The Jet Pocket and Geno vs. The Ravens - Film Review

Normally I fill these kinds of All 22 film reviews with lots of screen shots, but while I took a great deal of them it doesn't seem profitable to load them all into a post. Because I basically concentrated on one thing - what did the pocket look like on passing downs, and how did Geno do - it seems best to give overview of all the plays instead, and to only screen shot some select plays that stand out.

I broke the game down into two parts, basically every Geno pass play before the 4th Quarter - when the Jets were ostensibly out of the game at two TDs and two extra points behind, and the Ravens' defense changed - and every Geno pass play after. Here is the layout I chose:


The first column shows the state of the pocket on dropbacks. The second column shows the down and distance and red indicates a blitz. The 3rd column shows the result of the play. And the 4th shows who I believe is most to blame for the play's failure (and no, I don't want to argue endlessly with people who have a chip on their shoulder against certain players, this is just the way I saw it).

This is the bad news. For Geno Smith:


The Goodish News

Now that is a bad QB rating. Whew. But look at the 4th column and you will see that I would give Geno responsibility for play failures for only about 1.5 of the 15 pass drop backs, about 1 out of 10. Instead we have a pretty healthy account of Offensive Linemen and Running Backs, with a few pass catchers thrown in that really were the story of the passing game in my opinion. I count the Ravens blitzing in 6 out of the 15 drop backs (40%). PFF only had them for 5, but when I contacted them to find out how they defined a "sack" they told me - I'm not joking - that their algorithm for what constitutes a sack is so complicated and such a secret, it is the equivalent of the recipe of Coke in the football stat world, with the implication that if they made it public a competitor would steal it and produce some amazing sack stat data that could defeat them. I on the other hand defined a sack as more than 4 pass rushers or if a DB rushed. Anywho. 4 out of the 15 drop backs I count the pocket as more or less instantly overwhelmed (26% - more than 1 of 4 drop backs). I count the Jets having in control of the pocket only on 46% of drop backs with Geno as QB while the game was still in reach. It is easy to see: This was not on Geno.

But before we get to feeling pretty good about Geno in the middle of a disaster, and start breaking down some select plays that exonerate Geno, there is one play we really need to lay at his door. It is 3rd and 6 at the Jet 6. The first pass of the 2nd half. The pocket for a change holds. Canty first engages Mangold, and then is passed off to Winters. But just as Winters takes him the pass from Geno to Nelson is released and Canty bats it down easily. I give a .5 piece of blame to Winters. It isn't really his fault so much as Canty is just passed to him in the protection, but he doesn't hit him and get his hands down either. But by far the worst thing on the play is that if that pass makes it through, barring a drop, it looks like a pick 6 to me...a 6 point lead balloons to 13:


The Offensive Line

My impression from watching the pocket this game was that it was a dead heat race for who was worse, Howard or Ferguson. Wow, they both were overwhelmed at times. We have this amazing play where Ferguson flies backwards trying to catch up to the play, falling, not touched by anyone, and he almost sacks his own QB in the 4th Q, falling into his feet - it had gotten comical:


Yet elsewhere in the game, in fact on the Nelson INT, Howard had the honors of being bum-rushed by Dumervil who is 73 lb lighter than him in the program, and being blown back nearly 10 yards into the arm track of his QB (more on that below). For those who have been ragging on Winters Howard and Ferguson have to be seen on this film. It was ridiculous. Also all the RBs showed themselves liabilities in the backfield in this game, blowing protections left and right. It was bad.

The Nelson INT

Several people made a big deal about the Nelson INT - they resented the idea that one could simply "arm punt" in that area of the field on a 3rd and 17 with the Jets needing a score. While given how conservative and "play not to lose" Rex is one could imagine that this is with the scope of what Rex is doing, arm punting. But this wasn't arm punting, and as with many plays in this game it wasn't Geno's fault in the least.

First of all, the ball was thrown before Nelson had beaten his man. The still shows the moment of release. This is a predetermined throw, it isn't a "read" by Geno:


The corner takes inside position and Nelson needs the ball to go over his outside shoulder. But in NO way does Nelson adjust to the ball. Zero. He doesn't turn into a defender. He doesn't slow and try to cut in front of the corner. Nothing. You can see nearly the exact same throw later in the 4th quarter to Salas. Here is the moment of release:


Just like with Nelson the pass is lofted before he is open...but Salas on the under/inside throw cuts under the corner and goes and gets the ball:


There are some differences in the play: primarily the corner isn't turned and facing the ball much of the time, but was his most important is that the receiver is reacting to the ball, he is going to make the play instead of waiting for the ball to make the play.

