Florham Park, NJ – New York needed a West Coast flare. They got it with the hire of offensive coordinator John Morton.
While OTAs continue into the month of June, participants in these team activities are starting to get an idea of what Morton can bring in his first season with the Jets. It is a refreshing breath of relief for a Jets offensive unit that was nothing short of a disaster a year ago. It lacked punch. It lacked spark. Now, they may have found it.
“Johnny Mo knows exactly what he is doing out there,” said running back Matt Forte. “He’s an intelligent coordinator, so I believe he’ll put us in good positions to make plays.”
Johnny Mo has been here since January and players are already buying into his system. It is hard not to invest in a fresh change after witnessing Jets quarterbacks throw 16 touchdowns to 25 interceptions in 2016. Adding insult to injury, not one wide out or running back surpassed 1,000 yards receiving or rushing, which led the unit to be ranked 30th in scoring and 26th in yards gained per game.
With Morton under helm, gone are the ground and pound days. His West Coast style places a greater emphasis on passing than running. Typically – in this style – two running backs can be seen lined up in the backfield on either side of the quarterback. It provides two checkdown targets for quarterbacks while also giving the option to stretch the field with pass-catching running backs. That is the bread and butter of Forte and Bilal Powell’s game.
This works in the Jets favor.
For a player like Forte, who comes off the lowest yard production in his career with 813, he sees this as an opportunity for a much larger role. At 31, the veteran running back understands he is not the impactful player he once was in Chicago but still believes he has plenty of fuel left in the tank.
“I’ve been in a West Coast offense many times, so I love it,” said Forte. “It’s designed behind a running back (or two) that can catch out of the backfield and be versatile as well.”
This would not be the first time the Jets are trying a West Coast style for their offense. Most recently in 2013, Marty Mornhinweg was brought in as a ‘West Coast offensive purist,’ serving under coaches like Steve Mariucci and Andy Reid. The Mornhinweg experiment showed flashes with Geno Smith in 2013, but fell apart with Smith and Michael Vick as signal caller the following season. The difference between Mornhinweg and Morton is that Mornhinweg rarely relied on the running game to develop consistency. Mornhinweg’s goal line offense also left plenty to be desired. From OTAs, Morton’s style will be fast paced and require a steady invovlement for Forte and Powell.
One thing that the Jets love about Morton, he knows how to maximize potential from his players.
“You can have the most sound team you want, but if guys don’t get put in the right position to make plays and do what they do best out there on the field, then we’re not going to score a lot of points,” said Forte. “I think [Morton] can do that for us.”
Morton has learned from some of the best in the business. He spent four years in Oakland with John Gruden, three in New Orleans with Sean Payton, five with Jim Harbaugh in college and the NFL and a season with Pete Carroll at USC. He knows how to win. He has coached in Bowl games, Championship games and Super Bowls. With New Orleans in 2015-16, Morton coached a highly productive wide receiver coup led by Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas and Willie Snead.
It is a match made in heaven for both sides. Morton should have the ability to raise Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, and draft picks ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen’s growth and production. New York’s new coordinator should also be able to get the most out of Forte – a player who enters 2017 with more than chip on his shoulder.
Forte has bought into Morton’s system. He knows it works. When a team has players buy into a scheme this early in a season, success should be able to grow.
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