Now that the dust has settled on the Jets’ loss to Cleveland, it’s apparent that most fans are frustrated with the offensive system, which so far has been too conservative and predictable.
However, when you have an offense that’s conservative and predictable, this affords you an opportunity to run tendency-breakers that will exploit an overly aggressive defense that thinks it knows what’s coming.
This arguably shouldn’t be the Jets’ thought process anyway. If they trusted their offensive talent to execute and win match-ups, then they could have success with more conventional plays instead of having to resort to smoke-and-mirrors to enjoy any success. However, that’s a debate for another day. For today, we’re going to consider some creative ways for the Jets to get their offense going again.
Re-establishing the Sam Darnold/Robby Anderson connection
The downfield threat of Robby Anderson was one of the strengths of last year’s offense. He caught 11 passes more than 20 yards downfield, including seven touchdowns per ESPN. So far in 2018, including preseason, the only downfield connection to Anderson was the opening day touchdown.
In that same game, the Jets ran a groan-inducing end-around to Anderson on 3rd-and-short, a play which foreshadowed the possibility that the Jets might try and out-think their opponent rather than just out-executing them in key situations. So far, that seems to be coming to fruition.
However, if you’re going to think outside the box, why not try really thinking outside the box. Here’s that play:
Terrible, right? But this is easily fixed.
Boom! All Anderson has to do is pivot and throw it back across the field to Darnold and it’s a walk-in 31-yard touchdown.
Show ‘em who’s toss
One of the two staple plays from the Jets’ offensive gameplan against the Browns was a running back toss play, with which they had some decent success.
Here’s an example:
Predictably, the Browns adjusted to this and started overloading the left side, anticipating blocks in space and stretching out the runs to the edge. In theory, this should have opened up a lot of things for the Jets. Cutback runs with the defensive line stretched, play action roll-out bootlegs and even running back option passes could all have had success with the defense anticipating these plays. However, we’re considering a more subtle tweak:
Nothing else changes, even the success of the play, which still goes for a short gain. However, the benefits of this are two-fold.
First of all, it counts as a forward pass, thereby boosting Darnold’s completion percentage and yardage totals and limiting some of the media and fan criticisms and the resulting damage to his psyche. The Jets ran some version of this play seven times for 33 yards. If these were all forward passes, Darnold’s number can be artificially inflated from a confidence-destroying 15-for-31 and 169 yards to a far more impressive sounding 22-for-38 and 202 yards.
Also, since dropped toss would simply be called as an incomplete pass, it eradicates the risk of a turnover. As both the Jets and Isaiah Crowell know, this can be costly:
A high school-level adjustment
As with the toss stretch runs, the success of the receiver screens to Quincy Enunwa could have opened up some other things.
For example, the line becomes stretched out, so you can fake the throw and then run a delayed draw up the middle, a quarterback draw or even a statue of liberty-type play.
What might have been more effective, though, is a variation on the play the Jets used successfully against the Browns last year. If the play is set up like a wide receiver screen and the defender reads that and tries to get out in front of the block, it leaves them susceptible to the pass over the top:
It’s a different set up to the play the Jets were using to get yardage out of Enunwa, which saw the Jets have two receivers on each side. However, a similar pump-and-go from Darnold out of that same look could have gone for a big play to Jermaine Kearse in the same fashion if Kearse had whiffed on his block (deliberately) and then kept going.
The Jets’ lone attempt to break this tendency was much less creative and arguably somewhat amateurish. They simply moved Enunwa to the other side and faked the same play to Anderson first, before coming back to the other side. The Browns were all over this and the pass was tipped and almost intercepted.
Improving Jeremy Bates’ favorite play
After the Lions game, offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates was asked what his favorite play was and he said it was the victory formation kneeldown at the end of the game.
Obviously that’s a play every Jets fan want to see the Jets running at the end of wins, but this is yet another play the Jets run too often in the Todd Bowles era.
How many times have we seen the Jets not even attempt to score at the end of the half even when there’s plenty of time on the clock? Even if you don’t score, it still gives a young quarterback a chance for some reps, in-game training where ball security is at a premium and a chance to make some easy throws to get some momentum to carry into the second half.
However, the Jets will often just take a knee, even in situations where other teams never would, like at the end of the Broncos game last year and when camped on the goal line with plenty of time left in the Lions game.
So, why not exploit this and run a play which is becoming increasingly fashionable in the collegiate ranks?
Run this from your own 35 with about 30 seconds left to someone like Trenton Cannon and you could get yourselves into striking range with time remaining on the clock. Ultimately, there’s no real downside either.
Sooner or later, maybe even before this article gets published, an NFL team will run this play successfully and then it will never work again because everyone will be ready for it. Maybe the Jets should be first.
Alternatively, they could just open up the playbook a bit and let guys like Darnold and Anderson display some of the talents the entire staff spent the whole summer talking up. Perhaps do that.