With a month of quiet ahead of us, we’re going to start a new feature focusing on major roles for the Jets in 2007. With 20 of 22 starters (should Kendall be gone) coming back from last season, this could be boring, but I think it will give us a chance to focus on all the starters and some other key positions (i.e. third receiver, nickelback, etc.) for the Jets this season. Starting off this series, we will begin with the skill players and work in towards the line.
If you watched the Jets last season, then you know Laveranues Coles was a main reason that the offense stayed on the field. Sure it’s a team game, but the lack of threat in the running game combined Schottenheimer’s love of passing and with Coles’ being Pennington’s favorite target, all mixed to make him a focal point for defenses. Through it all, Coles took hit after jarring hit moving the chains consistently for the new offense.
Last season, Coles caught 91 balls for just 1098 yards, making him the second player in the top twenty (in yardage) to average under 12.5 yards per catch. Only three other receivers (Andre Johnson, Mike Furrey, T.J. Houshmanzadeh) in the top twenty averaged under 12.5 yards per catch. This isn’t a crack on Coles, but rather the result of the West Coast influenced system of going for short yardage gains. On top of that, Coles caught a fair 60% of the balls thrown at him, according to Football Outsiders. When you consider that Leon Washington had the best season for Jets rushers with a paltry 650 yards, in effect, Coles was the Jets best running back.
With Thomas Jones (more on Thomas Jones later in this series) now wearing a Jets jersey, the team have a reliable running back to get chunks of yardage that Coles often had to pick up for the team to stay on the field. Although recent memory might help us think of Coles as strictly a short yardage / over the middle target, Jones adds a factor for Coles to use his outstanding speed and playmaking skills elsewhere on the field. In terms of getting hit, Coles had it tough in 2006, but Laveranues is known for not taking any excuse to get off the field. Hopefully with an upgraded backfield and an emerging threat on the other side of the field in Jerricho Cotchery, Coles can be used less to go over the middle, which will keep him healthy for a few more years.