Mike LaFleur will have to find ways to get everyone involved in the New York Jets offense
Jets fans have endured bad offensive play for a long time, whether it be due to poor quarterback play, bad play calling, or any number of other reasons. Above all, one thing has been a constant for the Jets offense in the past few years: An overall lack of talent.
Sam Darnold had to deal with little to no help in his first years, trusting on career backup players to perform like starters. Even Mark Sanchez suffered with a poor supporting cast at the end of his Jets tenure, especially after Santonio Holmes got hurt.
In today’s NFL, where it’s all about the offense, a team can’t afford to lack playmakers. The Jets brass knows it. They addressed the issue this offseason, and it’s safe to say that the dog days are over. It’s a new era in New York: playmakers are here.
Joe Douglas understands that today’s NFL is all about explosive plays. Arguably the four best teams in the NFL – Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills, and Kansas City Chiefs – have the four most explosive offenses in the league. Defenses have little to no shot nowadays, so getting ahead quickly on the scoreboard can do wonders for them.
That’s why Douglas preferred Garrett Wilson over other receivers in the draft, and that’s why the Jets took Breece Hall in the second round despite already having a do-it-all back in Michael Carter: they needed explosiveness.
Thanks to Douglas’ approach, the Jets now have a ton of playmakers on offense, no matter the position: wide receiver, tight end, running back.
Unfortunately, not all of those guys can reach the field at the same time. It’s eleven guys per play. And of those eleven, only five are eligible to touch the ball beside the quarterback. That means Mike LaFleur will have to leave some good guys out to get other good guys in – which is a good problem to have.
In 2021, I felt, at times, that LaFleur couldn’t run the offense he wanted, especially on early downs. The Jets lacked talent at tight end, and it was evident that they couldn’t run effectively using heavier personnel.
Things will change a bit this season, I suppose. Below, I predict the 3 most used personnel groupings for the Jets, in decrescent order.
#1: 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR)
The only team in the NFL that didn’t have 11 personnel (1 back, 1 TE) as its most-used grouping in 2021 was the Miami Dolphins (12 personnel, 61% of the time). The league lives in 11, and it won’t be different for the 2022 Jets.
New York’s big three (Garrett Wilson, Elijah Moore, Corey Davis), should be on the field on the majority of the snaps. That will be done through 11 personnel, with Davis playing the X receiver role, Wilson as the Z, and Moore in the slot (H).
The question mark here is who should get the most reps at the tight end spot. The Jets probably signed C.J. Uzomah to be the starter, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Tyler Conklin, due to his versatility, steal some of his snaps.
With Moore, Wilson, and Davis on the field together, the Jets have the complete package: a field stretcher (Wilson), a great route-runner (Moore), and a physical receiver (Davis).
Gang Green went with 11 personnel on 61% of their offensive snaps in 2021 and it would be surprising if they don’t reach 60% again this season.
#2: 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR)
In 2021, the Jets used 12 personnel on 20% of the offense’s snaps, but that number dropped to 12% from Weeks 10-18, per Sharp Football Stats. That was when Mike LaFleur decided to implement Braxton Berrios in the offense and abandon the heavy tight end approach on early downs, which worked wonders.
With Uzomah and Conklin, 12 personnel (1 back, 2 tight ends) is going to be used more often; I believe a bit higher than the 20% average from last season, around the 25% range (1 in every 4 plays). Conklin’s ability to line up in the slot, outside, in-line, or in the backfield makes the usage of 12 personnel very appealing for LaFleur.
The former Viking, due to his good balance and low center of gravity, will be able to handle some snaps in the backfield, functioning as a split or lead blocker in some of the Jets’ concepts. Therefore, New York won’t need to put a fullback on the field to have a fullback most of the time. Conklin will be able to handle those duties effectively while also presenting a true threat as a pass catcher for defenses.
One wrinkle that I predict: the Jets will look to run the ball or set up the play-action with both Conklin and Uzomah on the field, which makes me think that Berrios will be one of the 2 receivers in this group on a lot of occasions. His ability to stretch the defense horizontally is crucial for this running game and will help open up even more lanes in 12 personnel.
While 12 personnel will be frequently used in early downs, it should not be the Jets’ go-to group. This team’s explosive talent is at wide receiver, and LaFleur should be creative to get as many of those guys together on the field.
#3: 4-receiver sets (10 personnel and 01 personnel)
No one predicted it prior to the 2021 season, but the Jets used 10 personnel (1 RB, 0 TE, 4 WR) on 8% of their snaps, which ranked as the second-highest rate in the league. On the other hand, LaFleur deployed 01 personnel (0 RB, 1 TE, 4 WR) on only 12 plays, making up 1% of the snaps.
Such high usage of 10 personnel is not typical for a Shanahan offense, but as mentioned before, LaFleur had to adjust. New York’s tight end room wasn’t capable of handling run-heavy duties and it showed on the field.
I believe the Jets should use 10/01 personnel with the same frequency they did last season, focusing on two specific occasions: (i) against zone-heavy defenses on early downs, isolating either Braxton Berrios or Elijah Moore on underneath LBs in empty sets; and (ii) in the red zone, especially around the 20 yard-line, with Denzel Mims on the field.
The Jets need to use Mims, Davis, and Uzomah’s size to their advantage in this area, where everything is tighter and shorter. As a matter of fact, that could be Mims’ role this season: red zone threat. Using 4-receiver sets to spread the defense out is a good way to accomplish that, as it will help isolate him against smaller defenders.
In the end, no matter the group, the Jets are going to have talented players on the field. It’s on them to execute, and it’s on LaFleur to put them in favorable spots constantly.