One of my few criticisms on Brian Schottenheimer on Sunday is the way he used Brad Smith. Smith got one direct snap and ran the ball for a minimal gain. I think it is time for the Jets to reevaluate the way they use Brad on offense.
Lately Smith has mainly been involved in the team's Wildcat package. Call it the Tiger, the Tigercat, the Seminole, or whatever you would like. Its positive effect has been greatly minimized recently. Some might say the league has caught up to the Jets in their use of it. That might be. I'm not sure I love the way Schottenheimer is using Smith. Lately there hasn't been much in the way of an option. There have been some direct handoffs to backs by Brad, which I don't really get. This formation isn't going to fool anybody. Teams are going to stack the box and play the run. A direct handoff plays right into the hands of defenses.
There also seem to be less plays where Smith has the option of either pitching the ball when running outside or handing off on a zone read right after the snap. The option element is an important part of a Wildcat play. It prevents a defense from overpursuing. Since the ball can go to another guy, a defender overrunning the play and getting himself out of position could cause a big play. When this play has been effective, there has been a guy running with Smith to take a potential pitch. The defense loses a guy who either has to force Brad to give it up or take on the potential receiver to prevent the pitch. There also has not been much of the sweep option this year. Last year the Jets frequently sent Shonn Greene in motion to take a potential handoff outside if Smith made that read instead of keeping it. Lately it feels like the plays have just been asking Smith to try and make something happen.
While I feel there are technical flaws in the plays called, I also think the conceptual design leaves something to be desired. The Wildcat is one of many ways to get the ball into his hands, but the Jets use it as almost the exclusive way they do it. Why not more end arounds? It worked well against the Bengals. How about lining up Brad at running back and giving it to him on an outside toss? Why not get him involved in the screen game? Getting it into his hands in space with blockers in front is a lot like his role on a kickoff return. He is not as effective when he has to run routes and get open in the conventional passing game, but he would be really good on screens.
Part of the problem is that opposing defenses have been able to dedicate all of their time in stopping Smith to practice against the Wildcat. Even when the Wildcat isn't effective on Sunday, the time other teams have to dedicate to it comes out to practice against more conventional looks. That is why it is worth running once each week even if not effective. It keeps the other guys honest and gives them something else for which to prepare. I think the Jets need to diversify things, though. If the other team has to beware of the end around, handoffs, tosses, and screens, their defenses will not be able to dedicate the same amount of time to the Wildcat. That will make the options more effective.
I also think it's time to let Smith throw now and then it when he takes a direct snap. The Jets should make it clear that he has to eat it or throw it away if the guy isn't wide open, but it is important to make the other guys honest and give safeties a second thought about moving up, knowing the threat is there. One of the reasons Smith is supposed to have an advantage is his throwing experience as a college quarterback opposed to a guy like Ronnie Brown. Defenses aren't really respecting the pass right now.
Brad Smith is a great weapon, but I think the Jets need to mix things up with him a bit more.