One interesting factor as the Jets build their offense is how they're going to scheme for Le'Veon Bell to have the maximum success within Adam Gase's system.
With that in mind, we've been looking into Gase's tendencies in Miami, where Bell saw success in Pittsburgh and where the Jets failed in 2018.
Data from Sharp Football Stats is useful here to allow us to identify some leaguewide trends. This shows a breakdown on how often each personnel grouping was used by NFL offenses in 2018 and 2017 and can be filtered to limit the analysis just to running plays. You can also review the success rates within each formation. You can drill down even further than that but we'll stick with the basics today.
A successful play is defined as a first down play that gains 40 percent of the required yardage, a second down play that gains 60 percent of the required yardage or a successful third or fourth down conversion.
The first trend to recognize league-wide is that, on runs, nearly every team operates mostly out of 11 personnel - one back, one tight end and three wide receivers - more than any other personnel grouping. The lone exceptions to that are the Ravens, who ran more out of two-tight end sets in 2017 and the 49ers, who ran more with a fullback on the field in both years.
In addition, most teams had the best success rate running from the 11 personnel sets. Success rates were generally mixed from multiple tight end sets but generally inferior. However, out of two-back sets, the success rates were generally poor, with the teams that enjoyed the better success in 2017 - New England, Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago and San Francisco - tending to be those who carried and used an actual fullback.
The pattern was repeated in 2018, but the difference was less stark. This time, running success from two-back sets was better across the board, perhaps indicating a shift toward teams going to heavy sets to attack DB-heavy defenses.
The only NFL team with a worse success rate out of packages with 11 personnel than the Jets (36 percent) was San Francisco - who, as noted, didn't use them as much as they used two-back sets anyway. The Jets fared better with multiple tight end sets or - on the rare occasions where they used them - two-back sets. Back in 2017, though, they had fared much better when using 11 personnel.
Looking at the Steelers, you can see that the success rate running out of their most common personnel grouping reduced from 60 percent in 2017 to 51 percent in 2018 with Bell out of the line-up. That's perhaps a sign that he can also be expected to elevate the success rates for the Jets.
Miami is particularly interesting. In 2017, they only had three plays with two backs on the field. Of course they often ran multiple tight-end packages with a tight end in the backfield, but those would still be treated as 12 personnel for the purposes of these numbers.
In 2018, the Dolphins had the same 51 percent success rate as the Steelers from 11 personnel packages but they ran more plays with two backs on the field - 19 of them - and had tremendous success (74 percent) with three touchdowns and almost 12 yards per carry. That's a sign they schemed in some changes to diversify their rushing attack.
Miami's tight ends last year were notoriously poor run blockers so, unsurprisingly, they only averaged three yards per carry from two-tight end sets, but five yards per carry when using 11 personnel. The Jets will hope to have superior blocking from their tight ends this year. Chris Herndon struggled for most of the season but showed progress down the stretch and rookie Trevon Wesco should provide a more dynamic replacement for the pedestrian Eric Tomlinson.
With Bell and Ty Montgomery in particular capable of playing as wide receivers, the Jets could opt to run a lot more of these packages with two backs on the field. Last season Brandon Bolden broke a 54-yard touchdown run with Kenyan Drake lined up in the slot as a decoy. Gase is sure to look for similar wrinkles with the Jets, perhaps with that slot back motioning across the formation for a jetsweep or option pitch look from time to time.
What do you think the Jets' approach will be and how can they ensure Bell and the other backs are as productive as possible?
BONUS: Reviewing the Jets' use of two-back sets last season.