Mike LaFleur’s unit has a lot of talent, but his scheme needs these three specific players to perform well
After a long wait, football is back. It was an entertaining offseason for the New York Jets, snagging three first-round picks and signing multiple coveted free agents. No matter the angle one’s looking from, it’s a fact that the Jets improved from 2021 to 2022.
It means nothing, though, if the acquired players can’t translate their talents to the field. Football is a scheme-oriented game. Most players need a specific role to excel and schemes need specific players in order to function.
That’s the case with the Jets offense, a 21st-century version of the Shanahan scheme. From Mike to Kyle, to the LaFleurs, the scheme deployed by the Jets has particular ways to attack defenses.
I list three players below that will be key to making this scheme work, but might not be seen as obvious X-factors to those who are not familiar with the Jets.
Every time I watched a Jets game last season, I thought to myself: this team needs a move tight end. Actually, the 2021 Jets needed a tight end, period, but a move tight end is a very important piece for this offense to be unpredictable.
Enter Tyler Conklin into the fold.
Conklin, 26, was a fifth-round pick for the Minnesota Vikings in 2018 out of Central Michigan and is the move tight end the Jets needed.
Conklin has light feet, good body control and excellent hands. He can line up in the slot, in line, outside to force mismatches vs. man, and move pre-snap or at the snap. His move ability will make him an asset for the Jets’ ground game.
The Jets, one should not forget, want to run the ball outside. Despite varying a lot late last season, New York deploys an outside run-oriented offense. Tight ends are extra important because they can create extra gaps, which allows the offense to stretch the defense easily.
A player like Conklin, on the other hand, gives the Jets a plus. He’s the perfect counterpunch to the outside-zone run, which will help keep defenses honest.
Tyler Conklin is mobile, balanced and aggressive enough to pull on counter plays and cross on split zone runs, which will do wonders for the unpredictability of the Jets’ running game. And his ability with the ball in his hands will prevent defenses from overreacting to his post-snap movement because No. 83 can always catch it in the flat and turn upfield.
In short, Conklin will be an asset for the Jets pre-snap (on the move, he can help Wilson ID coverage, for instance) and post-snap, as his ability to block on the move and produce after the catch will help keep opposing defenses honest.
Braxton Berrios, a fan favorite, is also an important piece of LaFleur’s scheme. First and foremost, he’s a guy Zach Wilson trusts. Secondly, he plays a crucial role in this offense, which helped change things up later last season: he’s the jet motion guy.
After signing a two-year, $12,000,000 contract with the team, Berrios has more expectations placed upon him.
He’s going to be an integral part of this offense, and I predict we might see him getting snaps over a few bigger-name guys in 12 personnel (1 back, 2 tight ends) because of his edge-threatening ability.
Berrios is crucial because he can jet motion every snap and help open up gaps for the Jets’ ground game (and also be effective with the ball in his hands).
But the problem with having a player responsible for jetting off the edge all the time is that will be useless in some plays, and the Jets definitely don’t want Moore and Wilson to be a decoy 50% of the time they are on the field.
Enter Berrios, who is a very good role player, dynamic with the ball in his hands, and can be called upon in the starting lineup when needed.
No. 10 is the guy that allows all the other receivers to do what they do best by handling the jet-motion duties – which he does with excellence – and making the most every time the ball touches his hand.
His performance will be crucial for the success of Mike LaFleur’s run-first scheme.
This one is not so “non-obvious” but, boy, is Mekhi Becton important for this offense.
Hitting on it again because it cannot be said enough: the Jets want to run the ball. And to the outside.
Usually, in a heavy boot scheme, the offensive coordinator wants to run to the opposing side of the quarterback’s throwing hand (run left, considering Wilson), so he can boot more comfortably when needed.
The Jets, then, when in 11 or 21 personnel, will probably line up C.J. Uzomah on the left and go from there. And that’s when Becton enters the fold.
As a defense, when the Jets line up a tight end on the left side of their line, you must compensate for that with your alignment. Linemen and backers will shift to their right so they can control the extra gap created easily.
That will be gold for the Jets with Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker on the right. LaFleur will be able to run weak and, especially, give Zach Wilson “kill” freedom at the line to change the side of the run action.
Again, in an offense that starts on the ground and wants to make everything look the same, anything that helps unpredictability is crucial. A strong right side of Becton and AVT could do wonders and help the Jets have easy ways out of unfavorable defensive looks, especially on early downs.
For that to happen, Becton needs to stay on the field (which I hope and believe he will) alongside Vera-Tucker, forming the highest-ceiling G/T duo in the league.