How the New York Jets should change their offense after the bye week
On the latest episode of the Cool Your Jets podcast, we received one very interesting mailbag question that went along the lines of, “If you were put in charge of the Jets’ offense, what are the first 10 changes you would make?”
It goes without saying that Mike LaFleur and the Jets need to make some drastic alterations to their offensive approach after a five-game stretch that saw them rank 32nd in scoring (13.4 points per game), 30th in net yards per pass attempt (5.1), and 30th in yards per rush attempt (3.6).
Aside from “scoring more points” and “gaining more yards,” what specific changes would help the Jets turn around their putrid offense?
These are the first 10 changes I would make to the Jets’ offense if I were handed the keys today.
1. More screen passes
Zach Wilson has only thrown 17 screen passes this season (3.4 per game). That makes up 8.8% of his total dropbacks, which ranks 22nd out of 34 quarterbacks.
Considering how many impressive playmakers the Jets have and how much Wilson is struggling with his accuracy, that frequency is too low. The Jets need to manufacture more offense for Wilson and stop asking him to do so much of the work by himself.
Elijah Moore should be the main beneficiary of an increased emphasis on screen passing. Moore has been given only three targets on screen passes in four games.
2. Less 12 personnel, more 11 personnel
I would argue that the Jets have five wide receivers who are clearly better than any of the tight ends on the roster: Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Jamison Crowder, Keelan Cole, and Denzel Mims. You can also make an argument for Braxton Berrios over Tyler Kroft.
A talent distribution like that would lead one to believe that the Jets would be running an offense that leans toward the receivers and away from the tight ends, but the opposite is true.
The Jets are ranked third in the NFL in 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR) usage, deploying the package on 36% of their offensive plays. They are 20th in 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 RD) usage at 59%.
I get that 12 personnel is the crux of the Shanahan offense that LaFleur is trying to instill, but if he and the team were so hellbent on running a 12-heavy offense, they should have added more talent at tight end in the offseason. Tyler Kroft and Ryan Griffin do not cut it for this style of offense.
It’s time for LaFleur to adjust his personnel usage to match the talent on his roster.
Now, it would be too much to ask him to drastically overhaul the offense’s identity in the middle of the season and completely eliminate 12 personnel – because that is the basis of this scheme’s identity, after all – but a sizable shift toward 11 personnel makes sense for this squad.
How about boosting 11 personnel from 59% a few notches up to 65%? That small increase would bring them from 20th to 10th. Conversely, let’s bring 12 personnel down from 36% to around 25%. That’s a nice middle ground – it would still rank ninth-highest, keeping LaFleur’s schematic identity intact but also significantly lessening the responsibility of the lackluster tight end unit.
3. More Denzel Mims snaps
You knew this would be in here, didn’t you?
Denzel Mims is too talented to be watching from the sidelines as his team puts together the worst scoring offense in football. It’s time for him to become a regular part of the offense.
Mims has only seen four targets this season, ranking 10th on the team. He has turned those four targets into 73 yards, ranking fifth on the team.
With only four targets, Mims has more receiving yards than Elijah Moore (20 targets), Michael Carter (14), Ty Johnson (13), Ryan Griffin (15), and Tyler Kroft (10).
Finding snaps for Mims is the difficult part of the equation. Whose playing time does he take?
Davis and Moore need to be getting starters’ reps. That brings us to Crowder and Cole, two veterans who have been solid in their roles this season.
Let’s take a look at how the Jets distributed their receiver snaps against Atlanta (the first game of the season with all wide receivers healthy).
- Davis: 45 snaps (80%)
- Crowder: 34 (61%)
- Cole: 31 (55%)
- Moore: 23 (41%)
- Mims: 8 (14%)
- Berrios: 6 (11%)
Here’s how I would divvy things up going forward – keeping in mind that this projection includes the increased usage of 11 personnel that we discussed earlier:
- Davis: 80%
- Moore: 70%
- Crowder: 50%
- Mims: 40%
- Cole: 20%
- Berrios: 5%
This is the optimal wide receiver lineup in my view. Davis and Moore get their starters’ reps while Crowder and Mims get consistent playing time throughout the game in situations that fit their skill-sets.
Cole is the main victim to make room for Mims. Fewer snaps for Cole is a shame, as he is a solid all-around wideout who can play multiple positions, but the upside with Mims is simply much higher.
Crowder also takes a small slice from around 60% to 50% in order to buy Mims some more action.
In addition, taking away most or all of Berrios’ snaps and spreading them amongst the other five receivers should be an easy decision. Berrios is a very solid backup when called upon but is the sixth-most talented receiver on this team right now and should be utilized as such.
