When I wrote about Geno's blinders in a play series early in the game against Detroit, in particular a play where Geno failed to see the right side of the field perhaps due to no direct fault of his own, it made me want to take a look at the whole 5 "3 and out" drives of the first half, an offensive inadequacy that spelled doom for the game. I wanted to see how much of this was Geno, how much was team execution, and how much play design. This isn't a sexy post full of interesting Xs and Os stuff, its just a focus on what really was a comprehensive team failure, one that harkened back to the impotence of the epic 3 game slide last year. Every single mode of the offense was failing, but especially blocking.
Now Detroit is a good defensive team, and to a certain degree one might expect Jets to just get beat on their assignments at times. And during some of these plays that may have been the case. Largely though that's not really what I saw. I saw mental errors, technical errors, and abject blocking failures, which combined with a very conservative and simple play design, which itself points somewhat to Geno himself. The inability to execute these plays really didn't fall on Geno much, but several of these plays had such small windows of opportunity, one has to think that the nature of the play calls themselves is governed by who was at quarterback. As John wrote about in his piece "It's Not Easy", it takes the Jets a lot of plays to score. And when you have to link so many successful plays together, execution becomes more important than ever. The team needs to be a precisely performing team, hitting their blocks, running sharp routes, catching the ball, and Geno making his reads and throwing accurately. None of this was happening. In the 18 or 19 plays I tracked, I counted only 1 play that was executed as it was drawn up. Some of the failures happened on several levels, and some were more egregious than others, but generally the woe was spread around.
Below is a graphic representation of the 5 "3 and out" drives. I actually begin with not a drive, but the final 3 plays of the first drive of the game, because those three plays started this whole offensive quicksand mess, turning a potential TD into a FG, and suitably fit with the 5 drives that followed. Passes are in red, runs in blue. Blocking failures outlined in red. Yards gained show by length, and the primary culprit of the breakdown indicated.
click on image for larger graphic
End of Drive One
1st and 10 at DET 13(9:50) (No Huddle, Shotgun) C.Ivory up the middle to DET 9 for 4 yards (D.Levy; N.Fairley).
Ivory was running great on this drive, and this error was a fairly small one, probably the smallest error of all that follow. He just choose the wrong cut. He elects to run straight into the linebacker when he had a nice crease to his left. Ivory's bigger failures would come in the next drive as a blocker, but here he could have had an impact on this run, and didn't. You can see the lane in the wide shot:
2nd and 6 at DET 9(9:50) (Shotgun) C.Ivory left tackle to DET 9 for no gain (N.Suh).
Breno Giacomini is just out-matched by Suh. The play is to his left, and all he has to do is seal that side, but Sue cuts straight across the formation and nails Ivory.
3rd and 6 at DET 9(8:46) (Shotgun) G.Smith pass incomplete short middle to Z.Sudfeld.
Breno is beat inside again, this time in pass rush. His man blows up the pass play.
We can argue that these three failures were relatively minor. Ivory makes a less than ideal cut choice, and Breno is beaten by one of the best players of the game. It comes with not being a very good offensive team. But it was just the beginning.
1st and 10 at NYJ 20(5:04) (Shotgun) G.Smith pass incomplete short middle to C.Ivory [D.Tapp].
Ivory completely and utterly whiffs on a free rusher to the passer, blowing up the play.
2nd and 10 at NYJ 20(5:00) (Shotgun) G.Smith left end to NYJ 21 for 1 yard (D.Levy).
Then on a read option for Geno Ivory misses both men (bracketing him), each of which get in on the tackle. He stumbles between them, hitting neither.
3rd and 9 at NYJ 21(4:24) (Shotgun) G.Smith pass short left to J.Amaro to NYJ 27 for 6 yards (D.Gorrer; R.Mathis).
Then on a play where the Jets want to go deep and keep 7 men in against 4 rushers, Ferguson can't handle his man on the edge. He gives him the inside move after a bull rush, and Geno has to step up in the pocket, eventually turning to his check down in Amaro. This was a play where you have to get the protection you have called for.
