When an offense struggles, the first guy to get the blame is the offensive coordinator. There is something about offensive play calling that brings out the critics. You seldom hear a defensive coach get raked over the coals for playing a cover three in a certain situation, but when a critical offensive play fails, you can count on hearing why that play was a terrible idea.
The honeymoon is over for Jets offensive coordinator John Morton. After a ghastly Week 1 offensive showing by the Jets, his gameplanning and playcalling have already come into question. I think this is fair to some extent. There were certain elements of his work which left something to be desired.
When rewatching the game, though, I saw a number of clever wrinkles on key plays that should have helped the Jets manufacture some offense. The Jets just don’t have the type of offensive talent neccessary to execute.
On the first series of the game, Morton’s third down call was the subject of some criticism at the time in our live game thread. Josh McCown threw a 2 yard pass on third and 6. Why throw it so short?
Well watching the play tells the story of a nicely design that should have picked up the first down.
The Jets brought ArDarius Stewart in motion, and the Bills tip off man coverage as the defender responsible for covering Stewart followed him across the formation.
Motioning Stewart to the other side of the field with other two receivers both gave Stewart a clean release off the line and created traffic to make it difficult for his man to get to him.
A good throw that hit Stewart in stride quite possibly could have resulted in a first down. There was plenty of room for him to turn up field and maneuver to the sticks, and Bills defenders had to cover a lot of ground to get to him.
Instead, the throw was behind Stewart. The receiver had to slow down and adjust to the ball, giving the Bills time to get to him. Some of the blame arguably goes to Kelvin Beachum, who did not do an effective job blocking his man and led to McCown being hit.
Matt Forte drew plenty of criticism for dropping a pair of passes in Sunday’s second quarter. It was deserved, but the play on which he dropped the second pass should have been a nice gain for a different reason. It was a clever design that tricked the Bills.
Forte was lined up as a wide receiver. Bilal Powell was in the backfield so the Jets had a trick up their sleeve. A back like Forte out wide can force the defense to show its hand in coverage, but keeping Powell in the backfield retains the threat of the run.
Forte came in motion, again drawing a defender with him to tip that it is man coverage.
Forte ended up bunched inside with Jermaine Kearse, but Buffalo was about to suffer a communication breakdown. The corner originally assigned to Forte (pink) stayed with him, but a linebacker (orange) perhaps thinking that Forte is his man since he is a back, also covered Forte once the ball was snapped.
The result was that nobody covered Kearse, but McCown quickly threw it Forte’s way.
This little bust should have produced a completion and a nice little run after the catch. There were things to like about the concept of the play call that helped create this opportunity, but McCown didn’t see it develop.
On a third down in the second half, a nice design seemed to be foiled by route running.
Again the Jets utilized motion to get a receiver a free release off the line. This time it was Jermaine Kearse.
I also put into circles the Bills defensive backs on the side Kearse is approaching. Notice where they are. You will notice in future pictures that they back up once they see Kearse approaching. The motion here made them a little tentative as they had to communicate and figure out assignments in a very short time before the ball was snapped.
By the time the ball was snapped, get a look at the cushions the Jets receivers had as a result of Kearse’s motion.
The Bills defenders keep backpedaling off the snap leaving plenty of room for the receivers to operate. On the other side of the field, ArDarius Stewart was running a 5 yard route, but this turned out to be important.
Kearse’s defender backs up behind the first down marker, giving Kearse a chance to get to the sticks and make a cut to get open.
Stewart, however, started breaking up the field turning his 5 yard route into a 7 yard route. It seemed like he might have added extra depth to his route to avoid a fake blitzer who was backpedaling.
This becomes important because Stewart’s defender dropped just far enough covering the rookie receiver that he was able to get a hand on Josh McCown’s pass to an open Kearse. Had Stewart not added those two extra yards to his route, he probably wouldn’t be deep enough on the field to deflect it.
I’m not going to jump on a rookie like Stewart running a shaky route in his first career game the way I will Beachum and McCown for the first two plays.
The point here is while the offensive coordinator takes the blame for his unit not performing, the players sometimes don’t give him much of a chance.
John Morton might have made some mistakes last Sunday, but he did a good job creating opportunities for his players. They just couldn’t take advantage. Morton couldn’t do it all.