KANSAS CITY – The New York Jets offense touching down at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday might appear familiar to Kansas City fans, but offense coordinator Chan Gailey’s spread philosophy differs enough from the standard NFL offense to pose matchup challenges for the Chiefs defense.
“It’s something that he’s really believed in,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said about Gailey’s penchant for using four wide receiver formations, “and obviously causes you some issues that you got to deal with from matchup standpoints. They can spread you out and do a good job of running the ball.”
Gailey reunited a year ago in New York with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, and together they have reinvigorated the Jets offense that averages almost 30 points per game and ranks fourth in the league in total offense with 416.5 yards per game.
The veteran Fitzpatrick thinks the Jets offer the best offensive skill position group he has played with in his 12-year NFL career.
“We’ve got guys that are on the same page and understand what we’re trying to accomplish on every play,” Fitzpatrick said. “That’s the biggest difference this year from any other year that I’ve played with the guys in the huddle that we have. I think everybody is on the same page and understands their role on each play.”
The supporting cast surrounding Fitzpatrick appears improved this year, with the addition of free agent running back Matt Forte and the emergence of wide receiver Quincy Enunwa. They join veteran receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.
The talented offensive corps allows the Jets to maintain a balanced attacked, according to head coach Todd Bowles.
“We just try to be balanced and run the ball just as much as we throw it,” Bowles said. “We try to make sure our deep passes are thrown just as often as our medium and short passes. We try to spread it around and take what the defense gives us.”
Chiefs fans should be familiar with Gailey’s offensive creativity firsthand. Gailey spent a troubled season as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2008, when injuries forced the Chiefs to turn from quarterback Brodie Croyle to Damon Huard and finally Tyler Thigpen.
Gailey initially survived the transition from head coach Herm Edwards to Todd Haley. But Haley took over play calling duties and removed him from the coaching staff after three preseason games in 2009.
In 2010 Gailey took over as head coach of the Buffalo Bills, where he first teamed with Fitzpatrick. The Bills went 2-1 against the Chiefs over those three street seasons, posting dominating wins of 41-7 in 2011 and 35-17 in 2012.
Gailey’s offense relies on multiple receiver formations. The Jets have run more four-wideout formations since the beginning of last season than any other team in the league.
Sutton said that creates certain challenges, as does the personnel.
“Like anything, sometimes it’s not the number of wideouts, it’s who the wideouts are that really cause the problem,” Sutton said. “In their case, I think that’s proven to be a tough challenge for all defenses.”
Enunwa has stood out so far for the Jets, leading the team in receptions with 13 through two games for 146 yards and a touchdown. Bowles said the third-year receiver from Nebraska made significant gains in the offseason.
“He was a little rusty at some things last year that he knew he could come back from,” Bowles said. “He worked at the areas he was trying to get better at, and it’s starting to show on the field.”
Sutton said Enunwa’s physical play helps open up opportunities elsewhere for the Jets offense.
“They kind of get something out of him that a lot of teams in four wides, they don’t have that guy, like we would say, ‘Go in and do all the dirty work,’ and he’s willing to do that,” Sutton said.