-usage of 12 personnel packages (offensive formations that feature two tight ends).
New York spent the first two weeks of the season using the tight end position more than nearly every other team in the league despite having one of the worst tight end units in football and paying little attention to the position in the offseason.
As a result, the Jets had been using a fairly small amount of 11 personnel (3-wide receiver packages that feature only one tight end) despite their wide receiver unit possessing substantially more depth and overall talent than their tight end unit.
From Weeks 1-2, the Jets used 12 personnel 38% of the time (2nd in the NFL) and 11 personnel 56% of the time (20th).
LaFleur steered the ship in the right direction against Denver.
In Week 3, the Jets sliced their 12 personnel usage to 19%, ranking 17th in the league. They pumped their 11 personnel usage all the way up to 81%, ranking third.
Part of the reason for the change was an injury to starting tight end Tyler Kroft that knocked him out of the game in the third quarter, but LaFleur was already making the change before Kroft’s exit. In the first half, the Jets ran 11 personnel 73% of the time and 12 personnel 27% of the time.
It is also conceivable to chalk up the adjustment to the Jets being forced to play catch-up after getting into an early hole. More passing results in more 3-wide receiver personnel sets with the threat of the run being taken off the table.
However, the Jets had to play catch-up against Carolina and New England in the previous two games and there was no change then. Plus, the Jets were only down 10-0 when they started going 11-heavy in the second quarter (running eleven 84% of the time in the second quarter), so it’s not as if they were in dire straits just yet.
LaFleur just finally made the change that needed to be made.
Obviously, the switch did not lead to immediate results. But this is the right approach going forward.
Running an offense with heavy 12 personnel usage and light 11 personnel usage is the inverse of what should be done to maximize the talent on a roster that is barren at tight end but fairly deep and promising at wide receiver. The Jets’ run game has been suffering from its reliance on Ryan Griffin to make key blocks, and their passing game has suffered from its reliance on Tyler Kroft to be a featured target.
Boosting the number of 3-wide receiver sets and tossing the 2-tight end sets out the window will allow the offense to play with a much better level of collective talent throughout the game. Snaps that once went to Ryan Griffin will be dispersed among Jamison Crowder, Keelan Cole, Braxton Berrios, Jeff Smith, and, ideally, Denzel Mims.
This adjustment was the one major positive to come out of LaFleur’s showing in Colorado. It would be a huge plus for the future of the Jets’ offense if it was not just a flash in the pan, but something that he plans on maintaining going forward.
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