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Nathaniel Hackett is perfect OC to unlock NY Jets RB Breece Hall

Nathaniel Hackett, NY Jets, OC, Breece Hall
Nathaniel Hackett, New York Jets, Breece Hall, Getty Images, Jet X Graphic

The New York Jets should give Breece Hall more opportunities to shine as a route runner, and Nathaniel Hackett is the perfect man to do it

I was rewatching some film from the New York Jets‘ Week 3 game against the Cincinnati Bengals (yes, I am a glutton for torture), and something caught my eye: Breece Hall has some tantalizing potential as a route runner.

Hall ran two crisp routes against Cincinnati that impressed the heck out of me.

On the first play, Hall comes out of the backfield and draws a one-on-one against a linebacker – scorching him on the angle route. Hall squares him up, skips toward him, throws an outside fake, and then breaks inside. After the catch, Hall bounces off defenders for oodles of YAC.

On the second play, Hall flexes out wide and runs a slant against a safety on third-and-short. This play might look routine at first, but there are so many nuanced details to this route that I love. These are traits that would be impressive for a wide receiver, let alone a running back.

Instead of just darting inside, which would tip his hand and allow the safety to beat him to the spot, Hall stems toward the safety for the first few steps, keeping him honest. Then, Hall gives a slight hesitation before breaking sharply to the inside, just beyond the first-down marker. (Side note: the quickness of his break is stellar.) Hall proceeds to show excellent route-running awareness and feel as he settles into the soft spot between the two defenders. Hall snags a pass thrown slightly behind him and dives forward for extra yards, ensuring he picks up the first down.

So much to love in just two plays.

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I continued combing through Hall’s film in search of more stellar route-running moments, but I couldn’t find anything particularly notable. That’s not because the two plays seen above were outliers for Hall in regard to his consistency as a route runner. It’s because the Jets hardly ever placed him in those positions. Generally, all Hall ever did in the passing game was block or serve as a checkdown option. The Jets didn’t give him many opportunities to create offense as a route runner.

In my opinion, the Jets missed out by not giving Hall more chances to flex his route running muscles. I believe there is a ton of untapped potential for Hall in this area.

Using Hall more frequently as a route runner would be a great way to create opportunities for him to utilize his special after-the-catch skills. Hall forced eight missed tackles on just 19 receptions in 2022. That’s an average of 0.421 missed tackles forced per reception, which ranked third-best out of 61 qualified running backs (min. 15 receptions).

Specifically speaking, giving Hall a greater quantity of in-breaking routes (like the two we watched above) would be an especially good path to unleashing Hall’s open-field skills. The first of those two plays is the perfect example. Give Hall the ball with a head of steam toward the middle of the field and let him work his magic. I think downfield routes are a better way to let him cook than screen passes, which give him the ball in a stationary position behind the line of scrimmage.

The Jets have themselves a special offensive weapon in Breece Hall. And when you have a weapon of Hall’s caliber, it’s smart to utilize him in many different ways rather than simply force-feed him rush attempts and screen passes. Move him around the formation. Create mismatches for him. Keep defenses on their toes.

I was in the middle of writing this article when the Jets announced they hired Nathaniel Hackett as their offensive coordinator. Prior to this, I was just going to conclude the article by merely stating that the new OC hire, whoever it would be, should give Hall more chances to run routes.

But once the Hackett hire was announced, I quickly realized that Hackett might be the perfect man to unlock Hall in this part of the game.

During his three years as the offensive coordinator in Green Bay, Hackett did a stellar job of featuring his running backs in the aerial attack. Take a look at the receiving numbers accumulated by the Packers’ running backs from 2019 to 2021, and where those numbers ranked across the NFL:

  • Targets per game: 6.3 (4th)
  • Receptions per game: 5.0 (4th)
  • Receiving yards per game: 40.4 (4th)
  • Total receiving touchdowns: 19 (2nd)
  • Receiving yards per target: 6.5 (9th)

The Packers targeted their running backs very frequently and produced efficient results when doing so. Most notable of all, they loved targeting their running backs in the red zone. Green Bay’s running backs caught an average of 6.3 touchdowns per season during Hackett’s tenure.

Jets fans have been deprived of seeing their running backs involved in the passing game, especially in the red zone. Over the past three seasons, the Jets’ running backs combined for just four receiving touchdowns, ranking 31st in the league (ahead of only the Raiders’ three).

Breece Hall can be one of the best receiving backs in the NFL. Nathaniel Hackett just may be the right man to help Hall fulfill that potential.

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Peter Buell
1 year ago

Unlike about 90% of Jets fans who have posted here there and everywhere, I like the hire.
There was an article elsewhere that did nothing but use every combination of word salads to describe how bad Hackett has been.
Then proceeds to put up his team’s numbers as a head coach and OC.
. I don’t know weather he wrote these at different times but the numbers bear out Hackett has improved teams and had success as an OC.
Confusing head coach ability and running one side of the game are two different animals.
There were alot of buts in there…Hackett numbers may look good..but.. The entire article was one huge contradiction…best example was regarding Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers had his worst season as a pro last year after winning the MVP the year prior.
Green Bay is selling high on Rodgers…What?? I thought he just had his worst season.
Hackett was the OC in the MVP year then left to head coach Denver. His record in 3 years in Green Bay was 39-10 2-3 in playoffs…
Granted he wasn’t the head coach but Hackett’s 39-10 record in his 3 years there was the best in Green Bay history.
Maybe we have the right guy and just don’t know it yet?

1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Buell

Thanks for posting this, as you see I’m not a fan. I need some hope.

1 year ago

Let us not forget that Nathaniel Hackett is the son of Paul Hackett who was QB coach for the 49ers for a few years in the glory days of Joe Montana and Roger Craig. So, maybe the West coast offense is in his blood. A big part of that offense is short, quick passes to running backs and slants to wide receivers. It’s more about hitting the receiver right in stride when he has position on the defender so that he can gain a step and run through a seam in the defense, kind of “throwing them open,” rather than waiting for the receiver to get separation in an open space, which often never develops. Problem is, for the system to work the QB has to be very decisive and precise in timing and placement. I know everybody supposedly “knows” this but in my opinion, very few have actually executed the West coast offense as it was originally designed and executed by the Niners.

1 year ago

A) I have never liked this guys since he blew that AFC Championship game in NE.
B) His offense last season was an unmitigated disaster, included not being able to score inside the 10.
C) I’m sorry to feel this way but I feel like Saleh just got himself fired. I don’t see how this ends well.
D) Unlike Michael, I WOULD be surprised if the Jets’ QB next year was Carr or Rogers.

Mike Palazzo
Mike Palazzo
1 year ago

Could this be a sign that they are trying to target Rogers as QB? What’s your take?