Robert Saleh’s staff bringing Kyle Shanahan playbook to Jets
The Jets could be called 49ers East this year.
New head coach Robert Saleh spent four seasons as San Francisco’s defensive coordinator under Kyle Shanahan, and he has brought plenty of things from the Bay Area with him to Florham Park. Nine of his assistant coaches were with San Francisco in the past few years.
That is why it is fair to look at how the 49ers do things and expect the Jets to be run in a similar fashion. We know that offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur is bringing the Shanahan offense with him to the Jets. We know that the defense that Saleh used to make the 49ers one of the best in the NFL is now being taught at One Jets Drive.
Digging a little deeper, The Post was given copies of two pages of what you might call the Shanahan Bible, which details his offensive and defensive philosophies. The book is distributed to staff members and goes over various details of his program, but these two pages zero in on philosophy.
Though we don’t know if Saleh is taking these word-for-word to the Jets, it is safe to assume his philosophy has been heavily influenced by these pages and there is something similar being preached to the Jets.
Here’s a look, with some analysis (everything in quotes is from the pages, including the words in all caps):
1. Maximize the strengths of our personnel, starting with the quarterback
The Shanahan offense is being used all over the NFL. But each version is a little bit different, and this is probably why. The Packers, under LaFleur’s older brother Matt, are able to do things with Aaron Rodgers that Arthur Smith can’t do in Atlanta with Matt Ryan.
“The offense must not only fit the personnel,” the entry reads, “it must also be specifically tailored to MAXIMIZE THE STRENGTHS of our players.”
It will be interesting to see how LaFleur does this with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, who is good on the move. Will the Jets incorporate more rollouts? Will they try to get him out of the pocket?
2. Develop offensive identity and core techniques
This is about repetition and allowing players to react instead of think, something Saleh speaks about often.
“Our base offense (outsize zone, inside zone, play action pass, keepers, screens, dropback concepts) has to be developed in OTAs and drilled over and over throughout training camp. These set of plays and techniques will be used throughout the year in various game plans based off of the scheme we are going against the players we have available. … TECHNIQUES MUST BE DRILLED over and over to allow players to REACT instead of think, which will MAXIMIZE THEIR CONFIDENCE.”
3. Gameplanning to attack the weakness of the defense of our weekly opponent (Schematic/Personnel)
Most coaches talk about being game-plan specific. Shanahan emphasizes tailoring the plan not only to attacking the opponents’ weaknesses, but also to being cognizant of his own players’ strengths and limitations “in order to PUT THEM IN A POSITION TO SUCCEED every time they take the field.”
4. Maintain a balanced offense
This is the core of the Shanahan offense. Make the defense defend the run and the pass by being effective at both and making them both look similar.
“We will maintain a 50-50 BALANCE between run and pass on 1st and 2nd down. To succeed in the NFL, you must force the defense to defend the run and pass. … The goal is to force a defense to have to commit to stopping one of these phases, consequently rendering them vulnerable in the other phase.”
2. Gap sound defense that stops the run
As much as the NFL has become a passing league, it still comes back to stopping the run on defense. The Jets are counting on Quinnen Williams and Sheldon Rankins being stout up the middle.
“Stopping the run makes the offense PREDICTABLE and EASY TO EXPLOIT. We will play SOUND and DISCIPLINED gap defense to prevent long runs. This will SET UP MORE LONG 3RD DOWNS forcing offenses to take more risks, resulting in MORE QB HITS AND TURNOVERS.”
2. Personnel that is built through the defensive line/pass rush
Saleh is not a blitzer. The philosophy here is to get to the quarterback with your defensive line. We saw the Jets hand out their biggest free-agent contract to edge rusher Carl Lawson for a reason. The Jets lost Lawson to injury and now must find others to get to the quarterback.
“Pressuring the quarterback is the name of the game. The fewer players needed to gain pressure, the better your defense will be. We will design our defensive personnel so that we can GET TO THE QUARTERBACK WITH JUST 4 PLAYERS. Defenses that can pressure the quarterback while dropping 7 players into coverage are the best defenses.”
3. Sound, aggressive coverage
The Jets have very young cornerbacks. You can bet this entry has been drilled in their heads. Be aggressive, but not too aggressive.
“An aggressive defense CREATES TURNOVERS, but it can also make mistakes if not consistently SOUND. Sound, aggressive coverage will MAKE THE OFFENSE WORK FOR EVERYTHING.”
4. Lead in lowest points allowed, not yards allowed
We often focus on total yards allowed when evaluating defenses. That is not how this staff measures success.
“Our defensive goal is to lead the league in LOWEST POINTS ALLOWED, not yards allowed. Even when the opposing offense is on our goal line, we have the opportunity to STOP THEM. This will be our mentality throughout each game, and throughout the year.”
5. We want players that are violent tacklers who can run
The Jets drafted college safeties Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen, and are turning them into linebackers. One thing that has been mentioned about both players is their tackling ability. Saleh likes to use the word “violent” when describing tacklers.
“A defensive player is nothing if not a sound tackler. Tackling is not a weakness that our coaching staff will tolerate. It must only be a strength. We will target FAST players who are sound tacklers and who SWARM TO THE FOOTBALL on every play. A team defense is a scary defense. WE will only have players who play with intensity so that we can play the kind of TEAM DEFENSE that will INTIMIDATE OUR OPPONENTS.”