Mike LaFleur’s New York Jets offense is poised to spring forward in its second season
We’ve yet to see what additions the New York Jets will make to their offense in the 2022 NFL draft (or via trade), but it already appears clear that offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur‘s unit will be much better in its second season.
Here are the reasons why.
1. A year of experience for everyone
Growing pains were expected from the New York offense in 2021. Several rookies had important roles and were being led by a first-time offensive coordinator.
Despite low expectations, the immediate results were still disappointing. But the offense did significantly improve in the second half of the season.
Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur made massive strides following the bye week. After LaFleur moved up to the booth in Week 8, the Jets’ offense finally started to click. He showed off his creativity with one amazing trick play after the next.
Wow, this is some call by Jets OC Mike LaFleur. I guess it’s a new twist on the old hook and ladder play. Not sure I’ve ever seen this before. 👇
— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoSNY) December 19, 2021
LaFleur’s offense averaged 20.9 points per game from Week 8 onward after averaging just 13.3 points over its first six games.
More importantly, quarterback Zach Wilson made several improvements down the stretch. Wilson made the most progress protecting the ball. After returning from injury, he threw only two interceptions in seven games, including none in his final five.
All of the Jets’ 2021 offensive rookies showed progress throughout the year: Wilson, wide receiver Elijah Moore, running back Michael Carter, and guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. Each player is expected to build on their second-half improvements in 2022.
2. The Jets’ offense evolved through the 2021 season
LaFleur quickly learned that the Jets’ roster was very different compared to the one that he had at his disposal in San Francisco. He made several changes throughout the season to put his players in a position to succeed.
The first change was abandoning the two tight end sets. Tight ends Tyler Kroft and Ryan Griffin had little impact as receivers and were liabilities as blockers. So, LaFleur stopped relying on 12 personnel packages (1 RB/2 TE/2 WR) and started to get his best players on the field.
#Jets 2021 personnel usage
– 11 personnel: 59% (20th)
– 12 personnel: 36% (3rd)
– 11: 68% (18th)
– 10: 11% (1st)
– 12: 13% (26th)
With Uzomah/Conklin duo, Jets have the talent to comfortably operate their original heavy-12 plan
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) March 17, 2022
Next, the Jets made one of their most important changes for the future.
To start the season, wide receiver Elijah Moore was used primarily as a deep threat. The role was not working for Moore as he struggled to get on the same page with Wilson.
After the bye week, Moore was finally used to attack every level of the defense, and the results speak for themselves. Moore established himself as a franchise centerpiece and potential No. 1 receiver.
If Moore can maintain this level of play over a season, the Jets will already have their WR1.
Michael Carter had a similarly dominant run to finish the year. Over his final nine games, Carter averaged 81.7 scrimmage yards per game (52.7 rushing / 29.0 receiving) and rushed for 4.7 yards per carry.
In the four-week stretch from Weeks 8 to 11 (prior to an ankle injury that held him out for three games), Carter was third in the NFL in scrimmage yards (405) and fourth in missed tackles forced (20). Carter improved his efficiency as a rusher with 5.8 yards per carry and a ridiculous 36% forced missed tackle rate over that span.
He may owe some of that late-season success to the two players the Jets resigned.
Play: 👉 the Jet X Offseason Simulator
3. The spark that WR Braxton Berrios and FB Nick Bawden brought to the Jets’ offense
Yes, you read that right. Fullback Nick Bawden brought a massive spark to the Jets’ offense.
While fullbacks are a dying breed, Bawden’s value to the Jets is clear. In the six games where Bawden played at least 10% of snaps, the Jets rushed for a dominant 133.3 yards per game. He paved the way for many productive runs.
In the 11 games where Bawden played less than 10% of the snaps, including two late-season games, the Jets only rushed for 78.8 yards per game.
Meanwhile, Braxton Berrios gave the Jets’ offense a desperately needed spark. Defenses had to respect him when he went into motion, which opened up opportunities for others.
