If there was one glaring difference in the Jets’ third season under Rex Ryan compared to the first two, it was the lack of a consistent running game. “Ground and pound” was the mantra of the two teams that reached the AFC championship game the first two years before missing the playoffs entirely during the past 8-8 season.
In replacing Brian Schottenheimer as offensive coordinator with former Miami head coach Tony Sparano, Ryan assured the change would mark the return of a strong running game. Tight end Dustin Keller (pictured) said the difference is obvious from studying the offense during the offseason and running it for the first time this week in OTAs.
“We know who we are now,” Keller said. “We’re a power footall team that can throw the ball.”
Last season, Keller described the offense as “gameplan-specific,” meaning the emphasis changed from week to week depending on the opponent. That won’t happen to the same degree this season.
“Week in and week out, you know exactly what you’re going to have,” Keller said. “It’s more of a physical mind-set. We’re going to go in there and get physical; we’re going to punch the ball in there, and we’re going to throw it every once in awhile. But we are going to be a physical football team.”
There’s a strong emphasis on eliminating turnovers. Whenever the offense commits a turnover in practice, everyone including the offensive players on the sideline has to chase the ball. The Jets had seven turnovers returned for TDs last season, so, the new mind-set emphasizes making sure to tackle the defender.
Keller said running backs coach Anthony Lynn showed the offense a 15-20 minute presentation on the “Jet Way” to carry the football. “When they do that and guys have been [carrying the football] for such a long time, you know they’re serious about it,” Keller said.
Running the ball more frequently should take some pressure off starting quarterback Mark Sanchez. Sparano hasn’t installed the “Wildcat” formation yet, so, no one has an idea how much backup quarterback Tim Tebow will play. But Keller said whoever is at quarterback still will be under significant pressure to make the right reads to run the correct play against a particular defense.
Some have predicted Tebow might unseat Sanchez as the starting quarterback. Keller said Tebow has thrown the ball fine in practice this week, but he’s not anticipating any major change at starting quarterback.
“I think you know right now,” Keller said. “Mark is the starting guy, and he’s done a great job in OTAs. I don’t see that changing. But Tim’s done a great job also. Guys get in there with him, and you know we’re going to give it to him and everybody’s comfortable.”