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How small was the Jets’ playbook against the Browns?

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How Small was the Jets Playbook?

NFL: New York Jets at Cleveland Browns David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports

Before I begin, I’d just like to point out I watched all of the offensive plays from the Browns game. I spent close to five hours writing every single formation including every motion, every personnel packages and every play. I’ve come to the conclusion I need a life the Jets had a small-ish playbook.

If you want a TLDR synopsis here you go.:

The Jets had three run concepts: zone runs, counter with a TE pulling, and toss sweep.

I counted just over a dozen passing concepts with most being used in the second half. That total does lump all flood plays together, however, each one had a different wrinkle as noted in detail below.

The Jets passing game in particular looked severely limited with at least three of the same plays out of the same exact formation used multiple times, and in some cases back to back.

I broke it down by half, only to show how the game plan might have changed at halftime. (Other than the last two minutes, hard to say it ever did.)


1st half:

The Jets ran 32 total plays in the first half with 13 passes and 19 runs.

Of the 13 pass plays called in the first half, five were screens. Three of the screens were bubble screens with the slot WR backing up and getting the pass. Two were the exact same double bubble screen out of empty backfield. It’s fair to think the call in the huddle was exactly the same.

The other double bubble was run out of a slightly different formation. The weak side bubble didn’t have a block due to the back staying in to protect the QB. It’s realistically the same play other than the weak side so let’s just call a spade a spade and call it the same play.

A fourth WR screen was a “slip” screen with the slot cutting to the outside laterally with the flanker blocking in front of him. It’s a slightly different variant so it goes down as it’s own separate play.

There only screen that wasn’t a bubble or slip was an H back screen.

That leaves eight other pass calls with a total of five different concepts called. Reminder, a concept is a collection of routes that when run together make up a play call. (Example three crossing routes across the middle of the field = levels concept. A levels concept may have three or four play call variations based on which position crosses the field short and deep or who releases when when.)

Here’s the concepts I saw in the first half:

QB/HB waggle left with a WR crackback. Basically exactly what it sounds like.

Failure Concept (so named by myself for the result of the plays): The routes in this concept were two deep fly patterns (one to each side) with a slot WR running an out route ans the fourth running a hitch. The deep route changed from the slot WR in the first play to the outside flanker in the second play. On the second play the back stayed in to block. On the first, the he ran an angle route.

Both plays were run out of four wide formations with three lined up in a trips formation to the right side with a back left and a tight end left The routes were similar so I’m going to say it was the same play call.

Flood Concept: Bates called these concepts three times where there was 1) a short route 2) a deep out (one of which comes across the middle of the field) and 3) a deep comeback route along the sideline. Two were preceded by play action, with another coming with no play action fake.

All three were run out of different formations. As a defense, you practice against floods all the time and the Jets ran basically the same three basic routes.

Slant/Arrow Concept. A slant route from the flanker with a arrow route from the slot man.

Slant Concept. Both the flanker and slot run slant routes in the middle of the field.

The last two concepts were mirrored, meaning both sides of the ball ran a slant arrow concept on one play. Both sides of the formation then ran the slant concept on the next play.

In summary, the Jets had 13 pass calls in the first half. Of these plays, the Jets ran only six concepts: screens, failure concept, flood, QB/RB waggle, arrow/slant and all slants.


Moving to the running game and the three concepts:

Zone. The vast majority of the runs were zone runs. Based on the RB movements, you can subdivide the plays as: inside zones which the intended hole was somewhere in between the tackles, outside zone runs where the ball was between the tackles but not outside the tight end and stretch zone runs where the ball was handed with the intention of stretching it outside the tackles into the wide areas of the field.

It’s not that they are all the same exact play per se, but you can make the argument that any zone run to the inside is just a variant of the same play call. (You may have an inside zone run out of shotgun or under center, from different formations, and/or with different personnel groupings.

Toss Sweeps. These accounted for 32% of the runs in the first half. Two toss sweeps were an identical play call — both were run out of the same formation with the same blocks. The rest were toss sweeps but had different formations and personnel packages.

Shotgun Counter. This play was called twice out of the same formation. The strongside TE pulled to the backside of the formation as the back ran to the strong side.

I didn’t see a single play where a guard pulled, where a tackle pulled, or there was any type of misdirection. The Jets were pretty basic.


The second half was a mixture of new and previous pass concepts.

The Jets continued with the screen game, running another four screens during the second half. The Jets reused the double bubble out of the empty set for the third time. Then they added a new bubble screen and used it twice. In essence, the Jets ran one different bubble screen in the second half. Only one screen was not a bubble screen to the WR, a successful TE screen.

Bates called three more floods. They all had the same deep out, short out and deep fly route to one side of the field.

Bates reused both the slant/arrow and slant concept, opting to run the slant/arrow on one side with the slants concept on the other side.

Now for the new concepts:

In total I counted eight concepts in the second half:

Levels: Deep fly, medium in, and a short out route run to the outside of the formation.

Spacing: All WR run to the first down distance and turn around.

Deep out: Outside man runs 15 yard out, inside slot goes deep.

Switch: Out of a stack formation, one WR runs deep with the other running a ten yard in/out to the left.

Verticals: Hail Mary.

Deep levels: Same as levels but deep routes.

Smash-deep out: Outside WR runs spacing route underneath with inside running deep out.

Shallow cross: Outside WR runs a shallow cross, with a deep fly and a post out of the slot and third WR respectively.

The Jets re-ran three of the exact same plays from the exact same personnel package and formation. On two of these three instances, Darnold was intercepted.


Let’s talk about what I didn’t see. The Jets did not utilize a single counter, counter-trey, or other form of blocking. There was not a single WR reverse or fake reverse. I saw one or two zone reads at the most. Other than the TE counter and a toss sweeps, you could argue the Jets ran three running plays in the entire game. (That’s pushing it though).

In the passing game, the Jets did not run a single screen to an RB. They ran one to the H-back and one to the TE but not a single RB screen. The Jets didn’t seem to run a lot of routes over the middle, favoring a lot of medium to deep routes along the sidelines. For example, I didn’t see a levels concept over the middle, a deep dig concept, or a spacing concept. Once it got into desperation time, the Jets used two of the exact same plays twice — which suggests 1) they went in with an extremely small playbook anor 2) never planned a strategy for that situation.


It’s hard to say whether the playbook was small or whether the Jets simply ran a lot of the same plays and concepts over and over again. Maybe it’s a case of using one concept and hoping changing formations/ packages enough would throw off a team. If I had to take a stab, I’d wager the Jets had 50-75 individualized play calls for the Browns game. However, if you were to lump all inside zones, outside zones, stretches, toss sweeps, floods, and bubbles together that number shrinks to probably 10-30 plays.