We have 10 days to dissect the Jets’ loss to the Browns on Thursday night. We will be able to do a deeper analysis in the days to come, but I was curious to see whether the Jets changed their approach at all after Tyrod Taylor left the game in favor of Baker Mayfield.
The first place I looked was at the blitz rate. I broke down how many pass rushers the Jets sent on passing plays. I took out plays where defenders were playing their run assignments like RPOs and play action calls. I also took out goal line snaps where the field is compressed. I added in plays that were called back on penalties, two point conversions, and quarterback scrambles.
I found that the Jets did seem to get less aggressive with their blitzes once Mayfield entered the game, although I must qualify it. The Jets sent at least five pass rushers on 11 of the 18 passing snaps I looked at Taylor (61.1%). Their blitz rate fell to 50% (11 of 22) when Mayfield was throwing. That is an appreciable drop. I will note that 50% is still a very high blitz rate. If you blitzed on 50% of your snaps through the entire season, it would be the highest blitz rate in the NFL.
Still it is striking that the Jets got less aggressive with the rookie in the game taking his first NFL snaps. They were less inclined to test the rookie than they were the veteran. Most notable was how things changed on Cleveland’s game winning drive in the fourth quarter. The Jets only blitzed on 3 of 7 snaps (42.8%) according to my charting. Even more striking was they did not send a single blitz of six or more even though Mayfield was 0 for 3 to that point against a six man blitz with a near interception as he lost track of safety Doug Middleton on one of his throws.
I’m not sure it would be fair to say any of this is the reason the Jets lost the game, but something seems off to me about the Jets testing the rookie less than the veteran and testing him least of all with the game on the line. This team is paying its corners a ton of money to play tight one on one coverage in key moments. That seems like the point where you want to force the rookie to prove himself. If he makes a great play and hits a receiver in tight coverage while under duress, you tip your cap. It isn’t the time to sit back and let him dictate the terms of engagement.
Mayfield was fantastic in this game, but the Jets didn’t go out of their way to make life difficult on him.