The New York Jets have strung together two uninspiring offensive performances in the past two weeks, raising some serious questions about the direction of the offense and ultimately the team's ability to score points. The most disturbing part of that trend might be the personnel usage so far by Tony Sparano, as more talented players are being left out of the gameplan in favor of others who can't provide the same threat to opposing defenses.
The main issue with the personnel usage of the New York Jets is their willingness to stick with certain personnel groupings despite injuries that have changed the players in those positions. The Jets showed a lot of tight sets with two and three tight ends and even a fullback in the preseason. That's fine when Dustin Keller, Jeff Cumberland, Josh Baker and John Conner are in those positions. When the Jets were in those sets today, the only player available from the aforementioned group was Jeff Cumberland, who served as the starting tight end with Dustin Keller out due to injury.
The latest trend in the NFL is passing numbers going through the roof, mainly because of the new penalties enforced that make it tougher on defenses to defend against the pass. With these developments, many claim that you have to be an elite passing offense to be an elite team in the NFL. That's not necessarily true, but players used in eligible receiving positions (i.e.. anywhere other than the interior five linemen and the quarterback) do have to present some kind of threat to the defense.
When you are lining up with tight sets including Konrad Reuland, Jason Smith and Dedrick Epps, the defense doesn't feel threatened. Beyond that, they haven't made an impact as blockers – so what purpose do they serve as personnel on offense other than filling the position drawn up on the board or a piece of paper? When the X's and O's turn into moving pieces on the field, what do they offer and are there better options not being used?
In short, there are better personnel options that aren't being used enough. Those options are Jeremy Kerley and Joe McKnight. We've been asking for more Jeremy Kerley since last September and despite three big plays in three games so far this season, he hasn't been targeted enough on offense. Joe McKnight has been virtually non-existent with just three carries and no receptions. He hardly even touches the field on offense, despite possessing pure speed that he has displayed as kick returner – a dominant trait that forces a defense to be wary of his presence.
It's not groundbreaking stuff: play to the strengths of the personnel available to you. It's blatantly obvious that with Dustin Keller, Josh Baker and John Conner on the shelf, the strength of the Jets offense isn't going to be in tight sets. The depth just isn't there, but there are viable options available for a different approach. Getting Jeremy Kerley, Joe McKnight (especially split out), Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes on the field together should help create some room inside for Bilal Powell and Shonn Greene.
The Jets need to at least take a look at doing so, because the personnel groupings they are employing right now aren't getting any push at the point of attack and the running game is falling flat. It might not be ideal and it might not be where Tony Sparano wants to live as an offense, but talent has to dictate your approach as an offense at some level. Putting subpar personnel on the field will likely lead to subpar results. The Jets are desperate for potential playmakers, and there just might be a few standing on the sideline.
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