Passing on McKnight

Last year the Jets had two good pass catching running backs. Ladanian Tomlinson was our primary back on third down and he got the bulk of our RB receptions with 42 catches for 449 yards, a 10.7 average. Joe McKnight also was very good, catching 13 balls for 139 yards, also a 10.7 average. Shonn Stone Hands Greene also caught 30 passes but for only a 7.0 average.

To put into perspective how effective Tomlinson and McKnight were catching balls out of the backfield, in 2010 only 6 RBs in the entire NFL caught as many as 12 passes and had a 10.7 average or better. In 2011 9 RBs turned the trick, including our own Tomlinson and McKnight.

In all of Jets history only a select few RBs ever accomplished such a high average while catching 12 or more passes. Here is the list:

2011 Tomlinson 10.7

2011 McKnight 10.7

2006 Leon Washington 10.8

1998 Leon Johnson 17.8

1990 Freeman McNeil 14.4

1987 Freeman McNeil 10.9

1985 Freeman McNeil 11.2

1984 Freeman McNeil 11.8

1982 Freeman McNeil 11.7

1980 Bruce Harper 12.7

1979 Bruce Harper 14.7

1978 Bruce Harper 15.1

1975 John Riggins 12.1

1974 Emerson Boozer 11.5

1972 John Riggins 11.0

1969 Emerson Boozer 11.1

1967 Bill Mathis 17.2

1967 Emerson Boozer 17.1

1966 Bill Mathis 17.2

1965 Bill Mathis 14.2

Look at that list a few seconds. That list, with the exception of Washington and Johnson, who were mostly return guys, is basically a who's who of NY Jets backs. You may not be familiar with Bill Mathis, but he was an All Pro RB in 1961 and a Pro Bowler in 1963. Boozer was a 2 time Pro Bowler. Riggins was a HOFer. Harper was perhaps the most electric back the Jets have ever had, and only his diminutive size kept him from getting enough touches to be a Pro Bowl talent. Freeman McNeil was probably the second best back the Jets ever had, a borderline HOF talent who only was prevented this honor by the Jets inexplicable transition to Johny Hector before McNeil really declined. The only great Jets back missing from this list is Curtis Martin, who was never really electric in the passing game.

So that's the company McKnight keeps as a pass catcher. Amongst the top 10 in the NFL in 2011. Amongst the greatest backs the Jets have ever seen. And there's one more place McKnight belongs in lists of pass catching Jets backs. Amazingly, Joe McKnight is the only back on the current Jets roster who has not caught a single pass in 2012. That's right, our most electric back, a back who has done something as a pass catcher that has by and large been done by only our all time greats, has zero receptions in 2012. Shonn Greene has 9 catches. Bilal Powell has 4. Even Lex Hilliard and Jonathan Grimes have 1 each. And Joe McKnight has zero. Zero!

If I remember correctly, and I could be wrong about this, I do not believe McKnight has even been targeted. This has to rank right up there with some of the most inexplicable coaching decisions in 2012. It can't be his hands - he has probably the best hands of any RB on the team. Meanwhile Shonn Hands of Stone Greene has caught 9 passes and been targeted numerous times. It can't be his after the catch running ability - McKnight is the most electric runner in space on the team. So why in Tebow's name are we not throwing the ball to Joe McKnight? It makes absolutely no sense, but for some mysterious reason, when it comes to passing the ball to Joe McKnight, our answer has been, "Nah, we'll pass".

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