Given the players the Jets are putting on the field, even a league average offense is likely an impossibility.
There are still important questions to be asked. Among them are whether the Jets are getting the most out of the players they are putting on the field. I think in many ways the answer to that is a resounding no.
The team’s playcalling in particular is open to questioning.
Take a look at this early third down play the Jets ran on Sunday’s game against New England.
The Jets have Le’Veon Bell split wide. Devin McCourty is across from him.
Bell goes into motion, and Devin McCourty follows him.
This is a clear sign of man coverage. A safety like McCourty would only be out there and following Bell if he is playing man to man against the running back.
On the other side of the formation the Jets have Jamison Crowder in the slot lined up against Jonathan Jones.
Crowder’s route takes him into the flat, and Robby Anderson’s route creates traffic for Jones.
This separation leaves a window for Luke Falk to deliver a pass to an open Crowder on the run with room to potentially scoot up field and pick up the first down.
Falk instead looked in the other direction and threw an incomplete pass to a covered Braxton Berrios.
Do you know what I think of that play? It was a good call by Adam Gase. He built in something to tip off the coverage presnap, and the play design got a receiver open. There’s nothing more the coach can do. An inexperienced quarterback made a bad read (I think at least). All you can judge the coach on is whether he’s maximizing his team’s odds of success.
Let’s look at another play. Here the Jets bunch three receivers on one side of the formation.
This time Berrios runs a route to the flat. The traffic forces New England to make a switch in the guy covering Berrios. This switch creates another passing lane.
The Jets are in a bad protection for the blitz the Patriots bring, and Falk gets sacked.
Once again, however, I can’t blame the coaches. On these plays with Crowder and Berrios the coaches have done what is known as “scheming guys open.” This is when something in the design of a play leads to a receiver getting open opposed to the player winning a one on one matchup.
The play once again didn’t work, but that once again was on the players. The coaches did what they could to put the players in a position to succeed.
Against man coverage there are a number of ways to scheme guys open. You can bunch receivers in the formation, design rubs, utilize crossing routes, and more. The idea is to create traffic around the defenders in man coverage so they have to leave space between the receiver they are covering and themselves. These two plays display this principle in action.
The Patriots are one of the best man coverage teams in the NFL. The receivers on a healthy Jets team would have trouble getting open one on one regularly with the cover guys the Pats have.
It was no secret the Jets were going to see a lot of man coverage, and their receivers would struggle to beat it.
Do you want to know why I highlighted the plays above? In the first 44 minutes of the game I charted the Patriots playing some version of man coverage on 16 Luke Falk dropbacks.
Those were the only two plays where I saw something inherent in the design to make it easier for a receiver to get open.
(Even stranger the Jets ran two plays in the final sixteen minutes against man coverage that had bunched receivers, but both came on third and 15+ plays where so much yardage is needed that such an alignment doesn’t really make a difference.)
Most passing plays looked something like this.
Unless an overmatched receiver wins a one on one and creates separation on his own (or the third string quarterback delivers a perfect tight window pass) the play is going to fail.
Last winter when the Jets were searching for a new coach, you might have heard some objections to the team hiring Mike McCarthy on the grounds his offense had become outdated (a criticism that had some validity to it). McCarthy’s inability to scheme guys open was one of the biggest reasons people said that.
Here in September the Jets don’t have McCarthy, but their offensive playcalling has some of the features some fans feared he would bring.
It wasn’t exactly a shock the Pats played a lot of man coverage. Again, we knew going in that they are good at it, and Jets receivers would have a tough time with it.
It’s easy for the coach to make a comment like this after the game.
Adam Gase asked about the offensively game plan. Said he thought it was fine if the #Jets “executed some stuff”— Connor Hughes (@Connor_J_Hughes) September 22, 2019
But frankly asking an undermanned offense to outexecute a more talented defense was a tall order.
The coaches could have built more into their calls to help the players get open and execute.
The players might still fail to produce like they did on those two plays we discussed at the top. Then the players deserve all of the blame. The coaches maximized the odds of a play working.
When the scheme isn’t assisting the players, however, the coaches have to take a portion of the blame.