Mike LaFleur needs to find a way for the New York Jets to run the ball effectively out of 11 personnel
The New York Jets‘ personnel usage has been a highly discussed topic.
Struggling tight end Ryan Griffin had more than twice as many snaps as rookie wideout Elijah Moore in the team’s most recent loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Intriguing second-year wide receiver Denzel Mims rode the bench to start the year and is still getting limited snaps.
Those two complaints are just the tip of the iceberg. Jets fans cannot figure out what offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur is thinking in this department.
And they have a fair point.
Despite the roster boasting significantly more talent at wide receiver than tight end, the Jets have run multiple tight end sets on approximately 40% of the team’s snaps this season, per Sharp Football Stats. (For personnel metrics, Sharp Football is considering Trevon Wesco as a tight end. So, when I say multiple tight end sets, I mean 12, 21, and 13 personnel.)
Mike LaFleur’s overreliance on his tight ends has Jets fans wondering: why not run the offense through 11 personnel?
Well, because, in theory, 12 and 21 personnel can do wonders for both the team’s running and passing games. Especially in LaFleur’s scheme.
On the ground, 12 personnel creates extra gaps for the offense and allows the play-caller to insert lead blockers in any run scheme.
Through the air, 12 and 21 personnel force the defense to stay in base, which can cause some favorable mismatches for the passing game.
However, that is all theory.
More than anything, good players are necessary for the benefits of utilizing 12 and 21 personnel to materialize. For example, the 49ers are only successful on those packages because they have George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk.
The scheme is important, undeniably so. But adaptability is also a must. And, right now, LaFleur is failing to adapt to the Jets roster’s strengths.
It is not that LaFleur isn’t using 11 personnel enough. He is. But the Jets play-caller is failing to mix and match the team’s personnel packages in an unpredictable fashion.
Before criticizing LaFleur, it’s crucial to state that multiple tight sets are key for the Shanahan scheme. No one is denying this.
Still, there are ways to use them more effectively.
Playing predictable: teams know when the Jets will throw the ball
Jets fans have a fair point: this offense’s strength is at the wide receiver position.
And Mike LaFleur’s run/pass splits out of 11 personnel indicate that he knows it.
Through Week 6, the Jets are the team with the second-lowest running percentage out of 11 personnel in the league, at 21%. New York throws the ball 79% of the time they line up in eleven. It’s a very uneven split.
Defenses know: When the Jets go with three wide receivers, they are bound to throw the rock. Zach Wilson’s sack rate is a good indication of that.
The Jets have run 135 dropbacks in 11 personnel, compared to 49 in multiple tight end sets. Zach Wilson was sacked eighteen times total this season. Sixteen of them came in 11 personnel, while two were in multiple tight end sets.
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These numbers indicate that defenses expect the Jets to throw the ball when they line up with three wide receivers, allowing their pass rushers to play more freely.
LaFleur needs to work to change this perception.
Predictability is a killer for an offense that is built on misdirection and horizontal stretching.
There’s no problem in running the offense utilizing a 60/40 split in 11 personnel to multiple TE sets. LaFleur can make it work as long as he starts to take advantage of the passing game mismatches that 12 and 21 provide. There’s very little sense in utilizing heavy personnel to run the football and light personnel to throw it. Defenses are already expecting it.
Talking about Shanahan, his genius comes with his ability to design favorable pass plays out of 21 and 12 personnel by taking advantage of the slower, heavier players the defense has on the field.
If LaFleur isn’t willing to be creative in the passing game with his multiple tight ends, it doesn’t make sense to use them so much.
Through six weeks, the Jets are a team in which the opponents expect early-down runs out of 21 and 12 personnel and pass plays on third downs out of 11 personnel.
That’s not going to work in the NFL.
Mike LaFleur needs to adapt
Building a running game is a must in the Jets’ scheme. It’s the bottom line, where everything starts.
But LaFleur has to do it in a New York Jets way. This isn’t San Francisco. There is no George Kittle or Kyle Juszczyk. But there’s Elijah Moore, Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, etc.
How to adapt is a tough question, but take the Jets bread and butter run concept, the wide zone, for example.
The wide zone benefits from multiple tight end sets because it creates extra gaps upfront and offers the possibility of lead block ‘inserts’ in any run play.
Nonetheless, there are ways around it. Multiple tight ends do not provide the only way to run wide zone.
Take the following for example.
The Packers, last season, ran a good amount of orbit motions out of 11 to make backside defenders hesitate and create numbers advantage to the play side:
I've been thinking about which will be the #Jets go to personnel.
It's hard to run the widezone out of a 2 by 2 11 personnel set, but there are ways to do It out of eleven.
Loved this allignment by GB here. #32 could be Crowder on the orbit motion to the swing. 1/ pic.twitter.com/3JunNBc2x0
— Vitor (@VitorPaivaM) April 7, 2021
The Jets must start to build orbit and jet motion packages to enable the ground game to evolve out of three-receiver sets.
Elijah Moore is a player starving for touches that would thrive in this role.
In the end, LaFleur’s reliance on 12 and 21 personnel to get the job done is understandable. From where he came from, that’s how things worked.
But that’s not how the roster is set in New York.
All of the great creations and ideas in life are original. Copying isn’t enough – there must be some adaptation and originality.
The same goes for football. Schemes can be great, but they have to fit the situation.
LaFleur has the scheme. He just needs to mold it to his new reality.
He needs to mold it in a more “New York Jets” way.
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