Jets’ offense must ride on Enunwa & Powell, not Marshall & Forte

The New York Jets continued their climb back to .500 with a surprisingly thrilling comeback against the winless Cleveland Browns on Sunday. After a putrid first half all around, the offense needed to find a way to turn things around. With the help from two ‘complementary’ skill players in Bilal Powell and Quincy Enunwa, things changed quickly for Gang Green.

It’s no secret that Ryan Fitzpatrick heavily relies on wide receiver Brandon Marshall. He stares him down, he gives him plenty of jump-ball opportunities and force-feeds him targets week in and week out. Marshall is the type of game-changing talent who has earned that, especially coming off of a 2015 season, where he caught 109 passes for over 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Things have changed in 2016, though, as the opposition has caught on to the Jets’ offenses tendencies. Teams are leaving help defenders that roam deep and spy on not only Fitzpatrick’s eyes (lack of multiple reads) but where Marshall is going.

Fortunately for the Jets, even without Eric Decker, they have complementary receivers that do more than enough to step up across from the number one wideout in Marshall. Unfortunately for Jets fans, it often takes moments of desperation for offensive coordinator Chan Gailey and Fitzpatrick to get these players involved.

Enunwa forces defenses to make a simple choice: continue to double-team Marshall or shade more defensive help his way. He’s the Jets best skill player at creating on his own, nearly impossible-to-tackle one-on-one when given any space to work with.

On just six catches over the previous two weeks, he’s reeled off 166 yards and two touchdowns. He also broke up what should have been an interception from Fitzpatrick on the opening drive of the second half.

None of the above is saying that the Jets need to phase Brandon Marshall out of the offense, but he needs a counterpart similar to what Eric Decker did for him in 2015. Enunwa might be that piece, a much different one from Decker, but he has the potential to be just as effective towards the overall goal of a more high-powered offense.

It’s also no coincidence that when Bilal Powell is involved, the running game moves at a much more effective rate. The game plan each week seems to forget he exists, as the first-half touches easily point to:

On the wrong side of age 30, Matt Forte is no longer equipped to consistently handle over 20 touches per game (he had 25 rush attempts and two catches vs. the Browns). Powell only finished 6 yards under Forte’s rushing total (76 compared to 82 yards) on 19 fewer carries (6 rushing attempts compared to 25).

The outcry for Powell to become the ‘feature back’ is a bit much. He’s been banged up in the past and not as effective when carrying the bulk of the load, but one carry in the first half is absurd (especially when you factor in that it went for a 35-yard touchdown). Powell is averaging 7.1 yards per carry on the season in comparison to Forte averaging 3.5.

An evenly split committee of both Forte and Powell could finally get the Jets’ ground game back on track for good, which is vital for an offense led by the turnover-prone Ryan Fitzpatrick. The defense has put up extremely impressive back-to-back second-half performances as the offense has limited how often they are on the field.

The staff has young, promising skill players to work with in Quincy Enunwa and Bilal Powell. It’s easy to ride on, force-feeding touches to veterans Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte, but they must stray from that going forward if they want to finish the climb back to .500 and beyond.

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