In the Jets’ 12-7 preseason victory over the Giants, the team was finally able to show off its new offensive scheme in a non-practice setting. The two drives led by Zach Wilson showed a heavy reliance on the run game, which allowed for the play-action passing game to develop down the field. Even with Wilson out of the game, the Jets continued to run the ball consistently in the first half as the offensive line bullied the Giants up front. Ty Johnson and Michael Carter, the main RBs in the first half, combined for 55 yards on 16 rushes and 3.43 yards per carry.
Based off their first live game action and practice up until this point, the Jets are right on schedule in how they want to execute their offense. Coming from the Shanahan coaching tree, which uses a wide-zone running scheme as its foundation, it is no surprise that offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur sees its utilization as “critical.” LaFleur said “If you can’t run the ball in this league, it’s really hard to just have to throw the ball.” He also added, “to be a good offense I truly believe you got to lean on the run game whether you have a rookie quarterback or a veteran quarterback.”
Lafleur said, “If we get the run game going, we’re going to get this big play-action passes over the top and now it’s just going to basically be routes on air. A lot of the times you don’t have to read anything so that’s going to be critical for him (Wilson) going forward.” Essentially, the goal for the offense is to not put everything on Wilson’s shoulders by having a dominant offensive line and an effective run game.
Those aspects have been on full display in practice. Head Coach Robert Saleh has been impressed with both the running backs and offensive line. Saleh expressed excitement about his running backs, recognizing how they are an unknown group as a whole. “People look at the names and they’ll assume there’s not much, but Ty Johnson is an explosive back, Perine is a powerful back, Josh Adams is a speed burner, Walter is.. showing speed and power. Michael Carter’s got great agility and burst, Tevin Coleman obviously,” said Saleh. He also mentioned how they all have a “dynamic” trait that fits the scheme they are implementing.
When speaking about the offensive line, Saleh said how he loves their “intent” right now. “They want to impose their will and you see it in practice,” said Saleh.
The execution of the offensive scheme mainly falls to the players, and their excitement to be within it has contributed to the early success. Ty Johnson said that the running game in the scheme “jumps out the water” when you watch it on tape. “You can see it, when we get guys moving it’s off to the races for real. Its been really great. Right when this system came in, it’s a great opportunity for all the running backs to showcase their talents because we’re gonna have lanes to run,” said Johnson.
Tevin Coleman expressed his confidence in the entire running back room, saying, “Everybody’s got good skill. Everybody can catch the ball, everybody can run the ball, we just compete right now.” Coleman also said the rotation implemented in the offense does not phase him, as he feels “We can get the ball in all types of ways.” Michael Carter said he’s looking forward to wearing teams down with the rushing attack in tandem with the offensive line. “Like Saleh said, everything starts up front. No matter what we do in the backfield, it’s gonna start with them guys,” said Carter.
Mekhi Becton, one of the cornerstones on the Jets’ offensive line, expressed his satisfaction with the team’s commitment to the run game. “I love it. I love running the ball, especially when it’s behind me,” said Becton. Becton also said how “fun” the new scheme is when it comes to running and setting up play action passes.
With the players excited about the offense and executing it so far, it is almost certain that the 2021 version of the Jets will outpace the anemic Adam Gase offense in every statistical category. Built upon a foundation to make Wilson’s life easier, the Mike LaFleur-designed running game has the potential to make some noise this year. With a stable of running backs and an exciting offensive line, that potential could easily produce faster than many expect.