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Did the Jets open up the playbook against the Broncos?

What Changed on Offense?

NFL: Denver Broncos at New York Jets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks ago, I tried an experiment by watching every play against the Browns. The idea was to see if the Jets had a small playbook for the TNF game against the Browns. It seemed like they did at the time. If you missed/forgot/TLDR’d that article, I encourage looking at it to better understand this article. If you make it down to the comment section and scroll through the Sam is good vs bad debate you’ll find this comment by Finhead83 (boo Dolphins fan on Jets site boo) :

I wouldn’t say that is shocking or too simplistic...

You may want to compare this game vs another week to see if they really did scale back their playbook on a shortened week or if it is then the norm. Then perhaps compare that to a few other teams to see if they have a much more simplified playbook than other teams. But I look at the number of concepts you’re listing and saying that they used and I don’t really find that surprising.

So two weeks later, I embarked on the same task: Watch every play. Catalog each play, find the duplicates and see if there’s anything to glean. Let’s unpack it.

TLDR synopsis:

The Jets ran a total of 61 plays including 38 on the ground.

The Jets used 9 running concepts: inside zone, outside zone, toss sweep, HB 0 slam, HB power, double pull, single pull, QB sneak and HB draw.

The Jets used approximately 14 different passing concepts. By far the most used was the curl-flat* concept, followed by arrow*/slant. (*same route).

Without question, this playbook was vastly different than the one I saw against the Browns. Like in the Browns game, the Jets tended to double and triple up on a few plays. I counted 8 plays that were run multiple times with at least two run three plus times . Instead of going by half like I did last time, I took the game as a whole.

Let’s talk about the passing game first. You might remember me talking about the lack of plays in the last game with the Jets running the same play multiple times. This time around, the Jets had a ton of concepts.

I’ve made a few notes and brief description for those that don’t know the concept.

By far the most used concept was the curl/flat*. The inside WR or TE runs diagonally to the sideline. The outside WR runs five or so yards and turns around. This is a West Coast Offense staple and is designed to beat any zone.

The second most used by my count was the slant/arrow*. *The arrow and flat route are exactly the same but the difference (besides the name) is the outside man runs a five yard slant route in this version.

The Jets ran a third variation with the inside man running diagonally outside. In this one, the outside man ran a dig (about five to seven yard slant that becomes an in route across the middle of the field.)

The stick concept got the Jets on the board to start the game. This concept consists of a deep go route outside and a comeback route of out the slot. The Jets later ran a stick-quick out variation.

Darnold found Anderson on a deep Pivot concept. The WR fakes a deep post then cuts to the sideline on a deep out. This was mirrored on the other side as well.

Smash Concept: Inside man runs a deep corner route while outside runs a quick hitch. The Jets mirrored this concept and ran a deep skinny post.

Spacing: Two to three quick hitches stretched horizontally across the field.

Switch One WR runs a deep 15 yard out while the other trails and runs a shorter out route.

Verticals: Two deep out routes along either sideline. This is very generic and has a wide variety of other routes run out of slot/TE/RB trees. I counted at least 3-4 different variations from the slot/TE/RB where two man ran deep on the outside.

Levels: This is a combination of routes either run in the middle of the field or run near the sideline. The idea is to run two ins/outs at different yardages/levels. (hence the name.)

Shallow cross. Levels concept but across the middle with one underneath shallow cross and a deeper in route.

Slip screen: The slot cuts to the outside laterally with the flanker blocking in front of him. Side note the Jets ran call a short out as a slip screen. Basically it’s the same concept, just the route was two steps forward rather than fully laterally with two guys to the outside blocking in front.

Slants: Two slant routes to one side of the formation.

TE Screen: They ran this against the Browns. Against both teams it worked. I have no words.

Flood: Run with a bootleg. This has one deep out, a short out with go route.

One thing to note right off the bat is the Jets did not run a single bubble screen. (Recall that seemed to be the only pass the Jets ran against the Browns.) Three times I saw slip screens, and only two were targeted. Speaking of screens, it remain the same. The Jets simply don’t run a lot of RB screens. Both games didn’t feature a single one to Isaiah Crowell or Bilal Powell.

