The New York Jets' anemic offense from the past few seasons appears headed in the right direction, that is, downfield, and is presumed to improve upon a dismal 18.1 points per game average from 2013 in the upcoming season.
Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg now has a capable group of personnel who can help execute his version of the West Coast offense, which should ideally help improve the team's chances of scoring a greater number of touchdowns in 2014.
The Jets remain a run-first team, despite making a few key additions to their receiving corps over the offseason. Free-agent acquisition Eric Decker, who excelled as a member of the Denver Broncos, will help enable an offense that averaged just 183.3 passing yards per game in 2013. Decker might not be a true No. 1 wideout, but he's a serious upgrade over disgruntled receiver Santonio Holmes.
Mornhinweg will employ three receivers in most offensive sets in conjunction with rookie tight end Jace Amaro, who is capable of splitting out wide. At 6'5'' and 257 pounds, Amaro possesses the size and speed to create serious mismatch problems for defensive backs. He's the big-bodied target the Jets offense was formerly devoid of and should increase their viability in the red zone.
The Jets' core of receivers doesn't rank among the top-tier units in the league, but it should prove sufficient enough to generate more points. Decker and third-year wideout Stephen Hill are expected to be the team's primary receivers on the perimeter with Jeremy Kerley occupying the slot. The draft additions of Jalen Saunders and Shaq Evans gives Mornhinweg a more diverse collection of offensive weapons, especially between the chains.
How effectively the Jets are able to execute a revamped offensive attack weighs on who is delegated the responsibility of starting at quarterback. Second-year signal-caller Geno Smith is the favorite to win the job in training camp, but veteran QB Michael Vick will assuredly earn a fair chance of winning the job, especially if he's able to exhibit an ability to play at full strength. Vick played in just seven games in 2013, due to injury and the electrifying emergence of Nick Foles.
Vick has extensive experience operating under the play-calling guidance of Mornhinweg, who served as the Philadelphia Eagles OC from 2006-12. Even though the offense the Jets employ is intrinsically different than that of the offense Vick ran in Philadelphia, his familiarity with Mornhinweg's play-calling tendencies makes him a viable candidate to win the job, barring recurring injury.
If the Jets are going to greatly improve upon an offense that ranked 25th in yards gained last season, it's pivotal for them to yield maximum efficiency from the quarterback position. Vick completed just 54.6 percent of his pass attempts in 2013, whereas Smith hit his target on 55.8 percent of his throws. Smith, despite playing well in the Jets' final two regular-season games, struggled to avoid turning the ball over. He committed 26 total turnovers on the season, matching Mark Sanchez's total from the two seasons prior.
The Jets offense would arguably be more effective with Vick under center than Smith in 2014, given Vick's ability to run a pro-style West Coast attack and Smith's learning curve. The Jets will give Smith all the chances he deserves as a former second-round pick whom they hope will develop into a legitimate franchise quarterback, but Vick gives the team a better chance of winning now.
New York isn't geared for a run at the Super Bowl, but they're entirely capable of earning a playoff berth, especially considering how difficult their defense is to score upon.
Jets QB Geno Smith getting great majority of reps so far in 11s. #OpenCompetition— Jane McManus (@janesports) June 4, 2014
For the Jets to average more than three touchdowns per game, they need to execute an effective balance of run and pass. Mornhinweg has a reputation for being a pass-happy play-caller, which was on display early in the 2013 season.
Smith averaged 34 passes per game over the first four games of the season, but he threw less than 26 passes per contest over the remaining 12 regular-season games. Turnovers were the primary reason for Mornhinweg dialing back Smith's pass total, but the effectiveness of the run game was also a contributing factor.
The Jets run game figures to be dynamic in 2014, considering the crucial addition of speed back Chris Johnson, who is expected to receive a bulk of the work load while splitting carries with Chris Ivory. The Jets' rush attack ranked sixth in the league in 2013, averaging 134.9 rushing yards per game. It's conceivable for that figure to increase in the upcoming season, given Johnson's ability to maneuver around should-be tacklers in traffic and break loose for big gains.
Johnson is the only active running back in the NFL to rush for at least 1,000 yards in six consecutive seasons. He was arguably overworked last season, recording 321 touches, including receptions. He totaled 1,422 total yards from scrimmage. If he's able to duplicate that kind of production with the Jets on fewer carries, New York will average plenty more than 18.1 points per game.
The combination of Johnson and Ivory will serve as the backbone of the Jets offense. Johnson will spend more time on the field in less obvious run situations because of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Johnson recorded 345 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 42 receptions last season. His dynamism will make the Jets offense more efficient, especially in third-down situations.
Who should start at QB for the Jets in 2014?
The Jets will be most effective on offense when able to confuse defenses into thinking run on pass plays. This is a big reason why acquiring Johnson was so crucial to their potential success. The Jets' ability to pound the football through the tackles will prompt defenses to load the box with seven or eight defenders, enabling whoever is delegated the responsibility of starting at quarterback to exploit the flats on screen plays.
The Jets won't be throwing a ton of deep balls in 2014, rather, their offense is built to move the chains by effectively running the football and utilizing open space between the chains to gain positive yardage on passing downs.