The New York Jets have made their share of changes on offense this season.
Most notably, they’ve moved on from former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, replacing him with former Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano.
Personell-wise, they added an intriguing piece in Tim Tebow, who will backup starting quarterback Mark Sanchez while also contributing in a variety of roles on offense and special teams.
The Jets are going with a youth movement for the most part on offense, having parted ways with veterans Plaxico Burress and LaDainian Tomlinson, who each had major roles on offense last season.
The Jets kicked off the season with Burress opposite Santonio Holmes, and veteran Derrick Mason in the slot receiver role.
Mason did not last long before he was shipped out and replaced with rookie receiver Jeremy Kerley, who began the year fourth on the depth chart, but became a clutch third-down target down the stretch.
Kerley (above) will be counted on from day 1 of the season in 2012, after he caught 29 passes in 14 games as a rookie. The Jets need him to continue to be the reliable third-down target he’s shown he can be.
With Tomlinson out of the picture, third-year running back Joe McKnight will get plenty of playing time in third-down situations. He’s got the athleticism to excel in that role, especially if he can improve upon his pass protection.
Also entering the fold this season is rookie second-round pick Stephen Hill, who the Jets hope to see earn a starting receiver job opposite Holmes.
The 21-year-old Hill gives the Jets a legitimate deep threat, and his presence alone should help free up Holmes from all the double-teams he saw last season.
It’s not without risk putting so much faith in young players, especially in such crucial situations like third-down conversion attempts. But the Jets were certainly smart to part ways with the veterans they previously had.
Mason and Tomlinson have since retired, while Burress has yet to be signed by any team, as the calendar has turned to July and training camp looms closer and closer.
Like all of the offensive players on the Jets this season, McKnight, Kerley and Hill will all need to learn a new playbook. However, they will certainly have plenty of opportunities to earn playing time this year.
Getting younger, faster and more athletic is a great philosophy to have, in theory. However, the blueprint the Jets envision will only come to fruition if those players step up and produce like the Jets believe they’re capable of.