NY Jets, C.J. Uzomah, Jeremy Ruckert
C.J. Uzomah, Jeremy Ruckert, Zach Wilson, New York Jets, Getty Images

It doesn’t have to be this way for the New York Jets

With no Aaron Rodgers, no Alijah Vera-Tucker, no Corey Davis, and multiple other key losses on offense, there isn’t a single soul in the world (at least a sane one) who expects the New York Jets to be a good offensive team, or even an above-average one.

But scoring zero touchdowns in 11 consecutive quarters is nothing short of inexcusable in the modern offense-friendly NFL. That’s true no matter who you’re up against, but it’s especially true when you do it against three opponents who combine for an average ranking of 24th in points allowed per drive.

To go even further than that, the Jets have not put together a touchdown drive of more than one play since their Week 4 game against Kansas City. They’ve scored only three offensive touchdowns since then and each of them were one-play drives. On the year, they have a measly four multi-play touchdown drives. Four! Again, inexcusable. The Jets may not be capable of being a great offensive team, but they are certainly capable of being far more competent than this.

Sometimes we throw the word “inexcusable” around too lightly. By definition, the word means “too bad to be justified or tolerated.” In other words, if an action is truly “inexcusable,” there should be consequences.

While we outsiders view the Jets’ offensive performance as inexcusable, the Jets themselves have not seemed to agree. They have viewed the offensive woes as plenty excusable, as they have hardly done anything to hold people accountable for the offensive struggles. Ten weeks into the season, they’re scoring more points per drive than only the pitiful Giants, and yet, nobody has faced consequences.

But it looks like the Jets may have finally reached a tipping point.

Speaking to the media on Monday, head coach Robert Saleh said “We’re looking at some personnel changes that I’m going to keep here with me.”

Zach Wilson is not getting benched. Nathaniel Hackett is not getting fired. So, these topics aren’t worth discussing here.

While the Jets are stuck with their QB/OC combo for now, there are still a number of other changes they can make to improve the offense’s chances of succeeding, and it appears New York is finally considering these changes.

They should not merely “look” at these changes though. If they are taking themselves seriously, they have to make these changes.

These three personnel changes are a necessity for the Jets.

1. Bench C.J. Uzomah

The Jets’ C.J. Uzomah conundrum goes all the way back to the day they signed him.

Uzomah inked a three-year, $24 million deal with the Jets in 2022, which immediately seemed like a hefty price tag for a guy who had been a blocking tight end for most of his career (not even a great one, at that) and just had a “career year” where he still only averaged 30.8 yards per game (21st among TE). Tyler Conklin‘s film and production suggested he was a better player than Uzomah, and yet he signed for three years and $20.3 million. Uzomah was clearly overpaid.

Uzomah was never going to live up to that price tag, but he still seemed like a player who would provide a decent impact as a mid-level receiver and blocker at the tight end position. The Jets had arguably the league’s worst tight end unit before they signed Uzomah and Conklin, so they probably overbid on Uzomah just to ensure they could get a tight end who had a pulse, which is still a big upgrade over what they had in 2021 (it’s important to note Uzomah was signed two days earlier than Conklin). Uzomah’s revered off-field impact also likely contributed to the overpay.

But Uzomah’s first season was a disaster. He barely contributed as a receiver, averaging 15.5 yards per game with two touchdowns despite playing 53% of the Jets’ offensive snaps. More importantly, he was poor as a blocker, especially in the run game.

Luckily for the Jets, they drafted a tight end in the third round of the 2022 draft, Jeremy Ruckert. Thanks to this selection, they entered 2023 with an up-and-coming prospect waiting in the wings to replace the disappointing Uzomah. The Jets had an easy opportunity to bench Uzomah and replace him with a younger player who could hardly be worse but had all the potential in the world to be better.

For whatever reason, the Jets have pretty much ignored this easy solution. While Ruckert has gotten far more playing time than last year, playing 28% of the Jets’ offensive snaps, he gets out-snapped by Uzomah on a weekly basis despite Uzomah’s continuously poor performance.

Uzomah is a non-factor as a pass catcher, averaging 6.4 yards per game despite playing 40% of the Jets’ offensive snaps. As a blocker, he remains as much of a liability as he was in 2022.

This has been especially noticeable in recent weeks. In the Jets’ loss to the Chargers, Uzomah allowed a red-zone sack that prevented Zach Wilson from potentially targeting Garrett Wilson in the end zone. In the Jets’ loss to the Raiders, Uzomah had two holding penalties that wiped out positive plays, one of those being a Breece Hall touchdown.

It’s frustrating to watch the Jets stubbornly insist on trotting Uzomah out there when they have an easy replacement available in Ruckert. It’s even more frustrating because the writing has been on the wall for so long. Not only was Uzomah a poor player for all of 2022, but even in the 2023 preseason, he showed signs that nothing was going to change in 2023.

Uzomah then proceeded to make killer mistakes as a blocker in each of the Jets’ first two games.

The Jets should have known it was time to bench Uzomah after the last game of 2022. They should have known after the preseason. They should have known after Week 2.

