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Jets’ offense making strides toward respectability

Josh McCown of the Jets throws against the

Josh McCown of the Jets throws against the Dolphins at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 24, 2017 in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: Jim McIsaac

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The Jets offense isn’t prolific, not even close, yet there is improvement from a unit that ranks 30th overall in the NFL heading into Sunday’s game against the Jaguars.

In the last two games, the Jets totaled 40 points, improved the run game with a rotation and witnessed quarterback Josh McCown lead the NFL in third-down completion percentage at 81.5 percent.

Of course, this is just three games into a rebuilding campaign with a ton of young players still learning their craft. But you can see big-play potential in some players.

Second-year receiver Robby Anderson caught a 69-yard touchdown pass on a go route in the Jets’ first win of the season last week against the Dolphins. After rushing for only 38 yards in the Week 1 loss to the Bills, the Jets rushed for a total of 229 yards the next two weeks. Rookie running back Elijah McGuire, who made his debut in Week 2, has averaged 4.8 yards on 13 carries.

“We’re growing and getting better every week,” McCown said. “We’re learning each other and I think we see that there’s a comfort level that we all get from one another as we continue to work together. Just time together is really the main thing because we haven’t had much of that.”

The Jets offense missed numerous pieces when the season started, especially No. 1 receiver Quincy Enunwa, who was placed on injured reserve with a neck injury. GM Mike Maccagnan made a bold trade, giving up talented defensive end Sheldon Richardson for a second-round pick and veteran receiver Jermaine Kearse to bolster the offense.

Maccagnan also signed receiver Jeremy Kerley five days before the start of the season.

Kearse, who was acquired Sept. 1, leads the Jets in catches (14), yards (165) and receiving touchdowns (2). Kerley was inactive for Week 1 while he learned the offense but has played the last two weeks and caught eight passes for 56 yards.

“I think everybody is just all coming together,” Anderson said. “It takes all 11 and that’s what it really was.”

After three weeks, the offense has been more consistent than the defense, a surprise considering the talent level on that side of the ball. Part of the reason is McCown’s ability to limit his mistakes and take chances only when necessary.

In the season opener at Buffalo the Jets produced just 214 yards. McCown attempted a season-high 39 passes and threw for two scores. In the Week 2 loss at Oakland, the Jets averaged a season-high 5.1 yards per play. Last week McCown compiled season highs in passing yards (249) and quarterback rating (126.3) as the Jets beat the Dolphins.

“I love the way he runs the offense, as far as being the leader, always getting us in the right play, making good decision,” offensive coordinator John Morton said. “His completion percentage is up there, which is always good for a quarterback. I think he’s playing really well right now.”

Morton has mixed his offensive linemen due to health issues. He moved in Dakota Dozier at right guard with Brian Winters out with an abdomen injury and employed two extra offensive linemen as tackle-eligible players because he was shorthanded at tight end. Morton even used defensive end Lawrence Thomas as a fullback last week against the Dolphins and he caught a 13-yard pass.

The Jets are not going to wow you with numbers, but Morton has done a nifty job of using what’s available to him. Morton is not afraid to go with empty offensive sets or spread the defense out. His running back rotation has veteran starter Matt Forte getting limited snaps. Morton said he likes to keep players as fresh as possible to maximize their abilities.

“I think the thing that [Morton] does a good job of is that he’s been exposed to a lot of football,” McCown said. “I think a lot of people have, but sometimes I think you forget some of the exposure that you have — you might go to this group and you forget how you ran the play. He’s able to pull from different places he has been and he remembers the plays and says, ‘This will work against this group, this will work against that group.’ I think that’s a strength for him and for us.”

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