During the Jets' 17-3 victory over their MetLife Stadium roommates on Monday night, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer dialed up a brand new formation: the Texas formation. With WR Jeremy Kerley as the centerpiece, the Jets may have stumbled across a productive new version of an old threat.
Kerley, a native of Hutto, Texas, and a rookie wide receiver from Texas Christian University, has proven to be a valuable addition already in his brief career. Although there is a "WR" next to his name, it would be wrong to label him as just a wideout. He is football's answer to baseball's utility player — a naturally gifted athlete capable of playing multiple positions.
When the Wildcat offense became the latest fad among NFL offenses, the Jets jumped on the bandwagon, implementing their version of the formation and renaming it the "Seminole." With former Florida State Seminole Leon Washington at the helm, the Jets looked to capitalize on his athletic ability and give headaches to opposing defenses.
With the departure of Washington in a 2010 trade with the Seattle Seahawks, former WR Brad Smith took over duties as the change-of-pace quarterback. But Smith signed with AFC East rival Buffalo in the offseason, leaving a hole to fill. Enter Kerley and the newly minted Texas formation.
On Monday night, Kerley showed just how many roles he can play for the Green & White. His performance may not have jumped off the screen to the casual viewer, but look deeper.
Sure, he racked up only 54 total yards — as opposed to 90 against Cincinnati on Aug. 21 and 99 against the Texans in the preseason opener. But look at how he gained those 54 yards.
He ran for 13 yards on two carries, threw one completion for 18 more, caught one pass for 6 yards, and returned a punt for another 17. He didn't have a chance to return a kickoff, but he is averaging 31.8 yards per kick return this preseason.
It's an awful lot of responsibility for the 22-year-old rookie, right?
"I'm just fulfilling my role," said Kerley. "It was asked of me in college. It's all fun. Every time I come out, I try to implement fun in my game. A lot is asked of me, but I can carry the load."
In his first year on the job, some may think Kerley is biting off more than he can chew. The traditionalists would rather see a young rookie develop over time, mastering his position before delving into other aspects of the game. But lucky for Kerley, there is another TCU Horned Frog on the roster who has experience juggling several offensive responsibilities.
"Any knowledge that LT has of running that package, he's passed it down," said Kerley of RB LaDainian Tomlinson. "It's a great guy to learn from."
While Tomlinson continues to aid Kerley, the young receiver has already had plenty of experience himself. In his senior season, he led TCU with 56 receptions, for 575 yards, ran the ball 18 times for 104 yards, was the team's leading punt and kick returner, and completed both his pass attempts for 37 yards and a TD.
Kerley's first snap as the stand-in QB on Monday night was an option play to the right as he pitched the ball to RB Joe McKnight for a gain of 8 yards. Two plays later, Kerley was again calling the signals, this time completing an 18-yard pass to TE Matthew Mulligan.
"I definitely have the option to throw a pass," said Kerley. "It's a read play. I'm glad it was open and I got to complete my first NFL pass."
On the next drive, he took three more snaps, keeping two for rushes of 6 and 7 yards, and again running the option pitch to Joe McKnight, for no gain.
A backfield consisting of Kerley, McKnight and FB John Conner as a lead blocker could prove to be a nuisance for defenses.
"That's what we try to do is try to get on the edge of people," said Kerley. "Try to make them think quick."
Indeed, defenses will have to think quickly with so much speed and one large, angry fullback in the backfield. Compensating for the agility of Kerley and McKnight while also defending the pass could be too much to handle.
Kerley has proved that he can manage everything the Jets have put on his plate. Run, pass, catch or return, it's all in the game for Kerley. To be the Jets' Mr. Everything, Kerley has to buy into his role, something he has already done.
In fact, by the end of the night, he sounded like a full blown QB.
"I liked the way our line blocked tonight," said Kerley. "I think we were on."