Berrios had an outstanding finish to the season. Among 58 wide receivers with at least 30 targets over the last seven weeks, Berrios had the fifth-highest overall Pro Football Focus grade (87.3). More impressively, he had zero drops.
4. Tight ends C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin will fully unlock Mike LaFleur’s scheme
From purely a comparative standpoint, the Jets have gotten massive upgrades over what they had at the tight end position last year. Conklin alone outproduced the entire Jets’ entire tight end room in every receiving category in 2021. Meanwhile, Uzomah is one of the NFL’s most dynamic tight ends after the catch.
C.J. Uzomah took his YAC game to a new level in 2021
– 10 missed tackles forced (T-8th among TE)
– 6.1 YAC per reception (10th / 35 TEs)
– 298 total YAC (11th)
He was one of 5 TEs with 6.0+ YAC/rec and 10+ missed tackles forced, joining:
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) March 14, 2022
Conklin and Uzomah are also solid blockers.
Just Conklin blocking Chandler Jones 1v1 giving Cousins enough time to hit his WR for a 60+ yard TD pic.twitter.com/AmJy6GMBfs
— Joe Blewett (@Joerb31) March 18, 2022
LaFleur will finally be able to use the two-tight end sets that he hoped to carry over from his time with Kyle Shanahan.
5. The offensive line may be complete
Tomlinson is a massive upgrade at guard compared to Greg Van Roten. Over the last two seasons with the 49ers, Tomlinson has been one of the best left guards in the NFL.
Arguably as important, he’s also extremely durable. Tomlinson has never missed an NFL game due to injury.
Meanwhile, Becton had sky-high expectations going into his second season before a knee injury ended his season in Week 1.
Vera-Tucker flashed elite ability as a rookie. His biggest highlights came in the run game. In year one, he ranked 17th among 63 qualified guards with a 72.5 run block grade.
There were some growing pains for Vera-Tucker in pass protection. If he can take a year-two jump as a pass-blocker, he could become a star. In college, Vera-Tucker was an elite pass protector while playing tackle, so I have faith he’ll make a big leap in 2022.
The final piece is tackle George Fant. The former basketball player uses his elite athleticism to dominate in pass protection. There were few tackles who provided better protection in 2021.
— Jets X-Factor (@jetsxfactor) January 4, 2022
With a late start to his football career and superb athleticism, he has the opportunity to sustain or even improve upon his performance despite turning 30 years old in July.
In the end, Douglas has finally delivered on his promise to build through the trenches. If Becton and Vera-Tucker improve on their rookie seasons, the Jets will have a top 10 offensive line.
What should Jets fans expect from the offense in 2022?
Between the additions this offseason and the growth we saw throughout 2021, the Jets offense should take a significant leap in 2022.
If LaFleur’s personal growth through 2021 wasn’t already enough, he will be fully unlocked in 2022 now that he has the necessary ingredients at his fingertips. The combination of his creativity and Shanahan’s scheme will bring out the best of Wilson and the rest of the offense.
Most notably, the Jets’ run game is set to make a massive improvement. The Jets finally have two competent tight ends and a potential top 10 offensive line. All of the pieces are together to emulate the 49ers’ scheme.
This will also make Wilson’s life much easier. The Jets will be far more effective in play-action, giving him easy looks. 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been extremely effective in this system despite his limitations. Imagine what LaFleur could do with a quarterback as talented as Wilson.
Moore is also primed for the second-year breakout that we have commonly seen from young receivers in recent history. In 2021, four second-year receivers broke 1,000 yards after falling short of the mark as a rookie. Moore showed more than enough potential to suggest he is capable of making a similar leap.
With four top 40 picks in the 2022 draft, Douglas still has a chance to take his offensive overhaul to the next level. However, there are already plenty of reasons for Jets fans to feel confident that they will witness immense progress on the offensive side of the ball in 2022.