This week multiple Jets writers including Connor Hughes and Rich Cimini reported notes from a recent meeting between Sam Darnold and Adam Gase. Darnold apparently went to Gase and asserted the plays he felt comfortable running. This meeting resonated when looking over Sunday’s game.
Early in Sunday’s victory over Washington, the Jets used a play action bootleg. On this play, the Jets are faking a zone run. On a zone blocking play, the entire offensive line moves in the same direction off the snap.
After the fake, the quarterback moves against the grain of the blocking.
A fairly common passing concept has two receivers running across the field within the quarterback’s vision.
In an ideal world, the defense will have bitten hard against the run fake. Since the fake flows in the opposite direction from where the play typically goes, this type of play can leave one of the receivers wide open.
This play can be a thing of beauty when it works as drawn up.
Fast forward to the third quarter of the game, and you see something similar happen. The Jets fake a zone run.
Darnold rolls against the grain of the blocking.
Two receivers run routes in front of him.
On the first play the deep guy, Jamison Crowder, got open because the fake messed up Washington’s zone. On this play the short guy, Ryan Griffin, is open. Washington is in man coverage, and the guy who was supposed to cover him bit hard on the fake.
The result is another big gain.
These plays are notable to me for a few reasons.
One of my big complaints about the Jets offense in 2019 has been the use of play action. The team’s blocking on such plays has been very unconvincing. The designed movements of the offensive line just haven’t gotten defenders to sell out on the run.
These particular plays provided a rare example of the 2019 Jets successfully faking out an opponent.
I have also been frustrated by the lack of big plays that come from design. The Jets have done a lousy job scheming guys open. Virtually the entire playmaking burden has fallen on Darnold’s shoulders. That isn’t the type of thing you want a 22 year old quarterback to handle himself. There have to be some easy to execute plays mixed in.
The biggest reason these plays resonated, though, were the stories about Darnold telling Gase the types of plays he felt comfortable running. This particular play is a staple of offenses run by Mike Shanahan and coaches who worked under him. Darnold’s rookie offensive coordinator, Jeremy Bates, was a Shanahan disciple and utilized this play extensively. I would imagine this was one of the calls Darnold asked Gase to make more.
Of course any play has a weakness or two. That might be something to keep in mind for this weekend’s game against Oakland. Raiders rookie Maxx Crosby is coming off a four sack game. Guess which play one of his sacks came against.
Because of the flow of the design, the guy at the end of the line frequently cannot be blocked.
In a situation like this, the offense has to hope he bites on the fake and runs himself out of the play chasing the running back after the fake handoff.
If he doesn’t, it’s disaster.
There’s a fine line between utilizing core concepts and going to them too frequently. The Jets will have to find the right mix this weekend.