Can Tony Sparano Turn Joe McKnight Into Reggie Bush?

TJ on if Tony Sparano can get Joe McKnight to produce like Reggie Bush did in Miami last year

Joe McKnight was brought to USC in 2008 to be the next Reggie Bush. Instead, those sky high expectations in following the nation’s top RB, contributed to McKnight’s decision to forego his senior year.

“My career was OK. It was good, but not like Reggie. There was a constant pressure to be like Reggie.”

Gang Green took McKnight in the 4th round of the NFL draft that year. Perhaps the stage could be set again for McKnight to get get another chance in trying to be “the next Reggie Bush.” This time as a top tier NFL back under the guidance of new Jets OC Tony Sparano, who coached Reggie for much of his breakout year with Miami in 2011.

The Jets rushing attack needs an infusion of speed and the threat to gain big time yardage outside. Before looking outside of the organization for this solution, the stage could be set for a real hard look at McKnight as a split carry back. After all, he showed what he could do in the open field this past season on special teams.

Score touchdowns.

RB Trent Richardson of Alabama has been a name that has been tossed around as a potential first round choice for the Jets who may want to press reset in the feature back department of the new rushing attack altogether.

Should the Jets choose NOT to take a RB in April’s draft, opting to stay with Shonn Greene and McKnight as their top duo, then an attempt to mirror the rise of Bush in Miami with McKnight, may be the Jets best path to an increase in production on the ground. With Greene being the straight ahead compliment, who already owns a solid resume of late game knockout blows.

Bush made some big game breaking plays over his first four seasons as a Saint, but rushing attempts went from a Saints high of 157 in 2007 to 216 in his first year in Miami. A number that would have been higher had he not taken weeks to wrestle the feature back job away from Daniel Thomas.

More touches and a game plan better suited to revolving around HIS strengths helped Bush go from the perimeter ornament he was in the Big Easy, to one of the NFL’s top feature backs by seasons end. This despite the knock on Bush that he was too small to handle the increased workload. Especially inside the tackles.

The same label that McKnight currently faces.

Following Bush’s act as a USC Trojan was asking too much. Could McKnight obtain similar numbers in games to Bush’s in 2011, with twenty or so carries a game? We bet plenty of those who follow the Jets would love to see McKnight get the chance to.

New York Jets: Any Stars In Hiding?

TOJ on if the Jets could have any stars in hiding on the bottom of their roster

We have seen two local sports teams pull stars out of the back of their roster in the past few months. First Victor Cruz for the New York Giants and more recently Jeremy Lin for the New York Knicks. Do the New York Jets have an opportunity to have such luck this season?

The real answer is who knows? You can never really see these things coming. Regardless of Cruz’s monster pre-season performance or Lin’s success at Harvard, nobody thought they’d produce the way they have been or they wouldn’t have spent any time on the bench to begin with.

However, the Jets might have a few young players who have the potential to become game changers in 2012.

The first one who comes to mind is a guy who you are going to hear plenty about in the coming months here, Jeremy Kerley. He showed enough in limited action last year to make us believe that with a bigger role, he could be one of this team’s top playmakers on offense. Kerley has something that many players on the Jets offense lack…straight line speed combined with excellent short area quickness.

Tony Sparano had a successful slot receiver in Miami with Davone Bess and there is no reason to think Kerley won’t be a large part of the Jets passing game. Beyond that, Kerley has the ability to run the Wildcat, while being a threat to complete passes down the field. Hey, the guy completed a pass to Matthew Mulligan last year…that takes talent. Kerley also showed flashes of being a very good punt returner last year and he should only grow in that role.

Outside of Kerley, Joe McKnight showed some big play potential last year and might be able to thrive in a Reggie Bush type role for the Jets. Austin Howard could turn into a capable right tackle. On defense, maybe a role player like Josh Mauga will turn into a quality starter to replace the missed tackle machine Bart Scott or Gerald Alexander will match his Twitter ability with on the field play at safety. You just never know.

Who do you think could be the Jets star in hiding?

New York Jets: How To Distribute The Carries

How should the New York Jets distribute the workload between Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Joe McKnight

The New York Jets are going to need their running game to lead the way on offense if they have hopes of making a playoff run. Despite not having a true lead back (no, I am not giving Shonn Greene that status yet), they do have enough between their top three runners to put together a quality rushing attack. The key is going to be getting the most out of Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Joe McKnight’s skill set.

