I do not agree with those who believe balance on offense between the run and the pass should always be a priority. If your team has the tools, being pass heavy is the best way to go. You gain more yards throwing the ball, and more big plays come through the air. If your team has a guy like Aaron Rodgers, it would be crazy to seek balance. Just have your quarterback sit in the pocket for most of the game, deliver strikes to receivers, and let him take the defense apart.
The Jets are not in that position. They have a rookie quarterback who has shown a tendency to make the killer mistake albeit in a limited sample size. They have an offense better suited to run the ball. The Jets should focus on running the ball first.
Although I viewed the hiring of Marty Mornhinweg as a breath of fresh air, the moves the team made in the offseason left me a bit concerned. Mornhinweg has earned a reputation as somebody who likes to throw, throw, and throw some more. The personnel the Jets brought in left the team stronger running the ball.
Even more, the Jets brought in a rookie quarterback, Geno Smith. There is a definite adjustment period to the NFL for rookies. They have to deal with more complicated playbooks and faster opponents than they have ever seen before. They also run into totally foreign defensive concepts which they have to learn. In the past, two quarterbacks saw significant playing time in a Mornhinweg led offense, Joey Harrington and Nick Foles. Both averaged 37 passes in games where they saw extended time.
Through two weeks, Geno Smith is averaging (you guessed it) 36.5 passes per game. Simply put, that is too many. Offenses asking a rookie quarterback to carry the load throwing the ball usually fail in the NFL. There has to be a way to take some of the load off the rookie. One way to ask less of a rookie in the passing game is to surround him with talented receivers who can create large throwing lanes and win contested balls, forcing the quarterback to be a little less accurate. The Jets are unfortunately in the opposite position. Their receiving corps looks poor. The return of Jeremy Kerley will help, but Santonio Holmes appears to really be struggling to move returning from his injury, Stephen Hill's decent stats do not tell the story of his struggles, and Clyde Gates looks like Clyde Gates.
The Jets, however, do appear to have an above average rushing attack, even if it is not up to 2009 standards. While Austin Howard and Vladimir Ducasse are still question marks in pass protection at this point, another reason to not build around the pass, they are extremely effective run blockers as Nick Mangold and Willie Colon have reputations for being as well. In limited carries last week, Chris Ivory looked like the very tough runner capable of grinding out extra yards the Jets hoped he would be when they traded for him.
Right now, this offense seems to be based solely around the pass. It really should be based on the run game. That is the strength of the unit. An effective run game is what will make life easier on Geno Smith. Defenses will not be able to get as wild with their looks if the threat of the run is there on every play. They will have to commit extra defenders to stop the run, opening throwing lanes. The Jets can also keep the quarterback out of dangerous long distance downs.
The offense has to be about helping the quarterback as much as possible. The Jets have not really done that through two weeks. They have asked Geno to be the main man on offense. That is a recipe that will not likely work. There is another factor. Forcing Geno to perform so much with such precision can be exhausting. He is only used to playing into early December anyway so this could wear him down by the end of the year.
I think Marty Mornhinweg is a pretty good coordinator overall, but I am pessimistic on this front. One thing Mornhinweg has struggled with is being adaptable. Hence all of the throws for his rookie quarterbacks.
It would be quite a stretch to blame the Jets' loss last week on the playcalling. The Jets botched some passing plays anybody in the NFL should be able to execute. Nobody is talking about the playcalling if the players execute. The calls did serve as an omen, though. The fact is the Jets do not have a great passing attack. When you lean on a weakness, you create a scenario where bad things will happen. The Jets might not have the kind of run game that can totally carry the offense like they did in 2009, but it does appear to be a lot stronger on paper. They should play to their strength. Mornhinweg failing to do so will come at the team's expense.