The best way to make a rookie quarterback successful is to take the pressure off of him, and the best way to do that is to have a strong rushing attack. The New York Jets thought their run game could do that for Geno Smith, but if Week 1 is any indication then they have a major problem. The run game was atrocious against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and it must improve for the Jets to have a competitive offense going forward.
In an interesting development, Bilal Powell was clearly the No.1 running back, despite the Jets’ offseason trade for Chris Ivory. Powell was on the field for 47 snaps, compared to just 24 for Ivory, according to ESPN New York’s Rich Cimini, who thankfully tracks such things. The Jets gave up a 4th round pick for Ivory, who was supposed to be the workhorse running back for the team. Ivory is still working himself into shape following a hamstring injury, but it was nonetheless surprising to see him play so little.
Regardless of who carried the ball, the results were the same. Powell had 12 carries for 29 yards, good for a measly 2.4 YPC. Ivory was even worse, gaining just 15 yards on 10 carries, resulting in an anemic 1.5 YPC. Granted, the Bucs had the NFL‘s top ranked run defense a year ago, but that performance was still an unmitigated disaster.
The Jets were very ineffective on the ground in two of the three preseason games that the starters played in, so there has to be serious concern that this is going to become a year-long issue. The Jets have a very talented offensive line, and they should be able to create openings for the running backs. However, they allowed Tampa Bay defensive linemen to get into the backfield too frequently, leaving nowhere to run.
When there was good blocking, the backs didn’t seem to know what to do with it. Both backs repeatedly just crashed into the line without the patience and vision to find a cutback lane. Neither has the speed to break a run on the outside, so they must become more effective between the tackles.
While Smith was solid in his debut, it his unlikely that he and the passing attack will be able to lead the Jets to many wins this season. The run game is going to have to be the focal point of the offense if they want to be able to consistently put up points.
Sunday’s performance was simply not good enough, and if the run doesn’t improve quickly the Jets will be just as bad offensively as they were last year.