4. More intermediate targets for Elijah Moore
Moore has been targeted 5.0 times per game this season. His total of 20 targets is tied for 100th in the league among all players regardless of position.
That is far too small of a role for a player who has such tantalizing ability as an underneath playmaker and is consistently separating down the field.
I mentioned earlier how Moore should be getting more manufactured touches. The Jets can get him another target or two per game right there.
Moore also should be getting more targets in the intermediate range considering how often he has been getting open there. This one falls primarily on Zach Wilson. LaFleur is dialing up concepts that send Moore downfield, and Moore is getting open – Wilson just isn’t getting him the ball.
Surely, Wilson is aware of how often he has missed Moore after viewing the game film each week. Wilson needs to make it a priority to look for Moore on intermediate routes, because he is getting open quite often.
The deep targets have been there for Moore. He leads the team with seven deep targets (20+ yards downfield) – although only one of those has been caught (mostly due to inaccuracy). His production in that area should improve once Wilson’s deep accuracy on throws to Moore normalizes.
It is in the intermediate range where Moore needs to be targeted more often.
Moore has only seen five intermediate targets (10-19 yards downfield), tying him for 60th among NFL wide receivers. For a guy who has been separating on curls and comebacks with ease this season, that is an unacceptable number.
The Jets need to feature Moore’s route-running on the outside. It is easy to picture this offense being more successful at sustaining drives simply by running a handful of plays per game in which Wilson drops back, looks directly for Moore, and gives him a ball at the first down marker to come back to, relying on him to win his one-on-one on the outside.
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5. Less of Ty Johnson on third downs
LaFleur has a strange tendency to insert Ty Johnson on third down despite Johnson’s lack of capability in key third-down areas.
Johnson is a bad pass blocker and a drop-prone receiver who does not offer much route-running versatility. There is no reason he should be on the field for a third-down play over Michael Carter or Tevin Coleman unless it is a third-and-short situation where the threat of a run is a possibility.
6. More targets for Tevin Coleman, fewer targets for Ty Johnson
Playing into the previous point, I think the Jets can do a better job of distributing targets at running back.
Ty Johnson has seen 13 targets this season while Tevin Coleman has seen three. That makes no sense considering both players’ skillsets.
Johnson is not known for his receiving abilities. He is averaging only 4.0 yards per target in his career and has only one receiving touchdown over 65 targets.
Coleman is known as an excellent receiving back. He is averaging 7.2 yards per target in his career while scoring through the air 12 times across 172 targets.
Simply swapping Johnson and Coleman’s target totals would result in substantially more efficient production for the Jets’ passing game. Coleman flat-out creates far more out of his pass-catching opportunities than Johnson does.
7. More scrambles for Zach Wilson
This one is not related to scheme or play-calling, but rather, it is a slight alteration that Wilson can make to his outside-the-pocket mindset.
Wilson has missed a number of golden opportunities to scramble this season. While it is fantastic that he stays focused on throwing the ball when he escapes the pocket, as scrambling offers less upside than throwing, there are instances where scrambling is the best decision the quarterback can make, and Wilson is not doing the right thing in those situations.
It is not good for a quarterback to fall in love with scrambling, but it is also not good for a quarterback to be oblivious to the option of scrambling, which Wilson essentially is right now. He has scrambled only five times this season (1.0 per game).
Nobody is asking Wilson to be Lamar Jackson, but he has to start taking the scrambling lanes when they are the best available option.
8. Less play-action passing
The final three changes on this list were featured in my recent breakdown that focused on how LaFleur can aid Wilson in particular. They are each broken down in much greater detail over there.
Decreasing the number of play-action calls could benefit Wilson. He has averaged 2.1 fewer yards per attempt on play-action passes versus on non-play-action passes. That is the second-largest discrepancy in the league among qualified quarterbacks.
9. More quick passes
Wilson is very accurate when getting the ball out quickly. He has an adjusted completion percentage (which accounts for drops, batted passes, throwaways, etc.) of 89.5% on throws that were released under 2.5 seconds after the snap, ranking fourth-best in the NFL.
The rookie quarterback’s well-documented accuracy struggles have largely occurred on longer-developing plays. Wilson owns an adjusted completion percentage of 60.2% on throws that were released more than 2.5 seconds after the snap, ranking 30th out of 35 qualifiers.
10. More first-quarter passes
The Jets have run the ball on 70.6% of their first-down plays in the first quarter, which leads the NFL. They should bring that number down close to 60% or even 50% in an attempt to balance things out and help Wilson establish a rhythm early in games.