Joe McKnight: Why New York Jets Must Incorporate RB into Offense More

Zach KruseSenior Analyst IOctober 10, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 08:  Joe McKnight #25 of the New York Jets returns a kickoff 100-yards for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Houston Texans at MetLife Stadium on October 8, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

With his special teams ability confirmed and a move to cornerback scraped, maybe now it's time the New York Jets start using running back/returner/cornerback Joe McKnight in a more expansive role on the offensive side of the ball. 

McKnight, whose 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown turned a 20-7 blowout-stirring contest with the Houston Texans Monday into a thriller late, has carried just seven times for 19 yards with zero receptions this season. 

While the Jets were willing to experiment with McKnight as a cornerback once Darrelle Revis went down—and McKnight even played on two defensive snaps vs. the San Francisco 49ers in Week 4 before the Jets cut the cord—it's time the plodding New York offense gives him a defined role. 

What can it hurt? The Jets currently rank 28th in passing, 23rd in rushing and 22nd in scoring. There is no chemistry to mess with, no rhythm to disrupt. 

Maybe a set of plays (not including direct snaps) for a dynamic open-field athlete like McKnight can help jump-start a unit that has mostly been stuck in the mud this season. 

The two players ahead of him on the running back depth chart have done nothing to prove they deserve a large role, either.

Starter Shonn Greene has received 76 carries but remains under a 3.0 rushing average. The 76 touches in the running game have resulted in just 217 yards. He's been a massive letdown as the Jets starting running back.

Bilal Powell has only been marginally better, averaging 3.9 yards on 30 carries. He's been mostly a disappointment as the Jets' third down back. Monday night against the Texans, Powell was wide open on a short-out route but slipped and fell, resulting in an incomplete pass from Mark Sanchez

While Powell is a much better pass protector than McKnight—the likely reason he plays on third downs—you'd like to think an athlete like McKnight could better handle making plays in space in the passing game. 

The Jets have these kind of assets on offense—like McKnight, possibly even like backup quarterback Tim Tebow—but the unit, which has really done nothing up until this point, has been terrified to use either. 

Athletes like McKnight, when used correctly, can shift advantages the offense's way. Other NFL offenses haven't been scared to experiment. Look at the New Orleans Saints with Darren Sproles. What is stopping McKnight from having some kind of package that mirrors what Sproles does in New Orleans?

The simple moral here is that the Jets need to find ways to manufacture points offensively. McKnight is still one option that doesn't get used enough.

According to Pro Football Focus, McKnight has just 17 snaps on offense this season. Ten of those came Monday night against Houston. 

On his first three carries, McKnight generated 13 yards of offense. His final snap—a direct snap with McKnight taking the direct snap—resulted in an eight-yard loss. 

The Jets need to find more constructive ways to get their best athlete on offense into space. What about a screen play? What about motioning him into the slot for a bubble screen? Delayed draw? Wildcat stuff with Tebow as the quarterback? 

There's no reason an offense like the Jets should be stashing away a player who could surprise with a set of plays each week.