The New York Jets might have set records last season on offense but they needed help when it came to having better receiving options out of the backfield. Matt Forte is exactly what they needed.
There are a couple of tropes around the NFL that people love to bring out almost every game. A few of the more common ones are the well-worn phrases like “It’s a quarterback league” and “the tight end is the quarterback’s best friend” and everything else in between.
Yes, we’ve all heard these terms time and time again, and we know how important they are to the overall success of a football team, but in the world of Gang Green, that simply hasn’t been the case, unfortunately. Help however, may be on the way with sure-handed running back Matt Forte, who has the ability to mask a lot of those head-scratching problems.
First let’s take it as the good, bad and ugly, but since ugly always gets pushed to the back of the line, let’s do it in reverse order. If it wasn’t for running back Bilal Powell last season, the Jets’ offense wouldn’t have gotten such a surge of receiving production out of the backfield. When he missed time though due to injury, the Jets’ offense simply wasn’t the same.
The Jets lost four close games last year. Particularly painful were losses to the Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Texans, and our neighbor to the North, the Buffalo Bills, who Jets fans certainly don’t need a reminder that we lost to them not once but twice.
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As much as I’m sure head coach Rex Ryan loved coming back to our home turf and beating us the first time we played the Bills, he sure as heck loved knocking us out of the NFL Playoffs.
But back to the point, in all four of these losses it was clear that a lack of diversity spreading the ball around the field hurt us.
Tight ends were only targeted four times.
That’s right, just four times! And all of those came in the same game, against the Eagles.
The lack of tight end production meant that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had to throw to his top two targets, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker or use running backs Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory as his releases.
Tight end Jeff Cumberland was the top target for the season, amassing five—yes, five—catches for 77 yards. That put him at No. 82 at his position in the NFL, and Kellen Davis, with three receptions for 18 yards, was No. 82. Even if you aren’t big on stats, you can see that the tight end position was a more lonesome outpost than being stranded on Revis Island. And well, that can’t happen again. This time around, the Jets need to spread the ball around underneath.
Looking at the bad part to a degree, it’s hard to knock Powell, he didn’t play a whole lot as he totaled 47 receptions to rank No. 78 among running backs. Some of those plays were big too. The catch against the New York Giants out of the backfield may have turned the Jets season around thanks to him.
It was that catch and explosive dash into the end-zone that initiated the charge and comeback against the G-men, and from that point on the Jets went on to win four in a row. That clutch receptions also gave the Jets a realistic shot to make the playoffs.
Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Bilal Powell (29) crosses the goal line for a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
So diversity on offense is crucial, and the running back is one part of the entire arsenal of underneath pass routes that the Jets simply need to do more of next season. While the Jets will certainly miss Ivory’s bruising and punishing running style, his replacement brings a much different dimension to the offense, and certainly now the Jets can feel good about having a more diverse offense.
Having said the ugly and bad so far, now we’re up to the good of what Forte brings to the table. Forte has long proven himself to be one of the best pass-catchers out of the backfield of his era—totaling 487 receptions over his eight seasons, including an enormous 102 receptions in 2014.
True, his pass reception totals decreased last year (44 to overall rank No. 90) but ask yourself, what about the offense of the Chicago Bears seemed to click most to you? Not much, actually. Keeping in mind that his career average is 8.3 yards per catch, and last year he did a little bit more, 8.8, he caught almost a first down on every reception so there’s reason for optimism in this regard.
During his career he’s caught the ball for 19 touchdowns in that span, including a tremendous 89-yarder. That alone really should do a lot to alleviate the MIA’s at tight end. But wait, the news gets better— Powell is back to complement Forte, and let’s not forget about the indomitable wide receiving corps featuring Marshall and Decker, who both figure to continue to play at an extremely high level.
So the Jets have the potential to go from dormant and doormats with receiving options out of the backfield to top shelf with Forte and Powell and the rehabbed tight end Jace Amaro. Keep an eye on Forte this upcoming season as he’s the consistent help the Jets will need to once again be contenders again in 2016.