Greene is coming off a solid game against Buffalo, where he averaged 6 yards per carry. However, he is admittedly still suffering from a rib injury and looked in pain for most of the game. He only had 13 carries against the Bills. Tomlinson is returning after missing the past two games with a knee injury and should be fresh for the stretch run. Joe McKnight has gradually been becoming a bigger part of the offense and averaged 6 yards per touch against Buffalo.

If the Jets are smart, they will keep Greene in the 12-15 carry range. The rib injury isn’t going to get better with each passing week and he showed he could be effective with that amount of touches last week. Tomlinson can spell him for a few series each half, handle short yardage duties, and be the primary third down back. McKnight should be getting at least 8-10 touches as a runner and receiver. He should be the guy catching most of the screen passes and has the ability to line up out wide. On the Jets outside handoffs and tosses, he should also be the first option.

Between their three running backs, the Jets should be able to hand the ball off 30-35 times a game to keep their offense balanced and set up their play action passing attack.

As Jets Regroup, Time To Consider A Three Headed Monster

TJ on how using a three headed monster at running back could help open up the Jets offense

It might be late in the game for an entire overhaul of the offense. From airing it out, to grounding and pounding, to a recent attempt at balance, the Jets have tried almost everything in 2011. Except for a three headed attack out of the backfield. Which won’t require an arduous rewriting of the playbook on the fly, in order to do so.

BIG PLAYS FROM SPEEDY MCKNIGHT WILL EASE THE HEAT ON SANCHEZ

QB Mark Sanchez is in desperate need of confidence and rhythm. He has to be better. Perhaps using Joe McKnight as a Dexter McCluster type can help. The second year McKnight can give the Jets a chance for big plays both with some extra pitches outside, and bubble screens from the slot position. Going in motion towards a WR position after initially lining up in the backfield. All of which require little from Sanchez, as far as reading defenses and making tough choices go.

LET GREENE HAMMER, BUT USE HIM LESS

Shonn Greene can continue to hammer away inside. However, despite what the Jets brass will tell you when they say that Greene gets going once his numbers INCREASE, a few less carries will limit the potential of the nagging injuries that seem to plague Greene the MORE he touches the ball.

LT IS A VINTAGE CAR, USE HIM WISELY

LaDainian Tomlinson changes the pace in the screen game and in tough yardage scenarios, where both experience and vision become top priority. His recent MCL sprain though, may require the curtailing of any foreseeable heavy work loads. LT will be key in keeping drives alive, but like a classic and effective vintage car, must be used wisely.

NOTHING WILL HELP THE OFFENSE IF THE JETS DON’T OPEN IT UP

The switch to three instead of two won’t solve everything on. The notion of injecting more of McKnight only helps if the Jets ALSO remember to open up their passing game downfield. Stretching the defense has been the very reason why the eternally emerging TE Dustin Keller, has found little room to work in.

The unwillingness to try many deep throws stifles the Jets many quick slants and five yard outs. Predictable routes that have allowed defenses to pack it in, leaving no room for receivers Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley to run after the catch.

SHORT RANGE CAN WORK IF THE BALL IS SPREAD AROUND

After keeping teams honest by going deep, the Jets can take solace in knowing that teams CAN be effective when employing a predominantly short range ideology. Take Denver and Tim Tebow as even the most extreme example. Most plays nowadays in the Mile High city, start with footballs being tossed as options BEHIND the line of scrimmage. Yet it is  anyone’s guess as to which Broncos ball carrier or receiver ends up with it.

GO DOWNFIELD, USE THREE RBs, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

So then, what should come first? Throwing downfield to guys like Holmes in order to back the opposing defenses up? Or should the Jets try to spring a few quick pitches and screens for yardage in order to utilize a Sanchez favorite, the play action, to go deep with purpose? Our answer is, it doesn’t matter which of the two is higher up on the scripted play chart. As long as both are tended to, and a potential threat, throughout the game.

THREE RBs WIDENS THE ATTACK WHILE PRESERVING GREENE, LT

Opening it up downfield is a must. Going with a committed three pronged attack out of the backfield is an idea for an offense that certainly needs a spark. What do the Jets have to lose by widening the line of scrimmage with McKnight? Adding his speed and carries to keep the oft injured Greene, and currently banged up Tomlinson, rested.

