Some New Wrinkles to Watch for in Jets' Evolving Offense

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One preseason game for mostly backups is left on the schedule, two weeks of practice remain before the games count.

Perhaps by now Jets fans have a glimmer of an idea about how head coach Adam Gase wants to change the way the Green & White offense comes after opposing defenses, and that there's more to it than just Sam Darnold's second pro season and the additions of RB Le'Veon Bell and WR Jamison Crowder.

It was hard to see the changes in the works in the first two games, in which the Jets posted modest or below-averages of 19.0 offensive points, 58.5 plays, 16 first downs and 242.5 yards/game. But the opening drives of both the loss to the Giants and the win at Atlanta, both for touchdowns, gave more of an idea of what Gase and coordinator Dowell Loggains are trying to set up. So did the pace of this week's Tuesday practice.

"Yeah, we did that on purpose so they know training camp wasn't so easy," Gase said with a chuckle. "The pace we're playing at on offense and what it looks like we're going to be able to do as far as how many plays per game, we need to keep challenging our guys to make sure they understand. A 10-play drive is going to be hard and we're going to get tired and it's a four-quarter game and [the first-team offense in two games has gone] four total series. So we don't even know what it feels like to really go into a fourth quarter and it's a battle and it's been 65 plays already.

"Our guys just need to understand, to be able to do that, we have to work extremely hard in practice, we have to play at a really, probably an almost unrealistic rate to get in the shape we need to get in."

Conditioning is one thing. Darnold's targets are another. Yes, there are a good group of wide receivers and tight ends in Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Crowder and (after his four-game suspension) Chris Herndon.

But when if ever have the Jets assembled a pass-catching stable of running backs such as they have now in Le'Veon Bell, Ty Montgomery, Bilal Powell and even third-year man Elijah McGuire and second-year man Trenton Cannon?

"I can't speak for every offense," Gase said. "I think with what we do, it's build around or players. The face that we have Le'Veon and then you add Ty, you add Bilal, you have three guys right there that can do all three phases of the game, which makes playcalling a lot easier because you don't have to change, whoever's in there. You can call the same things."

Obviously, the Jets' top three tailbacks at this point have been used differently in the past. Bell had been a 300-touches-a-season bellcow for Pittsburgh from 2013-17. Powell was used more judiciously at 100 touches/season over his eight Jets campaigns, and Montgomery's receiving skills were more accented in his 75 touches/season the past four seasons, mostly with Green Bay.

What's most eye-catching about these three backs: Since 2016, they have all averaged the same 5.2 yards/touch. That sounds good, but how good? Well, all three averages figure in the top third of the 92 RBs with 150-plus touches. And compared to backs in Jets history, only several have better career averages (Bruce Harper at 7.1, Leon Washington at 5.6, Freeman McNeil at 5.3). Curtis Martin's figure for his Jets Ring of Honor Career was 4.4 yards/touch.

Here's how evenly Powell, Montgomery and Bell stack up from 2016-18, along with their ranking among 92 NFL backs who had at least 150 touches in those three seasons:

Table inside Article
Jets Back Touches Yards Yds/Touch Rank
Bilal Powell 481 2505 5.21 29th
Ty Montgomery 159 822 5.17 31st
Le'Veon Bell 742 3830 5.16 32nd

They're not the same type of back, of course, but to have a bevy of backs with similar impressive offensive skillsets excites not only Gase but Darnold as well.

"With those guys, they're so unique. For running backs, they have such good route-running ability," Darnold said at the beginning of camp. "They can line up out wide, run routes. In the backfield you don't know if they're going to run a route or get a handoff so it makes it hard on a defense. It's really good for us as an offense to have those weapons."

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