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It is hard to spend too much time complaining about the Jets offense through their first six games. They have made tremendous strides since last season, starting with quarterback Mark Sanchez who finally appears to understand the value of the football and isn’t giving it away at every chance possible. Braylon Edwards is playing to his potential. LaDainian Tomlinson has found the fountain of youth and has been a revelation. Dustin Keller is playing like the Pro-Bowl tight end the Jets drafted him to be.
Yet, this doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.
The Jets have no shortage of weapons and skill position players who play meaningful reps on their offense. Consider they have Tomlinson and Shonn Greene splitting reps at halfback, Tony Richardson and John Conner splitting reps at fullback. Edwards, Santonio Holmes, and Jerricho Cotchery, three wide receivers who have all been number one guys at some point in their careers. Keller at tight end, with Ben Hartsock, Matthew Mulligan, and Wayne Hunter all involved as blocking tight ends. Beyond that, they have Brad Smith playing receiver and quarterback.
It isn’t an easy task for offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to mix and match up personnel groups and come up with ways to get the most out of this collection of players. We have all seen his inconsistencies and struggles attempting to do this. Coming out of the bye week, the Jets can do a better job with their division of reps, more clearly dividing roles in their offense, while still not becoming too predictable and tipping off their tendencies.
Nobody is a bigger fan of Jerricho Cotchery than me, he is a gritty player who has a terrific understanding of how to run routes and great hands. However in this offense, he would be most effective as primarily the number three receiver/slot guy. Cotchery can give this offense what they need from him in 25 – 35 reps a game. He can be a big time weapon for the Jets on third downs and in the slot, matched up on team’s third or fourth best corners.
Santonio Holmes needs to be on the field more than the 25 – 35 reps he has been. Simply put, he is a more dynamic overall receiver than Cotchery and puts more pressure on the defense opposite Braylon Edwards. He can make a defense pay more for leaving him in single coverage and should be the guy getting the quick receiver screens instead of Cotchery. Holmes can force defenses to roll coverage over to him, which will open up things for Edwards who has been on top of his game this season.
At running back, the Jets need to mix up their tendencies more often. You can’t just bring in Shonn Greene when you want to run the football. He has to be out there occasionally on passing downs and be involved in the screen game. A better mix between Tomlinson and Greene will open up more running lanes for both of them. On top of that, the Jets must start getting Greene more overall touches particularly over the next five games. Tomlinson needs to be fresh for the final five games of the regular season heading into the playoffs, most notably against New England, Miami, and Pittsburgh.
Tomlinson has 43 touches over the past two weeks compared to Greene only having 19 touches, which isn’t a good enough division by Schottenheimer. The Jets can’t risk running Tomlinson into the ground and with the way Greene has been running the past few weeks, he has shown he is more than capable of taking on more carries. He is averaging 4.8, 5.7, and 5.3 yards per carry over the last three games, respectively.
When the Jets move into their “Tiger” formation, I’d like to see them get more out of it. They have rarely been using the extra player coming in motion to hold the defense on the fake reverse. Despite his recent fumble, Holmes is a big threat coming around the end. It would also be nice to get Brad Smith on the edge a little more and let him throw another pass to keep defenses honest. Also don’t forget LaDainian Tomlinson’s career passing numbers (8/12, 143 yards, 7 TDs, 0 INTs). How about an option pass?
Nobody is saying Brian Schottenheimer has an easy job, but the Jets could certainly be getting more out of their offense considering their collection of weapons.