In order to survive long enough to even attempt a 5-1 finish, the Jets must get more out of Mark Sanchez AND go downfield already. Yet they should consider how a three headed rushing attack could aid in the process.

New York Jets: Can We Throw This Guy A Pass?

The New York Jets need to get the ball to their playmakers to score points

He isn’t half bad when given the chance.

How about a deep ball…and by deep I mean in the air for over 40 yards to this guy?

What about a screen to him?

If you want points, get the ball to your playmakers…

New York Jets Relying On Backups In Denver

Many of the New York Jets backups will play a more prominent role than usual tomorrow night

You aren’t going to be at full strength for all of your games in a NFL season. Not surprisingly on a quick turnaround against the Denver Broncos, a handful of backup players will be seeing an increase of reps to compensate for a few minor injuries.

At running back, special teams ace Joe McKnight should finally see extended action due to LaDainian Tomlinson missing the game with a sprained MCL. It will be nice to see McKnight get to catch a few screens in space and receive the primary third down responsibilities. He projects as the team’s long term third down back so this is a big opportunity for him. Also at running back rookie Bilal Powell should be active for the first time and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a few handoffs, as the team will likely want a look at him when something is actually on the line.

Over at wide receiver, Jeremy Kerley and Patrick Turner will likely be game-time decisions. There is a very good chance recently signed WR Eron Riley will get to see some action against his former team. Here is what Jon Heath from www.BroncoTalk.net had to say on Riley –

Riley, 6-3, 207 pounds, is a second year player out of Duke that went undrafted in 2009.  He has loads of potential and a sick vertical leap, which compliments his impressive speed and reliable hands. I was really hoping the Broncos would activate him to the active roster because I knew somebody would sign him off Denver’s practice squad if he stayed there too long. In the preseason, Riley led the Broncos in catches (6), yards (187) and receiving touchdowns (2).

Finally on defense, Rich Cimini noted that rookie OLB Garret McIntyre was playing outside linebacker in the Jets base 3-4 defense against New England. Obviously they didn’t spend much time in their base package against the Patriots but they will be on Thursday night. Look for a ton of reps from McIntyre.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if TE Shawn Nelson was active for the first time and taking some reps from Matthew Mulligan (maybe that is just wishful thinking from me). Also if Eric Smith continues to struggle, doesn’t Emmanuel Cook deserve a look with Brodney Pool still nursing an injury?

Joe McKnight and Aaron Maybin, Who Would Have Thought?

TOJ on two players who have come out of nowhere to become crucial parts to the New York Jets making a second half run

There is no denying how crucial Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills is going to be. LaDainian Tomlinson has already christened it a “do or die” game for the New York Jets divisional hopes and the same vibe is coming from the rest of the locker room. You want to win the AFC East? You want a home playoff game? Beat the two teams in front of you the next two weeks and take control of your destiny.

Yet, who could have imagined that two of the most crucial players coming into this game would be Joe McKnight and Aaron Maybin?

Joe McKnight, AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October, has turned into one of the most explosive kick returners in the league and one of the best all around special teams players. His contributions won’t stop there on Sunday, as the coaching staff has made it clear that he will receive a larger role on offense at both running back and receiver. McKnight has rare, game-breaking speed and the ability to make a play or two that will tip Sunday’s outcome in the Jets favor.

Aaron Maybin, the Buffalo Bills first round bust, has came to the Jets off the scrap heap and turned into their top pass rushing threat. In limited snaps he has already racked up 3 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. Maybin will also be on the receiving end of more playing time this week and how you could not root for this guy to tear up his former team? Maybin has brought a speed and energy to the Jets defense that it sorely needed. His pass rush will go a long way to disrupting the timing of Buffalo’s quick passing attack.

When August started many people thought Joe McKnight could end up being the team’s number four back and nobody thought Aaron Maybin would even be on a NFL team, and yet here they are with a chance to play a major part in seizing the Jets control of the division.

Credit Mike Tannenbaum for taking a shot on Maybin and Rex Ryan for putting him a spot to succeed. Also it might be time to start thinking that trading Leon Washington and cutting Danny Woodhead in favor of McKnight was actually a savvy move.

New York Jets Fans Want More Joe McKnight

TJ on the desire of New York Jets fans to see more Joe McKnight on offense

The combination of a struggling offense and some big time plays on special teams from Joe McKnight have helped peak the curiosity around Jets Nation as to what the former USC product could bring to the table, in any sort of extended role.

