Yardage totals are thrown around a lot, but not every yard is created equal. Sometimes a receiver racks up 15 yards on 3rd & 20. Sometimes your back churns out half a yard to convert a 4th down that eventually leads to you winning a game. It’s the latter player mentioned who is getting knocked badly in the traditional box score, but it is he making the much more important play.
So with that in mind, how did the Jets do in key running situations in 2017? Let’s take a look at how they did in 3rd or 4th down and 3 yards or less situations.
Offensively, the Jets converted 59.1% of those situations, 26th in the league. They gained an average of only 2.45 yards on those plays, 28th in the league.
Remember not to pit it all on the back himself without watching the tape, but Bilal Powell in particular struggled on these plays. He converted only 5 of 11 attempts, a 45% rate that is well below the league average of 68%, while averaging 1.8 YPC. Elijah McGuire fared well in a small sample size, converting 3 of 4 (75%) attempts for a 4.5 yard average. Matt Forte only received one carry in this scenario.
Defensively, the Jets allowed a first down on 81.5% of these plays, the second highest rate in the league. The 6.8 YPC average they allowed was also second highest in the league and almost double the league average of 3.8.
How about at the goal line? Let’s look at rushing plays at the 3 yard line or closer. Do keep in mind that quarterback scrambles, common in the red zone, are factored in.
Offensively, the Jets fared well with their goal line rushing attack. They converted 7 of their 14 rush attempts inside the opponent’s 3 yard line into touchdowns, a 50% rate that beats the league average of 46.6%. Josh McCown was responsible for 4 of those, Bilal Powell the other 3.
Defensively, the Jets did a so-so job. They allowed 10 of 21 rushes to reach the end zone, a 47.6% rate that is slightly above league average. The 10 touchdowns allowed tied for a league high, as opponents went to the goal-line rush against the Jets more than any other team.
I’m not surprised to see the Jets’ numbers look uninspiring on offense. We knew their offensive line struggled, and this reiterates that. Football Outsiders ranked the Jets 31st in their power success metric and 29th in their adjusted line yards metric, which assigns responsibility to the line by weighting running back carry yardage. The offensive line was a major weakness.
I am a bit surprised to see the Jets so low defensively. They ranked 10th in yards per rush allowed and 11th in Football Outsiders’ rush defense DVOA. The play against the run up front, from guys like Leonard Williams and Steve McLendon, seemed like one of the team’s consistent strong points. Demario Davis and Jamal Adams also had strong years against the run. After reviewing the Play Finder once more, I got a bit of an answer for the lack of correlation between their overall run defense and short yardage run defense. The Jets were doing their best work on first down. On first down rushes, they ranked 9th in yards per rush allowed and 5th in first down conversion rate while forcing 5 fumbles, tied for 5th.
What do you think of the numbers?