Zach Wilson, Michael Carter, NY Jets, Stats, Mike LaFleur
Zach Wilson, Michael Carter, New York Jets, Getty Images

Mike LaFleur and the New York Jets are poised to fix a fatal flaw in their 2021 offense

New York Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur came into Florham Park looking to build an offense that relies heavily on the run game, just like the one he contributed heavily to as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

However, due to the team’s ineptitude on both sides of the ball, the Jets rarely got opportunities to establish their run game and frequently had to go into pass-first mode after falling into enormous holes on the scoreboard.

The Jets finished the 2021 season ranked eighth in pass-attempts-plus-sacks with 38.6 per game. They placed 32nd in rushing attempts with just 22.4 per game.

Ranking dead-last in rushing attempts is just not going to cut it in this offense.

It was a shame that the Jets couldn’t run the ball more often as they were actually fairly efficient when they did. New York ranked a respectable 13th with 4.4 yards per rush attempt. The Jets also placed 14th in the percentage of their rush attempts that resulted in a touchdown (3.7% with 14 TDs on 380 carries) and 11th in expected points added per rush attempt (+0.041 EPA/rush).

Despite their rushing success, New York finished with the third-highest pass-play percentage of any team in the NFL (63.3%), trailing only Pittsburgh (63.4%) and Tampa Bay (66.5%).

The severe lack of rushing attempts was one of the most fatal flaws for the New York offense in 2021. The Jets cannot be passing the ball at such a high frequency if they want to run LaFleur’s offense to perfection.

Now, I’m not sure the perfect version of this Jets offense features them being an extremely run-heavy team. With a talented quarterback like Zach Wilson who offers far more upside than the limited Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco, the Jets should not restrict the potential of their passing game by over-committing to the run.

In their peak form, I think the Jets will probably try to be a very balanced pass-run team, aiming to rank around league-average in their pass-run split.

For reference, in 2021, the league-average split between pass plays (pass attempts-plus-sacks) and rushing attempts was 57.9%/42.1%.

It makes sense to expect the Jets to end up somewhere around that ratio in 2022.

New York made substantial boosts to its running game. Pro Bowl left guard Laken Tomlinson is an excellent run-blocker who fits like a glove as he comes over from the San Francisco scheme. Tight ends C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin will greatly boost the team’s blocking at the tight end position. Finally, rookie running back Breece Hall will join forces with Michael Carter to create a formidable duo in the backfield.

With more talent also added to the defense, the Jets should be able to keep games closer than they did last year, giving them the opportunity to run the football deep into games.

The average NFL team accumulated 26.6 rushing attempts per game in 2021. I believe we’ll see the Jets finish somewhere in that neighborhood. About 27 rushes per game is what I’d expect.

On the flip side, their total of passing plays should see a slight decrease. If the Jets run the ball 27 times per game while holding true to the league-average 57.9%/42.1% pass-run split I mentioned earlier, then they would average 37.1 pass-attempts-plus-sacks per game.

This would give the Jets 64.1 total plays per game, a sizable improvement over their 28th-ranked average of 60.9 plays per game. An average of 64.1 plays per game would have ranked 12th-best in the NFL last year.

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It’s time to establish the run

If LaFleur’s offense is going to take the massive jump that many expect it to, then LaFleur must do a better job of establishing the run. But accomplishing that goal is not all on LaFleur’s shoulders – everybody needs to pitch in so LaFleur can have the chance to do so.

Loading up on rushing attempts is a team-wide effort. The defense needs to be better. The passing game needs to be better. And of course, the run game itself needs to be even better.

Fortunately, New York has the pieces in place to get all of those things done. LaFleur will likely have the opportunity to execute his idealistic offensive vision.

Let’s see if LaFleur can concoct the harmonious pass-run balance that the Jets have been striving to achieve for years.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds 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[at] - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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1 year ago

Good article. Thanks!

1 year ago

Back in 1995, I had the pleasure of meeting Leon Hess as he was being Inagurated to the NJ Sports Hall if Fame. In discussion, he asked me my thoughts on drafing Kyle Brady. I told him I wasn’t that happy because we don’t use our TEs all that much except to run block.

Fast forward 27 years and I am still waiting for the Jets to incorporate their TEs into a complete contributors to the offense; which leads us to today.

With the 3 additions to the TE Corp, I also agree that we have to be somewhere in the 52/50. We need to take some of the RB snaps and distribute them to the TEs. And with the increased talent at WR, I can see them being a balanced team rather than run oriented. Of course game to game, we can switch things up to play to an opponents weakness. the medical world a 5250 is an involuntary 14 day psychiatric hold……if we don’t incorporate the TEs this year, that’s exactly what will happen to me!!!!

John Plunkett
John Plunkett
1 year ago

I think the Jets need to be more balanced run/pass but the reality is that to do that requires a move that is a bit of an oxymoron.

We need to pass MORE on first down and threaten the opponent deep.

Part of the reason that the stats are the way they are is that LaFleur, especially early forced the run. RUN RUN PASS. With no threat of passing on first down, they put 8 in the box and we would wind up with tons of 3 and outs after 3rd and long. Invariably we would fall behind and to try and catch up we would need to throw the majority of the time.

If we want to run more and be more balanced we need to accomplish 2 things. Force them to have only 6 or 7 in the box and have a lead in the second half of games.

To do this you need to keep them from stacking the box on first down so first should be something like 60 % pass 40% run or even a little more skewed towards pass and we need to get them to respect the deep part of the field so we need to take some shots.

Doing this should allow us to dictate better how we handle 2nd and 3rd down with the idea that by not facing a stacked box we can get more 3rd and shorts and run MORE on 3rd down.

RUN RUN PASS kills offenses. If you want to be more balanced pass more early downs run on 3rd and when you have a lead.

1 year ago

To get the run going, the trenches have to be tip top! Now I have been saying to leave Becton on the left side and fant on the right next to AVT who is switching for the first time. Now you got road graders who will plow through the defense on run plays. I want Lawson vs. Becton part 2 in camp

1 year ago

I am excited to see a more potent offense on the field this year. I give every rookie a pass. History shows that rookies are usually less productive than their future selves. As a result of a more efficient offense, the defense will be on the sidelines. We had the worst of football last year. A weak offense that couldn’t sustain drives and an even weaker defense that couldn’t stop the other team. For the first time in a long time, I am confident that we are building a winner.

1 year ago

Nania, I have been doing a lot of thinking on the balance and I think closer to a 52/48 split is the best option for us. I think we need to be a little.more balanced to take advantage of out RBs and TEs. This YPA in pass game and YPC in run game. I think if we adhere to these numbers then we can have Zach over 4k in yeards and still have Breece around 1,100 yds and MC around 750 yds rushing each. Elijah at around 1150 yds receiving, Corey Davis around 900, GW around 800 yds. TEs around 1k total and backs around 600 to 750 yds. This would put Zach around 4500 yds. I know people say that is so much. Not really in today’s NFL and with an extra game. Thoughts

1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Nania

Thanks for responding as always. I definitely agree we should continue to pass more as Zach develops and take advantage of the passing rules in today’s NFL.

1 year ago

This was a great read, Michael. Thanks! With Breece Hall and Michael Carter getting the bulk of the carries, long runs will be a possibility again. Exciting stuff!