How will Favre impact the Jets?
Four SI.com writers share their thoughts on how the Jets offense will look with Brett Favre at quarterback.
At first glance, it would appear Favre took quite a tumble going from a young and talented Packers offense that was surprisingly ranked No. 2 last season to a Jets offense that slumped all the way to 26th in 2007. But that gap is deceivingly large based on New York's current roster and its offseason upgrades. Once he gets acclimated to a new offense, Favre should make New York's attack that much better.
Favre may not have all the weapons at his disposal that he did last season in Green Bay, but the Jets, at the very least, should field a better, more versatile offense with their glaring weakness at left guard filled by veteran Alan Faneca in free agency, and the first round of the draft bringing a legitimate play-making tight end in Dustin Keller.
Keller looks destined for a big role as a rookie based on his early camp work, and Favre will no doubt focus on generating an early connection with his young tight end. Be it Mark Chmura in his early years or Donald Lee last year, Favre has always benefited greatly from having a tight end who could work the middle seams of the field. Ironically, Lee's emergence made tight end and former first-round pick Bubba Franks expendable in Green Bay, and he signed with the Jets. In New York, Favre and Franks will be reunited.
In Green Bay, Favre's big year in '07 was greatly aided by the breakthrough seasons turned in by second-year receiver Greg Jennings and rookie receiver James Jones, who combined to catch 100 passes for almost 1,600 yards, and 14 touchdowns. Along with Lee, and No. 1 receiver Donald Driver (82 catches for 1048 yards), the Packers No. 2-ranked passing game soared.
The Jets admittedly don't have that kind of depth at receiver, but their top two, starters Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, are effective when they can stay healthy. Cotchery had a very similar season to Driver last year (82, catches for 1,130 yards), and Coles caught 55 passes for 646 despite missing four games and starting only 10. They're also both tough players who will fight for the ball, and Favre will appreciate their determination.
The question in New York is who will emerge as the Jets' No. 3 receiver among a rather non-descript group that now includes receiver/quarterback Brad Smith, Chansi Stuckey, David Clowney, David Ball, Wallace Wright and rookie Marcus Henry. There's a job to be won if one of those can step forward this preseason.
The Jets believe their 19th-ranked running game from a year ago will be better because of Faneca's presence, plus the free-agent addition of veteran Damien Woody, who is shifting to right tackle after years of playing in the interior of the line. I have my doubts about Woody's ability to hold up at tackle over 16 games, but that's a roll of the dice New York seems willing to make.
While Favre doesn't have promising young running back Ryan Grant to give the ball to any more, as he did in Green Bay, New York expects Thomas Jones to have a more impactful second season as a Jet. Jones had 1,119 yards last year, but he needed a whopping 310 carries to gain those, with just a 3.6-yard average carry and one touchdown. The hope is a better offensive line produces more big-play chances for Jones.
Favre's late arrival will no doubt make for a challenging transition. But once he's comfortable in New York's offense, the Jets quarterback position should be in considerably better hands than it was with either the vertically-challenged passing arm of Chad Pennington or the largely unproven Kellen Clemens. Whether or not that translates into anything better than last year's third-place finish in the AFC East is open for debate.
The Jets offensive linemen have to be excited to get a guy of Favre's caliber, but there are going to be adjustments that need to be made.
Though it's not a big deal, they will have to get accostumed to Favre's cadence, something that varies from QB to QB. This is the kind of thing that can be sorted out in practice and in preseason games, but don't be surprised to see a few false starts in the early going.
They also have to get used to Favre extending plays with his legs more than Clemens or Pennington did in the past. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan will have to work with them on holding their blocks longer. Clemens and Pennington are rhythm passers, whereas Favre's more of a playmaker, which means more work for the offensive linemen. The silver lining for the guys in the trenches is historically Favre does a good job of not taking sacks. For linemen, that's their No. 1 concern by far.
It'll be interesting to see who emerges as the leader on the offense between Coles, Faneca and Favre. Coles has been been a Jet for seven seasons. Faneca was the emotional leader of the Steelers. And Favre is Favre.
How will Favre fit into the Jets offense is the question most are asking. But I tend to see it the other way around: How will the Jets adjust their offensive terminology to what Favre knows best and how will they actually call the game with Favre as the player?
Favre The Player: The Jets would be smart to tag all their pass plays with names Favre has been calling for most of his career. For example, the Jets run a numbering system, where each route is described by a number -- for example, 343 means the outside receiver runs an out, the inside runs an in cut and the other outside receiver runs an out. In Favre's old world, they may have just called that play with a word like "Omaha." So for the next two weeks, I see the Jets blending the two systems together. The more proficient and clear they can make their terminology, the quicker Favre will make an impact. With veteran coaches like Callahan and running backs coach Jimmy Raye on the staff to assist offensive coordinator Brain Schottenheimer, they should be able to make this work.
Favre The Playcaller: One of the finest aspects of Favre's play last season was his ability to change the play at the line and put the Packers in the right play all the time. If the defense plays off the wideouts, Favre has the ability to make eye contact to the receiver and give him a quick throw. The Jets will need to make Favre feel very comfortable at changing plays and I expect to see them in a lot of no-huddle, two-minute offense to allow Favre the freedom that makes him so successful.
The key to making this work is for the Jets to be the adaptors, not Favre. And the Jets have too much invested in making this trade work to not just roll up their sleeves and get busy. There will be plenty of long nights from here on out for the offensive coaches.
Favre gives the Jets offense the ideal complement to the power running game implemented during the offseason. As an aggressive deep ball thrower, Favre will reduce the number of eight-man fronts used against the Jets, thereby creating more running room for Thomas Jones. In addition, his penchant for taking shots downfield will result in more big plays, and improve a passing game that ranked 25th in yardage and had only 45 passing plays over 20 yards in 2007.
From a schematic standpoint, Schottenheimer will surely pull elements from the Packers' offensive package that worked well last season. Favre excelled last season when throwing off three-and five-step drops, so expect the Jets to feature more of a quick, rhythm passing game that operates out of an assortment of spread and empty (no-back) formations. When the Jets opt to use play-action passes, expect to see more double moves and deep routes to utilize Favre's superior arm strength. Cotchery and Coles will be the biggest beneficiaries on offense, as they will have plenty of opportunities to make plays down the field. The tight ends figure to be key contributors as well, becoming feature targets in the red zone.
Overall, adding Favre to the lineup makes the offense more explosive and gives the Jets an opportunity to better compete with upper echelon teams in the AFC. The move may not pay off immediately due to the learning curve needed by Favre and the coaching staff, but expect the Jets to field a top ten offense by season's end.
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