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A look at the Jets’ two-back personnel packages

NFL: Buffalo Bills at New York Jets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past three games, the Jets have gradually introduced a new personnel package into their offense and it warrants a closer look in terms of the intended approach and also what it tells us about the players involved.

The package uses Elijah McGuire and Trenton Cannon at the same time and in a few different configurations. So far, it’s actually been quite successful! However, is that success likely to continue now that opposing teams have had a chance to see most of the various options?

It almost seems like a waste of time to review any aspect of this offense, given how inevitable it is that someone else will be brought in to oversee things next season. However, if Jeremy Bates has stumbled onto something that could use McGuire and Cannon’s skill-sets effectively, then there’s no reason it couldn’t be incorporated into the offense of whoever the new offensive mastermind is.

Bills game

The Jets first introduced this package in the blowout loss to the Bills, running it six times with many of those coming after the Jets were already losing heavily.

Their approach in this game would be a bit different to the next two games, as the Jets would typically line Cannon up out wide or in the slot and get him to run an end around action. They did this on four occasions, twice handing it to Cannon on the end around and twice giving it to McGuire up the middle. On the first McGuire run up the middle, he picked up about 12 yards on 4th-and-one, perhaps aided by the fact that the defense was stretched out as they anticipated Cannon getting the ball. They were ready for it the next time, though, and stuffed McGuire for a loss. Cannon’s two end arounds gained nine and 22 yards:

On one other play, they lined up in the same fashion but this time Cannon ran a fly pattern out of the slot and had a step on the defense. Josh McCown’s deep pass almost connected as it seemed to go through Cannon’s hands.

The other play they ran out of this personnel package saw Cannon line up wide but this time run a jet sweep motion. Once again, the intention was obviously to stretch out the defense as they gave it to McGuire up the middle, but the run was again stuffed.

Nevertheless, three nice plays - totalling over 40 yards - a play that nearly worked for a big gain and two runs that were stuffed wasn’t a bad output from these packages.

Patriots game

The Jets again went with this two-back personnel package for six plays in the loss to New England. On this occasion, both backs were in the backfield for all but one of the plays. On the other, they again ran McGuire up the middle with Cannon running a jet sweep motion and he gained three yards on the play.

The Jets opened up by running the option out of this look. The fake hand-off to McGuire up the middle was followed by a pitch to Cannon, who had lined up on the right and ran behind McCown around the left side. This went for a first down but was called for a hold.

On the next play with this grouping, they ran a different play which was an outside zone run to the right side. Cannon this time led the way for McGuire, and the play almost worked but for Jordan Leggett’s inability to seal Kyle Van Noy to the inside:

The next three times they were in this package, both ran routes and McCown threw incomplete to McGuire on an out pattern, then found him underneath for seven yards and finally threw a swing pass to Cannon in the flat for a loss:

So, in this game, the Jets didn’t have much success at all. A couple of plays that nearly worked and a couple of plays that picked up modest yardage was about as good as it got.

Titans game

Despite their lack of success in the Patriots game, the Jets continued to persevere with the two-back packages against Tennessee, as they ran them nine times, building on some of the looks they had previously shown.

On four occasions, Cannon ran a jet sweep motion. He got the ball once for eight yards and McGuire got the ball going up the middle on the other three occasions, gaining seven, three and three yards, with the latter converting on 3rd-and-short. There was also a slight variation in that final play as instead of timing the snap so that Cannon could theoretically take a hand-off without breaking stride, they waited until he had cleared and was out wide.

On the other five plays, McGuire and Cannon were in the backfield together. They ran two pass plays - one a quick swing pass to Cannon for seven and the other a downfield throw to a receiver for a first down from play action.

They also ran the option three times. First, they picked up five and a first down on an outside pitch to Cannon. Then, they ran it the other way, with McGuire as the pitch-man and Cannon got the ball up the middle for five more:

The final time they ran it was Cannon’s ill-fated third down run on a gadget play that John B already investigated in depth here. Hoping to have established enough of a tendency that divergence from the norm might fool the Titans was flawed in a number of ways, including the fact that the play relied on Tennessee’s most experienced player blowing his assignment and that the 11 men in the box meant that either Chris Herndon would need to block two players or Cannon would have to break two tackles.

Still, they gained about 50 yards from this package, which - in the context of an otherwise impotent offensive display - wasn’t too bad.


Over the course of the season, fans have justifiably been critical of Bates’ approach, so it’s nice to see him at least try something different. Had McGuire not been sidelined for the first half of the year, or perhaps if Cannon had developed sooner, then perhaps we would have seen this package earlier and it might have added another dimension to an offense which has since become bogged down and even more predictable.

The Jets have run some nice plays out of these packages and have had some decent success, but - as has been the case with his play selection generally - Bates’ timing when throwing in a new wrinkle or tendency-breaker leaves a lot to be desired.

On the whole, it’s been nice to see them find ways to get McGuire and Cannon involved over the past few weeks as both are promising young players who should be able to compete for roles in camp next year. Hopefully we can see more of this over the final month of the season and perhaps it will inform how either player can be used by whoever takes over this mess in 2019.