Elijah Moore, Michael Carter, NY Jets
Elijah Moore, Michael Carter, New York Jets, Getty Images

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.

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.

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.

Elijah Moore, Weeks 8-13, 2022, Stats, NY Jets
Elijah Moore, New York Jets, Getty Images

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.

New York Jets, Mock Draft Simulator, Offseason Tool, Jets X-Factor, Deebo Samuel

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

The impact of newly-signed tight ends C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin cannot be understated.

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.

Conklin and Uzomah are also solid blockers.

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

The signing of guard Laken Tomlinson may have fulfilled Joe Douglas‘ goal to win in the trenches. Depending on health, the Jets have five starters who are no worse than average.

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.

The Jets will also get center Connor McGovern and tackle Mekhi Becton back from injury. McGovern was graded as a top 10 center in 2021 before an injury ended his season in Week 16.

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.

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.

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ncjetsfan
ncjetsfan
5 months ago

Excellent article. Thanks!

rex
rex
5 months ago

“There were few tackles who provided better protection in 2021.”

There were also few tackles who faced the piss poor competition at DE/OLB that Fant did in 2021.

Peter Buell
Peter Buell
5 months ago

Ik his 2020 wasn’t even average but Joe Douglass’ 2021 was a home run netting 5 starters out of the draft.
So far in 2022, he solidified the O-line with Tomlinson taking away the need to draft O-line at 4 or 10. A 3rd rounder who needs a yearbor two is fine. He can still draft O-line if looking down the road but it’s no longer a must.
Two of the top 3 TE available are wearing green and white and as the article said opened the 12 package with 2 top 12 TEs.
Deebo Samuel is the new wr target for JD to pursue. Deebo put up 1400+ yards 6 td and over 18 ypc in 2021.
Samuel wants to get in the $25m neighborhood but will most likely wind up at $21-$22. I trust Joe to not get fleeced. He has been amazing on the selling side with 2 first rounders and a third from Seattle for an overreated overpaid safety in Adams and a 2nd and 5th for what was considered and later proven a dud in Sam Darnold.
Two firsts, a second, a third and a 5th for two guys getting paid $40m+ this year without the production.
Now get Deebo! #35 and #69 would be worth it. A 2nd and 5th and it’s another steal.
Joe also sure up safety and corner now need to get the D to close to average through this draft.
JD brought in 5 starters in last years draft. If he can bring in a starting EDGE LB CB S this year….well we will be closer than anyone could have expected.
I think 2023 starts the playoff run, but 2022 should be a ton of fun

ncjetsfan
ncjetsfan
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter Buell

JD brought in a starting CB in Reed. IMO CB is not a need in the draft. DT is a much bigger need. The Jets struggled vs the run last year, and the CS attributes much of that to the play of the DTs who played beside Q Williams. The LBs, Safeties and CBs also contributed to that. Whitehead and Reed should help in that regard, as should getting Sherwood and Nasirildeen back. Add Travis Jones in the 2nd and a LB like Muma, and the run D should be very good again.

If the Jets add a CB, I’d like for it to be Zyon McCollum in the 4th/5th round.

I’d rather not trade for Samuel. He’s a great player, but I’d rather draft a WR and then be able to draft a S like Lewis Cine and DT like Travis Jones, and then a LB in the 3rd round, than have to miss out on two of those players, and instead of taking a WR at #10 or following a trade down.

Robert Papalia
Robert Papalia
5 months ago

The Jets still need to draft a wide receiver in this upcoming draft. Zach Wilson needs all the help he can get.