1st and 10 at NYJ 20(14:02) C.Johnson left tackle to NYJ 23 for 3 yards (J.Jones).
This one is not easy to see, but Bohanon misses on his man, who makes the tackle. The crease (red arrow) actually opens up with Ivory following Winters, but Bohanon's man kills before Ivory can get through.
2nd and 7 at NYJ 23(13:27) (Shotgun) G.Smith pass incomplete short left to E.Decker.
Decker drops a (slightly high) throw from Geno, at the first down marker.
3rd and 7 at NYJ 23(13:23) (Shotgun) G.Smith scrambles right end pushed ob at NYJ 24 for 1 yard (G.Johnson).
This is almost Schottenheimer-esque, with all the major targets running patterns short of the marker. Everyone is covered, Geno scrambles out of bounds. This is just bad play design, but with these kinds of plays we have to ask if the conservative nature of the play is really an expression of the lack of belief in Geno or not. It seems likely to me. The Jets really just don't want a turnover, a playing for a short pass and a tackle break for a first down. They want to stay in the game.
1st and 10 at NYJ 22(10:59) C.Ivory right tackle to NYJ 18 for -4 yards (D.Levy).
Cumberland just overruns his assignment who darts in and hits Ivory for a 4 yard loss. I've been a supporter of Cumberland, but the more I look at the blocking of the Jets one has to admit that he's a huge liability. In fact Cumberland and Ivory both talk to a certain disregard for blocking in general - which is amazing because this team is supposed to be a running team, and the QB needs protection. With both players there are skill sets that show on the ball, but having them on the field not only blows up plays, it also shrinks the playbook. Unfortunately in the draft of Amaro is probably more of the same: ball skill, but no blocking.
2nd and 14 at NYJ 18(10:26) (No Huddle) C.Ivory right tackle to NYJ 24 for 6 yards (T.Whitehead).
Colon fails to seal his man from the direction of the play. He seems to just set up wrong, and the tackle is an easy lateral move.
3rd and 8 at NYJ 24(9:48) (Shotgun) G.Smith pass short right to D.Nelson to NYJ 31 for 7 yards (R.Mathis). NYJ-D.Nelson was injured during the play.
Nelson sets up again short of the marker against zone coverage and is easily tackled. This play looks like it had only one receiver in mind the whole way. Maybe they saw something and Detroit messed up, but honestly it just looks like a very conservative call not really designed to get a first down without a tackle broken. To my eye it looks like they are playing: "Geno, just don't make a mistake".
1st and 10 at NYJ 20(6:19) (Shotgun) G.Smith sacked at NYJ 18 for -2 yards (N.Fairley).
This is a Geno roll out. In the middle of the field is an open Jet, but Geno is already locked onto Kerley. There were several times in these drives where it plainly looked like the play was designed with only one receiver in mind. It's my personal belief that these are not failures of Geno to survey the field, or to turn to his second read. These plays are 1 target plays, imo. They are keeping it very simple. The play is slow developing, and by the time Kerley has made his double move Geno is feeling a little pressure on the edge. I count this as a design flaw failure. Geno is doing what he is asked to do, and his man is not open (you can see below):
2nd and 12 at NYJ 18(5:53) (Shotgun) C.Ivory left guard to NYJ 25 for 7 yards (D.Levy; T.Whitehead).
This is the only play of the bunch where I don't see a breakdown of execution.
3rd and 5 at NYJ 25(5:19) (Shotgun) G.Smith FUMBLES (Aborted) at NYJ 8, and recovers at NYJ 8. G.Smith to NYJ 8 for no gain (E.Ansah).
Mangold gets a lot of praise for being perfect this season, but this one in my opinion was on Mangold. The snap is high, hard and off-center, and the loss is big. Geno may have been not ready for it, but if it was accurate the snap is caught.
1st and 10 at NYJ 7(2:15) C.Ivory up the middle to NYJ 8 for 1 yard (D.Tapp; C.Mosley). PENALTY on DET-N.Suh, Defensive Offside, 5 yards, enforced at NYJ 7 - No Play.
