Sparano’s Dolphins vs. Sparano’s Jets


June 12, 2012; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano during New York Jets Minicamp at the Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE

The Jets have a variety of newcomers this season on both sides of the ball, giving both the offense and defense a new look. Offensively, Sparano will have the job of adapting his game plan to the Jets personnel. Compared to the personnel in Sparano’s offense last year in Miami, there are some noticeable differences worth looking into.

The current Jets backfield flaunts a different skill set than Miami’s of last year. While the Dolphins ground game consisted of speedy Reggie Bush and an inside the tackles runner in Daniel Thomas, the Jets have a stable of mostly “power backs.” Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell and Terrance Ganaway all fall into this mold, leaving Joe McKnight as the only truly explosive runner they have. Unfortunately for McKnight, ball safety is a staple of Sparano’s offensive philosophy and if his fumbling issues continue it is unlikely that he will see much time. That being said, we should expect to see a bit of everyone carrying the ball. Before last year, Sparano utilized a mostly successful dual back system with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. It will be interesting to watch the development of the run game this year, not only after a below average performance last season, but because the Jets personnel fits the “ground and pound” mentality that Sparano is looking to re-establish. While the Jets lack the reliable breakaway threat the Dolphins had in Bush, they have no shortage of physical runners that may be best fit for Sparano’s scheme.

Quick Analysis: Bigger, more physical backs than Sparano is used to but they fit the scheme. Lacking consistent breakaway threat and pure speed out of backfield.

Last season Sparano worked with a receiving corps of Brandon Marshall, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess as well as Anthony Fasano at tight end. When focused, Marshall is one of the top play makers in the game, while Hartline and Bess are solid slot receivers. Fasano is again, solid, but not too much of a receiving threat. This season’s Jets do not have someone who matches up equally with Marshall, but they have more depth and skilled wideouts. Sparano’s emphasis on physical running complemented by a vertical passing game should benefit from the addition of Stephen Hill. Hill is a big, fast receiver who has been impressing in off season workouts. His deep speed should open up the field for Santonio Holmes to get back to being an effective go to receiver. Similarly, Chaz Schilens has excellent physical traits in terms of size and speed, and has been impressing in camp. Because of his injury history expectations are not high, though if he can stay healthy he has all the tools to fit into the same role Stephen Hill is trying to fill. If Jeremy Kerley continues to develop as a slot receiver, this group should be better and more explosive than any group of pass catchers Sparano has worked with in Miami. There is concern at tight end as Dustin Keller, who has been a consistent receiving threat, may not be able to handle the role of blocking tight end that Sparano employs in the run heavy scheme. While he has been Sanchez’ most trustworthy target over the last few years, it is worth wondering if Sparano will keep him on the field on running downs. Regardless, this group of receivers has more potential than in past years. It is up to Sparano to utilize their speed and give the Jets the down field passing game that was nonexistent under Brian Schottenheimer.

Quick Analysis: Potentially three big play receivers with size and speed, as well as a solid slot receiver in Kerley and a better pass catching tight end in Keller. More depth than Sparano had with Dolphins.

At quarterback things are similar for Sparano, going from Chad Henne and Matt Moore to Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. Sanchez will be the starter, and Sparano has the advantage of already having to deal with a quarterback on the hot seat in Henne. Sanchez’ strengths (play action, bootlegs) are also very clear at this point so Sparano can focus on getting Sanchez to play within his game, which an effective ground attack would make easier. Last year Moore showed a similar ability to Sanchez in avoiding pass rushers, something Sparano mentioned when he took the job with the Jets. Knowing this, Sparano should be inclined to let Sanchez move a little more, possibly running more bootlegs. As for Tebow, we all know he’ll be used in some outside the box type situations such as the Wildcat, which Sparano has experience with.

Quick Analysis: Similar scenario to last year’s Dolphins but more pressure on Sanchez to be efficient. The starting Dolphins line last year included Richie Incognito, Jake Long, Mike Pouncey, Marc Columbo and Vernon Carey. This compares to the projected Jets line of D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Matt Slauson, Nick Mangold, Brandon Moore and of course, Wayne Hunter. Both teams best lineman are their left tackle and their center. Long is a pro bowl tackle and Pouncey had a great rookie year. The Jets have Ferguson who should bounce back after an off year and Mangold, arguable the best center in football. Pass blocking is not the Jets strength. So last year when they started off by throwing the ball all the time, it got the lineman into a funk they never really recovered from even after returning to the run game. Assuming Sparano sticks to the ground game, the line should fare better. Getting into a rhythm early in the year is important for the line. Additionally, Sparano came up the ranks as a line coach, so there is hope he can get Slauson and Hunter to perform at a higher level this season. Slauson should also be recovered from his nagging shoulder injury. Sparano likes to use two tight end sets, using them as blockers, which should give the line more support especially Hunter at right tackle. Fasano was a better blocker than Keller is, so it will be interesting to see how Keller is used.

Quick Analysis: More experienced line than last year’s Dolphins however weak spots remain at right tackle and possibly left guard.

To sum it up, Sparano is looking at an offense with a much more physical backfield that should translate well into his scheme. While they lack backs who can break big plays, they have the personnel to wear down opposing defenses. Additionally, if Joe McKnight can hold onto the football he may give them that missing speed element. The Jets receiving corps provide Sparano with Chaz Schilens and Stephen Hill, who have the raw attributes needed to stretch the field and open up routes for Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller and Jeremy Kerley. This receiving group is an undoubted improvement over that of last year’s Dolphins. The offensive line still has question marks and their quarterback needs to perform. Sparano has dealt with both these issues in Miami. His experience could prove instrumental to getting the Jets offense back on track. Compared to Sparano’s Dolphin team of a year ago, the Jets personnel seems to fit his game plan much better at the skill positions. However the decisive factor for his offense will be line and quarterback play, which will dictate how effective this offense can be, especially in a division of improving defenses.