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NY Jets Offense: Expect Lots Of Passes To RBs

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Marty Mornhinweg offenses have always thrown a lot of passes to backs.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

What should we expect to see on Sundays this year with new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg calling the plays?  One thing Marty's offenses have nearly always featured is a boatload of passes to the running backs.  In the 13 seasons Marty Mornhinweg has served as a head coach or offensive coordinator in the NFL, his offenses have consistently favored the passing attack over running the ball.  And when he has passed the ball, nearly every year a large number of those passes targeted running backs.  Here are the numbers for Mornhinweg offenses through the years:

Year

RB Receptions

RB % of Total Receptions

San Francisco (OC)

1997

92

33%

1998

92

27%

1999

114

35%

2000

106

29%

Detroit (HC)

2001

131

38%

2002

107

39%

Philadelphia (OC)

2006

122

38%

2007

110

31%

2008

92

25%

2009

80

24%

2010

109

31%

2011

55

17%

2012

101

28%

Note that in only one year, 2011, did backs fail to catch at least 80 passes, and in 8 of the 13 years, backs caught more than 100 passes.  These offenses featured great QBs (S. Young), good QBs (D. McNabb), OK QBs (J. Garcia) and terrible QBs (J. Harrington).  They featured great WRs (J. Rice, T. Owens) and no name WRs.  They featured great backs (B. Westbrook, L. McCoy) and no name backs.  But the one constant has virtually always been that the backs catch a ton of footballs.  The high point in this trend came in 2001 and 2002, when, not coincidentally, the Lions had a mediocre QB (Charlie Batch) and a terrible rookie QB (Joey Harrington) calling signals.  With the rookie Harrington under center, running backs reached their high point in terms of % of the passing game flowing through them, as the Lions' backs accounted for a whopping 39% of all Detroit receptions in 2002.

This suggests the Jets are likely to do something similar with rookie Geno Smith under center.  This may be the main reason Bilal Powell is currently the first string RB, as Chris Ivory has no history of catching the ball and was injured so much of the preseason that he had little opportunity to prove to the coaches he was up to the task.  It also suggests another reason why Geno Smith is far more suited for the starting job than Mark Sanchez, as Sanchez has proven to be possibly the worst QB in NFL history in throwing to his backs.  So as you settle in for a new season of Jets football, expect to see a steady diet of throws to running backs this year.  And when Mike Goodson arrives and works his way into shape, don't be surprised if he ends up seizing the first string RB job from Powell.  Goodson is the Jets back best suited to the passing game, and if Mornhinweg's history is any indication, this may be a deciding factor in who sees the playing field the most.  The last time Jets backs collectively caught as many as 90 passes was in the early years of Chad Pennington's career, in 2002, 2003 and 2004.  Given Mornhinweg's history, it's likely we will be dusting off those RB pass plays more than at any time since those early Pennington years.  The Jets passing game is about to take a short route, to the backs