Yet, here we are in mid-November and Uzomah is still out there killing the team. It’s mind-boggling. Clearly, the Jets are showing favoritism to a veteran just because they spent a lot of money on him and he is a favorite in the locker room. If a seventh-round pick or street free agent played at Uzomah’s level, he would have been sent to the curb a long time ago.

All players should be held equally accountable regardless of experience or the investment that was made in them. It’s long overdue for the Jets to admit they messed up with Uzomah and just get him off the field.

Any and all 2-TE packages must include only Conklin and Ruckert. If the Jets want to go 3-TE at times, then sure, throw Uzomah out there, but is there no scenario where it makes sense to have Uzomah on the field and Ruckert on the bench.

2. Optimize the RB usage: More Hall on third down, start using Abanikanda

The Jets are not using their running backs in an optimal way. It’s due to more than simply their usage of Dalvin Cook.

Michael Carter is also being overused. Carter has played 25% of the Jets’ offensive snaps. Nearly all of those came either on third down or in an obvious passing situation (catch-up mode/hurry-up). All season, New York has given the majority of its third-down reps to Carter despite the fact that Carter is not justifying such heavy usage in passing situations.

As a receiver, Carter has not shown any playmaking ability whatsoever. On 20 targets, Carter has 15 receptions for only 68 yards. His average of 3.4 yards per target ranks 36th out of the 38 running backs with at least 20 targets. Carter’s longest reception went for just 10 yards.

Carter has two drops, giving him an 11.8% drop rate that ranks seventh-highest out of 38 qualifiers. On top of that, he is not making people miss in the open field. Carter has forced only one missed tackle after the catch, which is the fewest among running backs with at least 20 targets.

Even as a blocker, Carter is a liability. He’s allowed five total pressures on 24 pass-blocking snaps, giving him an allowed pressure rate of 20.8% that ranks second-worst among the 47 running backs with at least 20 pass-blocking snaps.

Carter is a terrible third-down back in every way. Yet, the Jets stubbornly continue to use him on third down even though Breece Hall is sitting right there with tremendous pass-game skills.

Hall has turned 34 targets into 26 receptions for 246 yards and a touchdown. He ranks eighth out of 38 qualified running backs with 7.2 yards per target. Much of this production was self-created as a result of Hall’s playmaking ability. Hall is tied for eighth among running backs with 10 missed tackles forced and is currently second in YAC Over Expectation at plus-103.

Drops are an issue for Hall, who has three of them for a 10.3% drop rate (11th-worst of 38), but even with the occasional drop, he’s still been one of the league’s most dynamic pass catchers out of the backfield thanks to his elite production with the ball in his hands.

Additionally, Hall is a good blocker. He has allowed just one pressure on 27 pass-blocking snaps, ranking seventh-best out of 47 qualified running backs with a 3.7% allowed pressure rate.

Hall played a career-high 70% of the Jets’ offensive snaps against the Raiders this past Sunday. That’s a high number, but it’s time to go even higher. Hall should not be coming off the field on third down for Carter nearly as often as he has been. This is not to say that Hall should play every snap, but the Jets are missing out on a lot of potential big plays by not having Hall on the field in passing situations, especially when the alternative is arguably the worst pass-game back in the NFL right now.

With the Jets lacking any other reliable wideouts beyond Garrett Wilson, Hall should be one of the Jets’ top targets. He’s only averaging 3.4 targets per game right now, including 3.5 over the past two games despite his 50-yard touchdown reception against the Giants in the preceding game. This has to change, and it all starts with getting Hall on the field for third down more frequently.

Only three of Hall’s 34 targets this season came on third down. That is an unbelievable stat for a team that has been so awful on third down. Hall is probably the Jets’ second or third-best receiving target (it’s between him and Conklin), and yet he has three third-down targets in nine games? It’s no wonder the Jets are so bad on third down. This cannot keep happening.

Giving Hall more third-down reps is the first order of business. On top of that, the Jets need to find a way to get Israel Abanikanda involved.

Getting Dalvin Cook out of the picture is probably the best way to open room for Abanikanda, although benching Carter would also make sense. Neither player is doing anything to justify getting reps over Abanikanda. Similar to Ruckert with Uzomah, Abanikanda has the potential to significantly outperform both players and can hardly be worse considering how poorly they are playing.

Sure, Cook just ran for a season-high 6.5 yards per carry against the Raiders with 26 yards on four carries, but that hardly alters his overall body of work. Cook is still 59th out of 66 qualified running backs (min. 30 carries) with 3.1 yards per carry this season. That was his first game out of nine appearances where he ran for more than four yards a pop.

The most important problem with Cook is his complete lack of breakaway speed. Once a feared home-run hitter, Cook is now nothing more than a 2020 Jets Frank Gore-style back who puts his head down and takes whatever is presented to him. Cook’s longest run this season went for 10 yards.

Abanikanda would give the Jets another home-run threat, which they sorely need in this offense.

The Jets cannot consistently march down the field with a methodical run game due to their issues up front. It’s unrealistic to expect them to become a team that thrives at chaining together multiple 10-play touchdown drives every week. But what they can do is score points on the strength of home run plays. Hall and Garrett Wilson lead the charge on that front, but Abanikanda can give the Jets that third high-level breakaway threat the offense has been missing.

