Joe McKnight first joined the Jets last year as a nervous, fumbling fourth round selection. A player whose real first notable performance in Green and White entailed vomiting during minicamp. Thus earning him an underachieving label that the former USC tailback almost couldn’t shake. Until now. One blocked punt and the longest play in Jets history later, McKnight’s moment has clearly arrived. The timing of it couldn’t be better for an offense that has lost their identity, while a special teams unit perhaps found the answer to the loss of Brad Smith. As the Jets return to the “Ground and Pound” mentality this week, they must add to it more plays designed for McKnight. A guy who can break off big runs from a variety of places.
On special teams McKnight has found his rythym. His solid forty plus yard second half return in Oakland following Antonio Cromartie’s injury (occurring while trying to retrieve his own fumble during the prior kickoff) was followed by his 107 yard TD encore in Baltimore this past Sunday. McKnight’s blazing speed, and quick cuts are finally beginning to make their way to the surface. Natural instinct is starting to topple what has been a paralyzing habit of overthinking by McKnight during runbacks.
On offense the 5’11 198 pound McKnight can become the speedy outside rushing threat that without him, the new version of the Ground and Pound doesn’t have. After weeks of horrid blocking in pass protection and too much of a focus on throwing the ball, Ryan wants to return to running the ball. Additional speed like McKnights’ would certainly help provide another choice within that concept.
McKnight could also make things happen in the passing game. Prior to becoming a Jet, many NFL draft scouting reports highlighted his hands, and pass catching abilities as a strengths as well. Now may be the perfect time for offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to add McKnight’s tools into the gameplan both on the ground and through the air.
The reasoning being simple. McKnight can score. From anywhere. Yet the offensive line and feature back Shonn Greene have struggled. A weekly change of pace from a pair of breakaway speed legs provided by McKnight might provide the remedy. With the ball in the hands of McKnight, plays won’t take very long to develop, but will still retain the upside potential for long gains.
McKnight could also line up in the slot. For bubble screens and quick outs into the flat. Both of which could turn into favorable one on one situations against much slower defenders. Line McKnight up as the “QB” of the Wildcat as well. This to obtain the ability to work the option on the perimeter. All to be used as a way to allow McKnight a few more opportunities to break free and change games. The way Smith used to from whatever position HE was put in.
Sometimes an offense just needs a little boost. A new look that turns into a big play. McKnight could be the one to provide this. At 2-2, with the notion of returning to a ball control style on offense, the Jets must go beyond simply PONDERING the idea of using him more frequently. Instead, they must see that now IS the right time to explore just how big of a weapon Joe McKnight truly CAN be.