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Does the West Coast Offense Work for the Jets Wide Receivers?

By Alan Schechter
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Dec. 23, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Chaz Schilens (85) runs with the ball against the San Diego Chargers during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Chargers won 27-17. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

We have been talking over the last couple of days about the West Coast offense, and how it will mix with the current Jets’ roster. We talked about how it affects the quarterback situation, and how Shonn Greene is not a good fit for the system. This morning, I wanted to take a look at the group of wide receivers as a whole, and talk about whether any of them are a good fit for the West Coast system.

To reiterate, the West Coast offense is based on a series of horizontal pass routes, based on timing. All of the receivers flood the defense with a lot of different crossing routes, in an attempt to overload the defense with more routes than defenders. To achieve that goal, you need reliable wide receivers. They need to have good hands, and be able to make the catch in stride and go for yards after the catch, otherwise known as YAC. You also have to have receivers that are physical and good with their hands. What do I mean? Well, when you are coming off the line for short to intermediate routes, you are more often than not going to face press coverage. Your receivers in the West Coast system have to be able to get off the initial “hand-check”, beat press coverage and get to their spot. If not, the system will be a disaster, because the QB throws to a spot the receiver is supposed to be at. If he isn’t, it’s a problem.

Let’s talk about the Jets current cast of characters and how they fit these roles.

We start by talking about the process of getting off press coverage. This is where all the Jets receivers have trouble, other than Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards. You all saw it this year. Once Santonio Holmes was lost for the season, did you feel comfortable with ANY receiver getting separation off the line of scrimmage? Jeremy Kerley got better, but nobody was very proficient at it. Time and time again, we saw this younger group of wide receivers have trouble getting off the line. It wasn’t the only reason that Mark Sanchez had difficulty, but it certainly was a mitigating factor. Sanjay Lal will have to teach these guys well on this topic.

We will go into some of the other factors on the next page.

Dec 30, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (11) runs after a catch against the Buffalo Bills during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s take a look at the reliability of these guys. In terms of drop rate, the guy with the lowest drop percentage was Clyde Gates, although he only had 33 targets. His percentage was 5.88% in those 33 targets. Jeremy Kerley was terrific in this regard, with a 6.67% drop rate in 88 targets. Remember how we all balked at the play of Chaz Schilens? Well, he actually recorded the same percentage as Kerley, which was lower than Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards, with more targets than both of them. Schilens was targetted 41 times, and recorded the 6.67% drop rate. Santonio Holmes was targeted 39 times, Braylon Edwards 18, and they both recorded a 9.09% drop rate. Sanjay Lal has his biggest task with Stephen Hill, who dropped over 22% of his 46 targets. The wide receivers must be reliable in order to be an effective weapon in the West Coast system.

By the way, for all of us that had a problem with Chaz Schilens, the QB rating when he was thrown at was over 94. He also led the team in percentage of passes caught with over 68%. Jeremy Kerley caught 63%, no one else caught over 60%. Schilens truly was a lot more reliable than we all thought in his time on the field in 2012.

We talked earlier about the YAC necessary to run this system. When you look at the Jets, this is where most of the Jets weapons miss the mark a little bit. Santonio Holmes, as long as he is healthy, will be fine. He averaged 6.2 YAC per reception, which put him on a par with Julio Jones and others. Jeremy Kerley improved in this category as well, putting up 5.4 YAC per catch, putting him right in the middle of the pack. However, nobody else averaged over 4 YAC per catch, which is not going to get the job done. (Mardy Gilyard averaged 5.5, but his targets were quite limited and his is not expected back on the team). For reference, Percy Harvin averaged 8.7 and Cecil Shorts averaged 8.5.

Simply put, if these guys are going to make the team, they are going to have to improve in this category.

As being physical goes, they also need to be able to block downfield. If they don’t make the catch, they have to help the guy trying to earn YAC down the field. To nobody’s surprise, Braylon Edwards led the receivers with a blocking rating of 1.3. Jeremy Kerley was not good at the concept at all with a -0.3, equalling that of Santonio Holmes. Clyde Gates added a .8, and Mardy Gilyard a 1.0. However, nobody was great as far as league standards, with the highest rankings being in the 4s and 5s.

The point here is that the Jets have guys that have parts of what it takes to be good in the West Coast system. However, they don’t really have anyone that puts it all together. A guy that can get off the line, make the catch consistently, get yards after the catch, and block downfield.

Maybe Sanjay Lal can turn these guys into that type of player.

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