Mike LaFleur and the New York Jets should decrease their usage of empty formations
“Why are you in empty? At least show the threat of a run…”
It feels like New York Jets fans are barking this statement extraordinarily often in 2022.
And the data backs it up. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur loves to use empty formations – i.e. an offensive formation in which the QB is alone in the backfield. In fact, the Jets use them more than any other team in the NFL.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the Jets have used an empty formation on a league-high 14.1% of their offensive plays. They have gone empty on a league-leading total of 133 plays, an average of 8.9 plays per game. For comparison, the league-average team goes empty on 8.2% of their plays and 5.1 plays per game.
Here’s the major problem: New York is not generating the required results to warrant such a heavy reliance on empty formations.
The Jets have a success rate* of 33.8% when using empty formations, which ranks sixth-worst in the NFL and is nearly 10% below the league average of 43.5%.
*A successful play is defined as gaining at least 40% of the required yardage on 1st down, at least 50% on 2nd down, or getting the conversion on 3rd/4th down.
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LaFleur is particularly fond of empty formations on third down. New York has gone empty on 30.0% of its third-down plays this year, almost double the league average of 15.2%.
Yet, the Jets’ empty formations are even more terrible than usual on third down. The Jets have a 23.8% success rate when going empty on third down, which ranks sixth-worst and is nearly 14% below the league average of 37.6%.
The Jets’ empty formations are at their least effective on first down. The Jets have gone empty on 6.1% of their first down plays, ranking seventh-highest (NFL average is 5.0%), but their 33.3% success rate on these plays ranks fifth-worst and is almost 16% below the NFL average of 49.2%.
These are some staggering disparities. It’s malpractice to utilize something at a league-high rate despite continuously getting poor results out of them.
Even Mike White has been unable to facilitate good results out of empty formations. During White’s tenure as the starter from Weeks 12-14, the Jets still had a success rate of 30.0% when using empty formations, which is worse than their season average of 33.8%.
No matter who is at quarterback, the Jets’ empty formations are not working. It’s time to scrap them.
I would encourage Mike LaFleur to significantly decrease his usage of empty formations going forward. Keep someone in the backfield alongside the quarterback. Maintain the threat of a run. This passing attack isn’t nearly good enough to beat a defense that knows a pass is coming.