Bryce Petty’s final audition with the Jets will require flawless execution, but he can’t — and won’t — do it alone. There will be plenty of helpers on his last ride, teammates and coaches ready to give the Jets backup-turned-starting quarterback assistance as he tries to win inside a place louder than a bass drum.
It’ll take a village to help Petty in New Orleans on Sunday.
Some might say it’ll take a miracle.
THE BACKFIELD SAGE
Matt Forte has seen just about everything during his decade-long football life, so he’ll be an invaluable resource for Petty amid the chaos. The veteran running back knows that “communication is going to be key” amid the super noise in the Superdome. Forte’s wisdom will be pivotal for Petty in his first start in John Morton’s offense.
“I’ll help him with the small things that he has to remember,” Forte said. “I know he has to think about a lot before the play. Not only calling the play, but the coverages.”
It’ll be a departure from the first three months when Forte practically shared a brain with veteran Josh McCown.
“When I’m back there with Josh, there’s nothing I really need to tell him,” Forte admitted. “I know he sees exactly what I’m seeing... With Bryce back there, not having been back there with him a lot... if we can take (anything) off his plate to make it easier — no matter how small it is — we’ll do that. Whether it’s with protections or just talking with him through different looks from watching film together, then that’s what we’re going to have to do.”
Forte is smart enough to aid — but not overload — the young signal caller before the snap.
I’m not telling him what to do or how to do it,” Forte said. “You just make it known when you see something. If I see the guy in the slot capped by the safety, I’m like, ‘They may be blitzing.’ Just small things like that. Or if there’s a motion in the play that he might have forgotten, it’s like, ‘Hey, move the Y (receiver) over.’ It’s easy things like that just to take a little something off his plate.”
THE BLINDSIDE PROTECTOR
Kelvin Beachum makes a living protecting people who don’t have eyes behind their heads. It’s the life of an NFL left tackle: Make sure your signal caller isn’t paranoid about what’s lurking over his shoulder.
Beachum has protected stars (Ben Roethlisberger) and scrubs (Blake Bortles) with the same care. Making sure Petty isn’t worried about getting blind-sided by behemoths is just the next challenge.
“Any time you have somebody in that hasn’t been with you for a while, you have to have heightened awareness,” Beachum said. “If I had a new left guard that was next to me, I know that I need to communicate a lot better, communicate more. We got to talk things out a little bit more. That just happens when you have somebody that has to be plugged in. He’s the next man up. We got to rally around him. The pieces that are around him just have to do a better job to make his job as easy as possible.”
It’s a matter-of-fact outlook for a guy playing a matter-of-fact position. Offensive linemen are the most practical people on every team. They tell it like it is. There’s no time for B.S. in the trenches.
“He’s been here. He’s been in this system all year,” Beachum said of Petty. “So, he understands it. It’s his time to shine. He has to go out and do what’s necessary to help us win, but we all do. It’s not just on him.”
THE SAFETY VALVE
Austin Seferian-Jenkins made the short flight from Las Vegas to Los Angeles this summer to get extra work in with Petty. They hooked up at USC to run some routes and review concepts over a weekend that revealed just how much each guy was committed to the cause. Seferian-Jenkins knows better than most how much the former Baylor quarterback wants to make this work.
“I got full confidence in him,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “I’m excited to see what he’s going to do. He knows his stuff as well as anyone on the team. We’ve got to know exactly what we’ve got to do with coverage adjustments. We got to let Bryce be Bryce and handle our business, so there can be a good flow.”
Tight ends can be a young signal caller’s best friend, a safety valve to help ease the pressure when things get crazy in the pocket.
“That’s what I hope to be this week,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “Whatever I can do — whether it be blocking or just a safety outlet. Whatever Bryce needs, I’m there… Josh has done a phenomenal job this year, but I think Bryce can come in and do a great job as well. I want people to know that there’s full belief in Bryce. We can go out and win this game with him. It’s not like we’re laying down and saying it’s over. No, we plan to go down there, play well and Bryce to play well.”
THE EYE IN THE SKY
Sometimes honesty isn’t the best policy even though it’s always appreciated. John Morton’s admission in the run-up to this game that he waved the white flag in the fourth quarter of the Jets’ shutout loss in Denver last week was highly unusual, but let’s not bury the guy for his candor.
Reading between the lines was easy: The first-time offensive coordinator didn’t want to damage Petty’s confidence in the face of less-than-ideal circumstances.
Morton, who calls the plays from up in the coach’s booth on gamedays, had a week to tailor a blueprint to Petty’s strengths. That plan will be pivotal if the 15-point-underdog Jets stand a chance against the Saints.
“We’ve set up the game plan where he feels comfortable,” Morton said. “We have a lot of confidence in him. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be the guy. He is the guy right now. We all believe in him.”
Although Morton said “we’re not changing anything” and “we’re going to run our offense,” the Jets will obviously highlight parts of the playbook designed to bring out the best in Petty, who has had success with downfield throws.
“It’s my job to make sure I put him in the right position to have success and not call something (where you say), ‘Maybe something (bad) might happen here,’” Morton said. “I think that is what I need to do.”
Petty has shown in the past that he can improvise with the best of them, but has he grasped this offense enough to function at a high enough level within the confines of Morton’s scheme?
He’s going to need as much help as he can get to pull off this miracle.