So far in 2011, McKnight’s accomplishments include blocking a key punt that led to a comeback win, running back the longest kickoff return on Jets history. He’s also caught a few passes downfield after lining up in the slot, and has had a few tries out of the backfield taking pitches outside hoping to break one down the sidelines. So now what?

We polled Jets Nation on Twitter by asking them “What size role do you want to see the Jets give Joe McKnight at this point in the season?”

31 Percent – 5-10 TOUCHES at RB/WR

24 Percent- 10 TOUCHES at RB 24 pct

15 Percent – 10-15 TOUCHES at RB

7.5 Percent – 15 TOUCHES as KR/RB/WR combined

7.5 Percent – Part of an even spread three ways (Greene, LT, McKnight)

7.5 Percent – Split carries 50/50 with Shonn Greene 7.5 pct

7.5 Percent – Continue along in the same role.

92.5 Percent – Role to increase towards a minimum of 5-10 touches per game.

The reasoning behind the increase in activity for McKnight included the following:

  • Simply faster than both Shonn Greene, and Ladainian Tomlinson.
  • At this point the Jets have nothing to lose.
  • McKnight hits the hole faster.
  • He’ll be effective in the same role as a Danny Woodhead: RB/WR
  • The Offense needs a spark and additional breakaway speed.

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Five Remedies To The New York Jets Offense

Relax and take notes Brian Schottenheimer before people start picketing in front of your home…

1. More McKnight, More Screens – The New York Jets always had an issue using Leon Washington enough back from 2006-2009. Not surprisingly, Brian Schottenhiemer has done a poor job of incorporating Joe McKnight into the Jets offense. Wasn’t he drafted because of his ability to spread out as a receiver, along with be a running back. Can we split him out and get a mismatch on a linebacker? Can we throw the guy a screen pass in some space, since he is ripping off a monster kick return a week right now? One carry isn’t enough, he should be getting 6-10 touches on offense and on the whole the Jets need to use more screens to him, LaDainian Tomlinson, Dustin Keller, and their starting wide receivers.

2. Look Deep Early – Teams load up to prevent the Jets running game and short/intermediate passing “attack.” They need to take a shot deep early in the game to loosen up the opposing defense. How about a slant and go, since the Jets throw about 8 slants a game? I recall the Jets running that route once under Schottenheimer and it going for a 80 yard touchdown.

3. Where Are You Dustin? – The Jets offense always seems to operate at a better rate when Dustin Keller is actively involved in the offense. He has been MIA the past few weeks after a big start. The excuse that teams are doubling him doesn’t work. He has the ability to move around all over the formation. The Jets need to get creative about getting him involved.

4. The Happy Medium – You don’t have to either be an all out Ground and Pound or a pass happy, chuck and duck attack. There could be a gray area or a happy medium. You run the football to help protect Mark Sanchez but don’t hold him back if the opportunities are available down the field.

5. More Of This – Back shoulder fades to Plaxico Burress…LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene in the same backfield…The Wildcat with Jeremy Kerley and Joe McKnight in the backfield…A vertical pass to Santonio Holmes.

New York Jets: Jeremy Kerley Ready To Take Off?

The most obvious beneficiary of the decision to trade Derrick Mason is rookie receiver Jeremy Kerley. In his first extended action last week, Kerley finished with 3 receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown, making more of an impact than Mason already had all season which accelerated the decision to trade him.

Kerley was probably the most hyped Jets player throughout training camp as he repeatedly made big plays in every practice. He had a somewhat quiet pre-season and didn’t do much until the Raiders game when he ripped off a big punt return. Last week was the first time he really had a chance at receiver and he showed the big play ability the coaching staff was raving about all summer.

The decision to move Mason is a smart one in that it will give Kerley the chance to grow into the slot receiver role that he appears ready to take over. He has the short area quickness required for the position but also has the speed that Mason lacked to push up the seam. The more Kerley is involved in the regular offensive packages, the more the Jets will likely expand his use in the Wildcat, which will help diversify their attack.

Kerley doesn’t have the pressure of becoming one of the unit’s top options with Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress also at receiver. Yet, he should be a complimentary weapon who gradually takes on a bigger role. Hopefully the coaching staff will also begin to expand the role of running back Joe McKnight by incorporating him in the screen game and giving him more outside handoffs, which coupled with Kerley’s greater use will provide a needed shot of speed to the offense.