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What do the Jets need to do offensively to have a successful second half

Syndication: Asbury Park Press Chris Pedota, / USA TODAY NETWORK

It seems strange to be sitting here talking about the second half of the season midway through October. Technically the Jets aren’t at their midway point, but when thinking about the NFL season I always split it into two sections, before the bye week and after the bye week.

Well, the Jets bye is in the rearview mirror and we now have 12 games on the trot, a good time to gain some momentum and a good time to really take stock of what you have.

So what does success for the Jets look like in the 2nd half of the season? What needs to happen for us to feel confident heading into the off-season? Here are my thoughts on a question I get asked about a lot.

Zach Wilson needs to be a better QB in week 17 than he is today.

This one seems pretty obvious, but a lot of this season’s success rests on the shoulders of the young BYU product.

It’s been an uneven start for Zach but statistically, he’s been among the worst QB’s in the league. There are caveats throughout this around his offensive line starting slowly, his receivers dropping an alarming amount of footballs and the lack of any real run game.

I accept and appreciate all of those facts. If you’re willing to accept those facts, you have to accept the obvious one that Zach Wilson hasn’t played very well.

He’s made some tremendous throws. Mostly off-script and when the play has broken down. He’s also made some excellent throws from within the pocket as well, the problem is he hasn’t done it consistently, and he’s been making some pretty big errors as well. He’s basically a bottom 5 QB in pretty much every key statistical category that QB’s are judged against, whether that’s INT’s, passer rating or completion %.

Zach doesn’t need to be perfect, but he does need to show signs of progression. How we’re talking about Zach in week 17 will go a long way to determining if the season is viewed as a success or a failure.

Can we get Elijah Moore the ball more, and what does he do when he gets it

8 receptions for 66 yards on 20 targets. Those 20 targets have come in four games due to Moore missing one through concussion, so he is averaging 5 targets a game, which isn’t too bad. Although the 2 targets he got against Atlanta in a game we were struggling in is questionable personnel management.

7 of those targets have come on passes of 20 or more yards, and while using him to stretch the field is absolutely a good idea, those throws are largely low percentage ones, shown by the fact he’s caught just one of them (although he has drawn pass interference calls too).

What I’d like to see is more manufactured touches. He is getting separation, flick on the game tape and you’ll see that Moore doesn’t have any issues with his release or his route running, but the Jets simply aren’t getting him the ball.

According to NFL Next Gen stats, Moore is generating 3.9 yards of separation on average this season, one of the highest marks on the team and well above the NFL average which sits between 2.9 and 3.1.

The issue we’re seeing is that Moore is often the 3rd read on a play. Corey Davis is the 1st, Crowder is the 2nd and then Moore is either the 3rd or 4th. Zach Wilson rarely has time to get to his 3rd and as a rookie QB, sometimes he just doesn’t try to get there, instead throwing to his checkdown if his 1st is covered. I’d love to see LaFleur draw up some plays where Moore is the 1st read, there must be some in the playbook, now’s the time to show them.

Will we start adapting our formation to suit our personnel more?

The 2021 season isn’t just a litmus test for the players on the roster, this is a test for the coaching staff as well.

I’ve probably been harsher on LaFleur than is warranted, but at the same time I do think he’s not helped himself or the team with some of the personnel groupings.

The Jets are using 12 personnel (1 RB and 2 TE) on 36% of plays this season, that’s the 3rd highest mark in the league, just behind Atlanta (37%) and Miami (41%). This despite having arguably the worst TE room in the league.

There’s nothing wrong with using 12 personnel, it’s designed to open up the run game and create an opportunity for big passing plays by forcing the defense to play single-high coverage. But, you tend to have the pieces at the tight end position.

Miami has Mike Gesicki and Atlanta have Kyle Pitts, the Jets don’t have a tight end anywhere close to that talent level.

12 Personnel has helped our pass protection with just one sack coming from that formation, but the lack of receiving options has led to just a 30% successful pass rate with 1 TD to 5 INT and 3.6 yards per carry, as opposed to running from the league standard 11 personnel where we’ve had a 41% successful pass rate with 3 TD to 4 INT and a 4.4 yards per carry average.

Play to your personnel, we have much better receivers than tight ends. More 11 and less 12 in the second half will show me the coaching staff are adapting to their players.

Get Denzel Mims on the field

Mims has been healthy all season, and he’s generated just 21 offensive snaps, 14 where he’s run a route, and 7 where he’s been in to block.

He’s been targeted 3 times and he’s caught 3 balls for 73 yards. Tiny sample size, but you have a player here that will make plays for your QB. Surrounding Zach with talent has always been the goal, so it’s key we continue to try to put him in the best position to succeed.

Saleh’s explanation that it was due to Mims not knowing all receiving positions doesn’t hold water, you don’t need Mim’s to know all three to be effective.

Maybe they didn’t see what they wanted to see in pre-season, maybe they didn’t believe he was applying himself. Now all we hear is how good his practice weeks have been, it’s time to get him more involved in the offense. He’s a 2nd round, 2nd-year talent that can grow with Moore and Zach, we need to start letting the chemistry develop.

Will the offensive line continue to gel? And what happens when Becton returns?

The Jets line was horrendous to start the season, but it’s been steadily improving every week.

GVR is still a glaring weakness at RG, but even he has performed better in recent weeks and the Jets pass blocking has come a long way since the debacle in week one against Carolina.

Take Vera-Tucker for example, the Jets rookie left guard had a tough start to the season, allowing 1 sack and 12 pressures in the first three games. But, he didn’t have a pre-season so you had to expect that he would struggle straight out of the gate. He’s now allowed either a sack or a single pressure over the last two games.

Connor McGovern is another player who is performing at a high level, he’s allowed 1 sack and 7 pressures all season, and while the line as a unit aren’t run blocking to the level you’d want, they are providing Zach with an opportunity to make plays.

As of today, there is no concrete timetable for Becton’s return. But when he does return he will slot straight back in at left tackle, that’s the position the Jets like him at, that’s the position they see him at going forward. However, George Fant has done a fine job since moving to left tackle. He’s not allowed a single sack all season and he’s allowed just 6 pressures too. He’s the highest graded pass blocker on the Jets, but offers very little in the run game.

Will the Jets put Fant back at right tackle once Becton returns, going with the same line that started the game in Carolina, or will they stick with Morgan Moses, that’s going to be a key decision.

If the Jets continue to improve as a unit and AVT continues to dominate like he has over the last two weeks, it’ll be largely a successful season for the unit.