Playing quarterback in the NFL is difficult. You rarely have things come easily to you. When the opportunity presents itself, you have to take advantage of it.
This is what happened in the first quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Bills. On a red zone third down, the Jets bunch their receivers in their formation.
This type of formation can put stress on the defense. It is especially difficult to navigate if the wide receiver on the inside, Denzel Mims, runs a route taking him outside. There will be plenty of traffic in the area making it difficult for defenders to get to him.
This is exactly what the Jets do on this play. It creates natural separation off the line of scrimmage as the other routes move defenders away from Mims.
All Darnold has to do is float the ball out to Mims. He will turn it up the field for an easy first down to extend the drive and might even take it into the end zone. He isn’t even looking in Mims’ direction, though.
Darnold ends up with a second chance. He breaks the pocket running to his left. Mims is wide open past the sticks. Again all Darnold has to do is get the ball to him. Look at where Darnold is at his first opportunity to throw and where he is when he actually starts throwing. He finds this opportunity way late.
This throw is so late that a Buffalo defender has time to jump in and break up the pass. The Jets were forced to settle for a field goal.
This play resonated with me a bit because I remembered a virtually identical missed opportunity by Geno Smith in a game against the Bills in 2014. That play made me feel like it was never going to happen for Geno.
The best NFL quarterbacks have success because they are consistently winning the presnap portion of the play. They see where they have the advantage and know where they need to go before the ball is snapped.
A bunch formation on third and 4 is among the most obvious places to look for an easy completion. One of the biggest complaints I have with Adam Gase and Dowell Loggains is their system doesn’t have enough of these simple concepts that are tailor made for a situation.
Here is a rare instance where the Jets gave it to Darnold, and he failed to recognize it. Then he took way too long to recognize it when he got a second chance.
This was the difference between settling for a field goal and keeping a chance at a touchdown alive.
The problems with the Jets offense are numerous. Darnold’s struggles to see the field are among them.