But there is another component of failure in this play. I mean, why was Geno failing to toss the ball where it should be? The answer is simple. Howard. Howard had his worst game of the year, by far. On this play Dumervil who weighs 73 lbs less than he does (22%) simply bulldozes right into him and blasts him backwards straight into the path of Geno's arm track on the throw. On film it is spectacular. A small man owning a larger man, straight on:


Geno has to veer off just a little from the throw, it falls a little short. And that is how an Offensive Lineman and a Wide Receiver conspire to make a rookie look bad, arm-punting on 3rd down.

The Salas INT

The 2nd INT is an interesting one, and one so deceptive that it is almost hard to blame Geno for. Graham comes off his man and makes the easy pick. What I found mostly interesting was that I assumed that this was some sort of brilliant freelance, maybe cued by Geno's lock-on eyes. (And maybe Geno's eyes did play a role in this still.) But looking at it again this was a zone defense. Salas is not just picked up by Graham, he is passed off by his original defender. This was a role the dice set up late in the game. The gave the Jets some easy completions (no pressure), lulled them, and then basically produced a zone that looked incredibly like a man coverage (one man covering two). Here you can see the pass off. At release it just looks like Salas is gaining separation:


You can see the DB slowing down because he knows he is in a zone:


Playing Pitch and Toss

In the 4th quarter, and indeed during some of the other parts of the game, it seemed like the passing offense was simply designed to target 1 receiver, and 1 receiver alone. The early reversed call Holmes catch actually had Hill streaking wide open down the field, but the roll out wasn't designed for him, it was designed for just one player. Given that we just don't have the kinds of receivers that can get open at the drop of a dime this seems to spell trouble. Sure, it prevents Geno from having to go through reads (like he has the time to anyways), but hitching an entire pass play to one player is very dicey, especially because Geno can lock on and the safeties and LBs can just watch his enforces a weakness. I wanted to include these two plays to Winslow in the fourth because the really - for me - illustrate how absurd this approach is. Winslow is a nice little 3rd down receiver but in no way do you want to make him the focus of an offense. The Ravens defense just toys with this attempt to get Winslow the ball:

1st and 10 at the 16 in the 4th, Winslow runs a little hitch that is just supposed to "beat" the LBer. But the LB is watching Geno who releases a tad late, and frankly Winslow's route is very mushy and slow. This is no precision offense in any of its parts. The ball is batted down:


So the Jets (Marty I guess), take it personal and all. They are like "So you are going to play our Kellen like that? We are going to punish that!" Given how the game had gone this is just ridiculous, but this is how the next play went, another play just meant for one player, an old dude:


You can't see it in the screenshot above, but Winslow executed the exact same hitch to the outside as the move before, as slow as molasses, but this time cut up field. You can see though that the LBer is in a different defense, and the DB has outside zone. Smith again comes in and defends the pass. It is like watching a child trying to fool an adult.

Why do I put these two passes in? For some reason they galled me. It's the 4th quarter and you are trying to get your hobble-y TE who is on the edge of not being in the league off? You are trying to school the Raven's defense with repeated moves (which probably wouldn't have worked due to his speed), and they just change defenses and school you. I don't know. This isn't want you want to be doing in the 4th quarter in my opinion. Winslow shouldn't even be out there.

Some Additional Thoughts

- They have to move the pocket more. I've said this for several weeks. It takes the pressure off Geno and he is pretty accurate on the run. They moved the pocket 3 times in this game and had 3 successful plays - there was one negative play with Winters being called for ineligible down field, but I looked closely at the play and he was engaged with his man continuously up to the moment of the pass:


It was a bad call. Winters is the yellow circle. It could have been called on Howard (again) red circle, but that is speculation. Winter's man immediately separated from him after the pass and the ref probably blew the timing of the play in his mind. Look again at all the Geno pass plays while the Jets were in the game. If you accept that the Winters down field call was erroneous there were 4 plays that produced unconventional pockets (3 movements of the pocket, 1 screen pass):


These were the ONLY successfully executed Geno pass plays of the game, with the game within reach. More of this.

- No more starting the game so conservatively. In the first quarter the Jets put an average of only 3.2 men in pass routes. For the rest of the game the average was 4.1. They chose very tight formations with few people in patterns and it produced nothing. I think that as long as the running backs can't properly protect there is no such thing as "max protect" for the Jets. They need to spread things out and throw quick hitting, relatively safe passes that develop rhythm, moving the pocket often and keep defenses honest with the continued threat of a deep ball (roll the pocket out and heave it).

These are hand collected stats and there could be errors. If you see some let me know so I can correct them. And of course these are just my impressions from watching the film, nothing definitive.

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