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Mike LaFleur’s malleability is helping the New York Jets surge

New York Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur was not a popular man early in his rookie season as a play-caller. When New York had 20 points and two touchdowns through three games – including three points and zero touchdowns in first halves – many fans were already fed up with him.

Two months later, LaFleur’s approval rating is through the roof.

Since LaFleur moved up to the press box to call plays in Week 8, the Jets are averaging 435.8 yards of total offense per game, which leads the NFL over that span.

While a decent chunk of that production has been accumulated in garbage time, the Jets’ offense still looks great even when you account for the garbage time production boost. They are moving the football efficiently throughout all four quarters. Here is where they rank in yards per play by quarter from Weeks 8-11:

  • First quarter: 5.8 yards per play (7th)
  • Second quarter: 6.7 yards per play (3rd)
  • Third quarter: 7.3 yards per play (3rd)
  • Fourth quarter: 5.3 yards per play (12th)

LaFleur’s location in the stadium is not the only reason for the offense’s explosion. He has shown tremendous malleability throughout the season, changing up a number of different things to help the offense fulfill its potential.

A completely re-worked approach to personnel deployment is the highlight of LaFleur’s adjustments.

Mike LaFleur has altered his personnel usage to match New York’s talent

One glance at the Jets’ offensive depth chart makes it clear: the Jets have a lot more talent at wide receiver than tight end.

The Jets’ early-season personnel deployment did not reflect that.

Prior to their bye week (Weeks 1-5), the Jets used 11 personnel (1 RB/1 TE/3 WR) on 59% of their offensive plays, ranking 20th in the NFL. The 11 personnel package includes three wide receivers on the field and is primarily used to facilitate the passing game. It is popular among teams whose talent pool leans toward the wide receiver position, such as the Rams, Bengals, and Bills.

Conversely, the Jets were running 12 personnel (1 RB/2 TE/2 WR) on 36% of their plays, which ranked third-highest. The 12 personnel package removes a third wide receiver in favor of a second tight end. It is typically used to facilitate the run game by placing more size on the field and to run play-action passes off the threat of the run game.

Leaning toward heavier personnel packages mirrors the philosophies of the Shanahan scheme that LaFleur hails from, but with his new team, it did not make sense for LaFleur to place a premium on tight ends while devaluing his wide receivers. That is the opposite of what the talent on New York’s roster calls for.

It quickly became clear that LaFleur needed to mold his approach to fit his players.

And that’s what he did.

Since the bye week (Weeks 7-11), the Jets have boosted their 11 personnel usage rate to 65%, ranking 12th.

An increase in 11 personnel is not the only way that the Jets are getting their wide receivers on the field more often. LaFleur also added the pass-happy 10 personnel package (1 RB/0 TE/4 WR) as a new wrinkle in the Jets’ scheme.

The 10 personnel package puts maximum speed on the field, calling for no tight ends, one running back, and four wide receivers. It is often utilized in “empty” sets, which feature five players flexed out wide and nobody in the backfield alongside the quarterback. LaFleur has been calling plenty of empty sets with 10 personnel, and he will often have the running back motion out of the backfield as a coverage indicator in these situations.

New York leads the league with a 10 personnel usage rate of 13% since Week 7, sending it out on 43 total plays (8.6 per game). Prior to their bye week, the Jets used 10 personnel on one play.

The 12 personnel package has been greatly minimized in New York’s offense. It has been deployed just 12% of the time since Week 7, ranking 26th.

LaFleur’s increase in 11 and 10 personnel has worked wonders for both the passing game and the run game. Here is a look at some of the Jets’ efficiency numbers by personnel package over their hot streak from Weeks 8-11:

  • 11 personnel: 95.3 passer rating, 4.4 yards per rush attempt
  • 10 personnel: 92.7 passer rating, 4.4 yards per rush attempt
  • 12 personnel: 57.7 passer rating, 3.4 yards per rush attempt

The New York offense is finally operating in a way that maximizes the talent at its disposal. Give LaFleur credit for moving away from his roots and adapting to the circumstances.

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Michael Nania is the best analytical New York Jets mind in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania@jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania

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