Unlike against the Browns, I didn’t see the same play out of the same formation. Even when the Jets ran mirrored slant/arrows or curl-flats, the formations were widely different, and only via film did I recognize the same concept.

Side note: You might see this and think there are not many plays. Understand, though, these are concepts, which may contain multiple variations. For instance, the Verticals concept may have a deep route over the middle that could be a skinny post, corner-post, or deep comeback route. Ditto for Levels which I saw run via several different formations.

Now let’s talk about the running game. Against the Browns, the Jets almost ran exclusively inside, outside and stretch zone schemes and toss sweeps.

The Jets actually ran a total of six(!) zone plays all game. The Jets never ran a single zone stretch play against the Broncos according to my notes.

Here’s the breakdown on plays:

Four runs were inside zones (defined as running between the tackles) while two were outside (off tackle) zones.

Three runs were toss sweeps. Going back to the Browns game, you might remember the Jets used the toss sweep nearly one out of every three plays in the first half. This time around, they used it once in the first half and twice in the second half. (If memory serves twice in the same drive in the second half.)

That means roughly three out of every four plays were not in the playbook against the Browns.

Here’s everything that was new (compared to the Browns) in chronological order:

Single Pull: The Jets would have the backside guard pull around to lead the HB. A few times the Jets lined up with the same flexbone like formation with two wings. It was run out of one or two slightly different formations.

HB 0 Slam: Darnold pirouettes and hands to the back. One on one blocking up front with the back running dead up the middle and choosing his own hole. (Crowell bounced this for his first score)

HB power: The H-back leads the running back into the guard-tackle gap. The Jets ran this to both the strong and weak sides of the formation.

QB Sneak: The Jets ran this twice. The Jets lined up four WR on one side of the formation, and both times Darnold became well acquainted with his lineman’s back. (As a DC if I see 4 WR to one side of the formation on 3rd or 4th and short, I’m going all out to stop the QB sneak going forward.)

Double pull: This as an interesting stretch/off tackle play usually run out of a strong or weak I formation. The Jets typically ran in it to the weak side (away from the TE/WR) of the formation. The strong guard pulls around and blocks in between the weakside (playside) OG and OT, while the TE blocks over the center gap.

HB Draw: I have a feeling they only had one draw play in the book and used it twice. Basically the QB drops back and hands off on a delay to the HB who chooses which hole to hit.

Against the Browns the Jets had a very simple playbook. We saw zone blocks with a few toss sweeps. Against the Broncos they added at least a few different concepts, including getting a few lineman across the formation.

So what does this mean? Did the Jets open up the playbook, or was this simply a case of a different gameplan? I don’t know the answer to be honest with you, but my inclination is that Bates was working with a much bigger playbook against the Broncos.

I’ll try to do a third one of this series when I’m free to see if the Browns game was an anomaly, or whether the Jets playbook shrinks and expands week to week.

Stray Observations:

  • The Jets try to run floods off of play action with a bootleg. I can’t recall one that worked or got open without a scramble drill.
  • Speaking of which, Jets didn’t run a lot of play action in either game. I counted three play action passes against the Broncos.
  • Compared to the Browns game, more routes went over the middle deep. The Jets were at least trying to use the middle of the field.
  • That said, the gameplan was to attack the flat. Jets weren’t super successful doing it, though, and more often tried to hit the outside man cutting across before hitting the flat route.
  • The TE screen makes me cringe every time, but it’s been really effective.
  • Based on two games, Bates averages his first duplicate play around the 10th or so play and calls the same play on back to back plays around twice a game. The most called run against the Broncos was used about six times.
  • Something worth mentioning is in both games, the Jets love going to the well if something works. Bubble screens worked well against the Browns. In this case the HB 0 slam was gaining chunks of yards and lead to at least one score.
  • As noted, the Jets ran a lot more formations with the H-back as a makeshift FB. Didn’t see a lot of ace backfields this go around.
  • I still haven’t seen a shotgun formation with Crowell and Powell in the same backfield.
  • I saw a lot of two and three WR patterns against the Broncos. I’m interested to see whether the Jets will use more max protect.