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NY Jets: On Good Playcalling

NFL: Preseason-Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

One of the things I find frustrating about Adam Gase is every once in a while he shows a dash of creativity.

Look at the play where the Jets scored their lone touchdown on Sunday.

I don’t think this was a great play because the Jets scored on it. Yes, the result was good, but you can’t just focus on the result.

This play was good first of all because it was run from a unique formation.

The Jets have Luke Falk in the pistol. Ty Montgomery is directly behind him. And Le’Veon Bell is right next to him. How long have we waited to see these two on the field together?

Mainly, though, this is a good play because of the amount of area the Jets threatened. You want to force the opposition to defend as large a part of the field as possible.

Space is the friend of offensive production. On a run play, if the defense only has to defend the middle of the field, they can load it with defenders.

You’d better have great blocking if that’s all you do on offense.

Falk (with the ball) and Montgomery break right to the right. Now the defense has to defend that right side of the field. Almost all of the defense flows there.

Then Falk pitches the ball to wide receiver Vyncint Smith who is running left.

Now the Jets are forcing the Eagles to defend the wide left side of the field as well, something they proved incapable of doing.

One of the objectives on offense should always be to stretch the defense as far as possible. The more ground the defense has to cover, the better it is for the offense.

It’s even better when an opponent knows it has to cover a wide area. A play like this is now on film for the Cowboys and upcoming Jets opponents.

Good playcalling is all about building on something that works with other calls that fit together.

The next time the Jets run a play that looks like this, any defense will stop in its tracks when it sees Smith coming around. They might even get people moving in the wrong direction when they see it.

That would make a pitch to Montgomery more effective. The defense would be distracted by Smith.

The good playcaller manipulates the defense like this and stays one step ahead.

This formation also opens up a lot of possibilities.

The play started with a fake to Bell running left and an unblocked end defender.

Now if the defense is off balance and there is a threat of an outside run to either side, the middle might be less congested. A fake to Bell might occupy that defender, who would have to respect the possibility Le’Veon got the handoff. Then the ball could go to Montgomery up the middle. That end defender wouldn’t be in position to tackle him, and the defense wouldn’t be selling out on the middle run.

If your offensive line is struggling to run block effectively, but you have multiple quality playmaking backs, using an extra back like Bell to occupy a defender is a way to work around those woes up front.

Then you can key off that unblocked defender to determine subsequent calls. If you notice the defender is staying flat and not going upfield to get Bell, you hand it off to Le’Veon on the next play who can beat him to the corner.

Then next time he’s likely to get too aggressive to compensate so you hit him on a counter play with a pulling guard to punish him for getting caught too far up the field and hand the ball to Montgomery to hit the hole.

This ultimately is what makes good playcalling. You threaten as much of the field as possible. You have plays that fit neatly together. Each play elicits a reaction from a defender or defenders, and you call the next play to anticipate and take advantage of that reaction.

I wish we had seen this formation and this play from the Jets before the fourth quarter of the game. I also wish this wasn’t only a matter of putting things on film for future opponents. The Jets were struggling on offense and needed to figure out ways to manufacture something on offense against the Eagles. They could have tried to run these plays in some sequence within that game. It’s nice to put something in the mind of your upcoming opponent, but it’s even better to do it during the same game. The team you are lining up against has already been burned and is thus even more likely to display the reaction you’re looking to exploit. It also is difficult to adjust in real time without practice time to prepare.

There’s a real chance this play was simply a one time deal. That would be a shame, but it wouldn’t be a shock in the NFL. This is league where creativity frequently is frowned upon. It’s a knock on Adam Gase if this formation disappears, but it’s more a knock on the league as a whole. It’s very easy to dismiss what we saw here as a “gadget” or a “trick play” that can only work once. You have an end around to a wide receiver and two halfbacks on the field at the same time. Neither is a staple of most NFL playbooks so the temptation is to look at it as gimmicky.

The fundamentals are sound, though. There’s plenty to build on here. The Jets or any other team are leaving something on the table if they view the success of this call as pure chicanery.