In the preseason, Abanikanda reached 15 miles per hour on five of his 25 rush attempts, a 20% rate that ranked fifth-best out of 37 qualified running backs. That’s nearly double Dalvin Cook’s rate of 10.6% in the regular season (5 of 47).

More Hall on third down. More Abanikanda. Those are the necessary changes for the Jets’ running back room going forward. Whatever must be done to Cook and Carter to make that happen, the Jets need to do it.

3. Give Jason Brownlee a shot

The Jets’ wide receiver room stinks beyond Garrett Wilson. It’s that simple at this point. Allen Lazard is probably the league’s worst WR2 and the rest of the unit has combined for 10 catches all season.

With nothing to lose at this position, it’s time for New York to give Jason Brownlee a chance.

The Jets internally hyped up Brownlee throughout all of training camp, as coaches spoke highly of his performance. Brownlee impressed so much in camp that he made the roster as an undrafted free agent despite a shaky preseason where he was decent but unspectacular (10 catches on 19 targets for 102 yards in four games; one drop, two missed tackles forced, 1-for-6 on contested catches).

Brownlee was an imperfect prospect – he didn’t get drafted, after all. His preseason was far from stellar. It is no sure thing that he is capable of coming in and playing well at the moment.

With all of that being said, the bottom line is that Brownlee possesses upside, as evidenced by his eye-popping catches in training camp and his peak moments in the preseason. As the Jets’ other wide receivers continue to stockpile reps without showing any promise, it becomes less likely that their ceiling is as high as Brownlee’s.

The same logic we applied to Ruckert and Abanikanda applies here. Brownlee can hardly be worse than the players who are playing above him right now. So why not roll the dice and see if Brownlee can tap into his upside?

To round it all up, here are the glaringly obvious changes the Jets must make to maximize their odds of succeeding offensively with the personnel at their disposal:

  • 1. Bench C.J. Uzomah. Jeremy Ruckert must play over him in all 12 personnel situations. Only use Uzomah if it’s 13 personnel.
  • 2A. Give Breece Hall more reps on third down. Greatly decrease Michael Carter’s third down reps.
  • 2B. Find a way to get Israel Abanikanda on the field.
  • 3. Give Jason Brownlee an opportunity.

None of these moves are guaranteed to work, but the Jets are guaranteed to continue failing if they do not attempt them.

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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]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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18 days ago

“Once a feared home-run hitter, Cook is now nothing more than a Frank Gore-style back who puts his head down and takes whatever is presented to him.”
Well, guess what, the Jets desperately need a Frank Gore-style back who can get tough yards, third downs, and touch downs, not to mention lend some heart and soul. The Jets are completely lacking in those areas with Breece Hall and Michael Carter. Their offense is extremely inconsistent and kind of gutless with splash players like Hall and G. Wilson rattling around, making the occasional, increasingly rare, big play, but hardly anyone to just move the ball and take the pressure of the QB. In the Raiders game at least Cook made the Jets look like a real football team for a few brief moments. I don’t know if he can continue but I think the Jets desperately need to find out. And BTW, comparing someone to Gore, a HOF candidate, as though that is a put-down, makes me wonder whether you really know anything about football.

18 days ago
Reply to  Michael Nania

Yeah, I guess you missed those plays.

18 days ago

The frustrating part of this theme is the “stubbornness” in sticking with clearly underperforming vets. Why can’t we ever have daring and creative coaches? This is on Saleh imo. His pre-Raider comments about “first one to 20 wins” and Sauce’s refernce to the D being told “…if the opposition doesn’t score they can’t win”…as a response to dealing with their own poor offense, is a window into a defeatist offensive philosophy. We see it being played out in the at times playing not to lose display on offense. Unsurprising for a defensive coach. Needs to change.

18 days ago

I don’t know why Breece has to come out on third down, to me this is the most baffling. Are they trying to create a role for Carter? The Jets are HISTORICALY bad on third down so they are trying to solve the problem by taking one of the best playmakers in the LEAGUE off the field? Agreed this needs to stop! And, like you, there is no need to trot Cook out there any longer. He’s not doing anything another back can’t do. I’m not sure why Izzy can’t get on the field, but for the sake of this discussion let’s say he’s not mentally ready. They can give Breece, Carter’s role on 3rd down and give Cook’s role to Carter. That’s simple.

CJ is like you have been preaching a sneaky bad blocker, and now it’s not “sneaky” anymore. He’s wiped out probably 50 yards of offense and at least 1TD just in blocking penalties and that doesn’t include sacks. I have noticed some mistakes by Ruckert that get passed over because we want him to play but at this point he can’t be a worse blocker and may provide more in the passing game.

The Brownlee thing I see as 6 of one half dozen of another. I’d rather see them play Malik more consistently with Gipson and see if they can develop chemistry. They really haven’t had enough game time to do that, so I’m willing to ride that a bit longer.

17 days ago
Reply to  Michael Nania

They can’t keep playing Lazard if his knee is that bad. He’s not great to begin with, and he can’t run.