1st and 5 at NYJ 12(2:00) (Shotgun) C.Ivory right tackle to NYJ 14 for 2 yards (T.Whitehead; D.Tapp).
Mangold follows his poor snap with what really looks like a missed assignment by him. He calls the blocking, and he did not account for the LB who is free, with Mangold sliding right. People want to pick on Winters, but in motion it definitely looks like Winters blocks the correct guy. The fault could lie somewhere else in the call, but you have a free defender and a free blocker. I say Mangold in terms of recognition.
2nd and 3 at NYJ 14(1:26) (Shotgun) G.Smith pass incomplete short right to J.Kerley.
This is the first direct error on Geno's part, as far as I can tell. He simply misses Kerley on a 2nd and 3.
3rd and 3 at NYJ 14(1:26) (Shotgun) PENALTY on NYJ-C.Ivory, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at NYJ 14 - No Play.
After the Ivory penalty the Jets decide to go deep. The play again has only one receiver in mind, this time Decker, and he is well covered.
What's Happening with the Jet Offense
The game ended within a score against a team that could have, should have blown out the Jets on most days. They were missing their uncoverable receiver, but there is a certain sense in which we can see what Rex is doing. He's trying to just stay in the game, and was fairly successful in doing so. But one has to look deeper at what is happening. In this game the Jets had real problems blocking even basic play-design assignments. Sometimes they were just beat, but more often it was elementary execution, a problem spread across the roster. Rex wants to play a field position game, but you can't do that with 5 three and outs. And the kind of offense the Jets were running requires that people block the right guys, stay on their assignment and complete the play. It wasn't happening.
Where Conservative Comes From
We can sense that the conservative approach comes in part from Rex. Just no turnovers. You can see it in the play call. There were 3rd down plays not even designed to get 1st downs because the defense was loaded at the marker. And when the Jets took their shot deep (3 times in 5 drives) twice only one receiver was the target. It was a low-risk, high-reward play that had a low probability of completion. When you get this kind of "don't lose" approach it simply can't be combined with missed blocks, dropped or errant passes. You are playing for small chunks of yards, and precision is your ally. The Jets had none, and that really wasn't on the quarterback.
But it was and is on the quarterback in a larger picture sense. In these 5 drives Geno did more or less what was asked of him, with only one obvious throwing error, but what was asked of him has been significantly cut down to bite-sized portions. He is given very simple reads, at times with only one receiver to look at. Add to this the problem that Ivory (who had taken over for Johnson as lead back) is a terrible player in some aspects of the game. He killed one drive single handedly, and his false start help doomed another. You can't really run a passing game with him on the field.
I think the real reason behind the Chris Johnson signing was something like the LT acquisition a few years ago. They wanted a full "professional" player in the backfield. Nevermind that Johnson was not ever a great receiver or pass blocker, they just wanted some fluency back there.
For those who harp on Marty, think about the handicap he is working with. He has a very mistake-prone, young quarterback who has to operate out of a highly restricted playbook (shotgun, field edits). He has a coach who is begging for no turnovers so he can win an field position game, and he is working with a RB in Ivory who can't block or catch, or in Chris Johnson who does some of those things a little better, but has lost more than little on the fast ball. Mornhiweg cherishes a versatile, passing game oriented running backs. Here he is working with running backs that are the versatility equivalent of the Jet corners. What kind of offense can you run when neither your quarterback nor your running back is a plus player? Add in protection and blocking break downs in a game like in this game and the weaknesses multiple. The kinds of plays you can even run become limited, and defenses know this. Every time you play a game you show your shrunken playbook.
This is an interesting stat that speaks to Offensive and Defensive effectiveness...Yards per point. How readily do yards earned translate into points. The Jets are in the bottom 4 in the league in Yards per Point on Offense. Unfortunately, they are also in the bottom 5 in the league in Yards per Point on Defense (stat found on teamrankings.com)
The Jets have not had a positive yards per point margin since 2011, and the last time they had over a +1.0 margin was 2009.
One a more upbeat, and perhaps slightly humorous note, the Jets finally have a quarterback almost as good as Tom Brady: