Through the fist five games of the season the New York Jets have had a plethora of plays that left fans scratching their heads. We have seen offensive plays fail. We have seen defensive plays that give opposing offenses “gifts” and keep the Jets offense glued to the bench. The question I have is whether these plays are talent related or scheme related.
Now I know the Jets are a team on the rebuild so the thought here is that the team will acquire more talent through the Draft along with free agency over the next few years. Yet the team is not without playmakers, and they seem to be held back by some bizarre plays at inopportune times.
Although the Jets have not played a who’s who of elite NFL offenses the defensive unit of has held its own in most cases; except for some just amazingly horrible instances. Key points in a game that can make or break a team’s morale.
The Jets are currently 25th in time of possession in the NFL. The case can be made the teams that stay on the field longest have some of the highest attrition rates in the league. This is genuinely a concern for a team like the Jets who are not a very deep team talent wise. The more starting type players they lose for an extended period of time the harder it is for them to compete.
We all realize the Jets are a rebuilding franchise, and many of the players on the current roster will not be on the team in 2-3 years but rather replaced (in theory) with higher quality players who have higher ceilings.
This is not to insinuate that the cupboard is bare currently. It isn’t, but this is still a team in transition.
First let’s look at the team itself so far. We’ll look at both sides of the ball to see where we are.
The best friend of a rookie QB is a rushing attack to take the burden of the offense off his shoulders. That friend is a poor one for Zach Wilson as the Jets sit dead last in rushing yards after 5 weeks. Only the Raiders and Texans average less yards a carry than the Jets’ woeful 3.6 yard average. The Jets longest run is an NFL worst 17 yards. Their 370 yards rushing is 59 yards behind the Miami Dolphins who sit at #31.
With zero explosive plays and nothing for the defense to fear the Jets ground game is the central cause of the Jets inability to score points. The Jets 7 total TDs in 5 games is by far the worst in the league, 4 behind the next worst team.
This anemic rushing attack has made the Jets a QB centric offense which is exactly what you don’t want to do to a rookie QB. Throw in a slight groin strain, and Zach Wilson has been forced to carry a load he is currently ill equipped to handle.
Offensively the Jets are in need of a higher caliber offensive line especially on the interior. The Jets get little push in the ground game, and their pass protection is spotty at best. I think what the Jets lack on the offensive line is a leader, a player who can handle his business and demand the rest of his linemates to do so as well. That player has not emerged, but it will be one of the top needs in 2022. Leaders are hard to come by, especially on the offensive line.
A couple more WRs/TEs with game breaking ability are needed as well. A true workhorse type RB would also help. The Jets need players who can grow and flourish with Zach Wilson. They can’t afford to miss on their evaluations if they wish to succeed next year and the years ahead.
I want to start off saying that I think this bye week will be a huge boon for Zach Wilson. He had a groin injury. and that (to me) seemed to coincide with his loss of QB fundamental mechanics. He was opening up to soon on passes, not getting the proper hip rotation which vastly hurt his accuracy along with the power on his throws. Once that is fully healed I am hoping he will return to his classic throwing motion. That rhythm can be easily deviated by injury and he must work to get his mechanics correct, or he will continue to flounder.
The time off will give Zach a chance to review his game tape to see his errors in judgement and his thought processes during plays. Zach is a smart kid. and a rational review of his overall play should be an eye opener to him. You have to be honest and a harsh critic as you self-scout This is the best way to grow as a player and a team leader. Take responsibility then work to improve.
Zach Wilson must understand his role in the offense. He must grow by learning from some of the mistakes he has already made. He has to understand more of the big picture of playing QB in the NFL.
First he must realize that every possession is vital. You only get so many chances to make the offense work so turnovers are a disaster. When you give up the ball, it gives the opponent a psychological boost plus it usually puts your defense in a bad situation. Turnovers must be avoided at all costs. A punt is not always a bad thing.
Second he must understand that possessing the ball is good for his team. It keeps the opposing defense on the field while allowing your defense to rest. Zach must realize that a first down is a good thing. He must look at the offense in terms of first downs along with ball control. Big plays will happen in the offense when you stress the defense enough that they allow you to make a splash play. Once you have an offense that continues to make first downs. the defense will have to alter their game plan to stop you from doing so. Then and only then you can take shots down the field with less worry about turnovers.
Zach has superior mobility. He needs to start using that mobility more to stress the defense, but it must be done so judiciously. Here he is rolling out with a chance to easily pick up a first down but instead throws the ball to an open receiver.
This was a third and 2 play that the Jets ended up punting early in the game instead of developing a rhythm on offense. Atlanta had taken the opening kickoff and marched down the field. The Jets needed to establish their offense but instead put their defense right back on the field. Zach must learn that as soon as he sees LB #55 Steven Means foolishly push inside leaving the edge uncovered he must take that opportunity to move outside.
By doing so he now has a full unencumbered view of the field. This is a position he needs to be in as much as possible. He has a clean view of the field. He can run for a first down, get out of bounds, and make the defense react to him. When a defense is forced to react it can make mistakes. In this instance the best choice is a run for a first down and get a new set of downs. This is understanding game situations 101. This is the first possession of the game. You want your offense in rhythm and to get a TD. The first down should have been paramount in his mind, but he is a rookie who needs to learn about game situations.
Never leave a first down to a receiver making a catch when you can get it easily running yourself and getting out of bounds. This also makes the defense upset for allowing that first down so easily. They will try and adjust their play which again can lead to mistakes.
Zach must realize he needs to run more, not be a running QB but be a QB who can run. He needs to learn how to stress the defense, then make a positive play. It doesn’t always need to be a huge passing play. A first down and some field position makes the defense work. I think a player like Zach needs to run for 2-3 first downs a game to open up the defense. Once the opposing team tries to adjust by crashing their ends less and leaving wider gaps at the 2nd level of the defense this will open more holes in the run and passing game.
Third he must understand how to get himself in rhythm throwing the ball.
Much like a golfer, a QB needs to get into his own rhythm throwing a ball. It is easier said than done. Players have numerous things that can hurt their timing and rhythm. Weather conditions, sleeping on a motel mattress, cold, heat, arid, humid or just plain old body stiffness can hamper your ability to throw with proper rhythm. Older QBs understand this more because they know how to warm up their bodies better since they have done so very often. I have stated this before, but Bill Walsh knew how important this was to the effectiveness of his QB. He usually called a simple pass play for his first play of the game.
This was 3 time Super Bowl winner (at the time) Joe Montana with a simple pass for 6 yards to his RB out of the backfield. Walsh wanted his QB to feel comfortable making throws so he started him off with a positive play. I would like to see Mike LaFleur use this approach as well. Usually a defense is in a generic alignment to start as not to give up a big play on the first snap. This gives the offense to make a positive play right off the bat.
An offensive coordinator can assist with a QB getting comfortable, but a QB has to learn to do so on his own. Zach has been wildly inconsistent with his technique and his overall setup but when he gets it mostly right it looks fantastic. Here are two plays where he came out from center, made a good read, then used decent technique on his throws. It showed.
Here Zach is in the shotgun. He doesn’t give away the throw to the defense by staring straight downfield until he rocks then throws to the outside in rhythm and on time. This was done with great precision and timing for a first down on a 3rd and 10 play. The only negative (I’m a freak about technique.) is he crosses his legs on the setup which can cause balance issues especially if the throw is not there and he needs to reset.
This next play is the exact next play in the game. This throw is even more impressive since he is throwing to the opposite side of the field from the far hashmark while under an all out blitz to a player on the sideline. This ball is a decisive throw, a dart to a receiver 25 yards away on the opposite side of the field. Even though he again crosses his feet the prior throw in rhythm allowed him to rocket this ball on time to Davis on the outside.
This is what is capable once rhythm is established, and just like trust it is hard to make and easy to break. Zach needs to stay confident while ensuring his technique stays strong while he gets a strong understanding of the defense. This will be a work in progress all year; remember Zach is a rookie. You can’t force experience, it comes with time and hard work.
Everything the Jets do this year will be measured on how it helped/hurt Zach Wilson’s development. That is point #1, 2 & 3. Sure there are numerous aspects of the Jets that need to be worked on, but the end result is that Zach Wilson is the future. Without his development the Jets are doomed for years to come. Fortunately I am very bullish on Zach’s development, and if you know me I was against the Darnold pick. (I wanted Josh Allen.) Although I hoped for his development I knew Darnold was not the answer unless he worked on his horrible mechanics first and foremost. I believe Carolina is learning that as well. If you don’t have great mechanics you will never be a consistent QB.
The one thing the Jets don’t want to do is stifle is the play making ability of Zach Wilson. That is his upside and what makes him a stellar prospect. His ability to make off platform throws along with is ability to make something special on a unscripted play is the elite aspect of his talent base. Here he gets outside the pocket then directs his receiver to go deeper rather than cut his pattern short which results in a great play.
You can see here that Wilson is stressing the defense as he breaks the pocket. With his mobility you can see numerous defenders waiting to see what he is going to do. That is the power of a mobile QB, but his ability to motion his man deep then uncork a laser beam throw to him 60 yards downfield for a TD is what shows how gifted he is.
One thing that can assist Zach Wilson on his ascension would be the development of his offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. You have to realize that LeFleur is a rookie calling plays as well, he has never done so in college or the pros before this year. It is a learning process just like his QB which in retrospect is not an ideal situation. In this case he needs to make solid play calls unlike the 2nd worst play call of the year on the one yard line.
First you are putting your young QB in danger if the play fakes don’t work, which they didn’t. Plus you are telling your offensive line that we don’t believe you can get a half yard. You need an offensive line that can block. and a QB who can see what the defense is lined up in and make a change at the line. What is foolish is your QB running back to the 12 yard line then getting tackled for a loss; an idiotic play. Zach Wilson also needs to realize that he doesn’t need to take the hit. He could have easily just thrown the ball out of bounds and had a chance at 4th and goal from the one yard line again. He needs to learn about situational football.
The only play that was worse this year was called by Jason Garrett of the Giants who couldn’t compete with a bevy of talent with the Cowboys. You know he had to have seen the Jets botched play, but he had to use Daniel Jones on the same exact play to the opposite side of the field.
Running a QB on a bootleg run is a serious lack of respect for your offensive line. The fact that he nearly got his QB seriously injured should have been a call for his ouster as offensive coordinator That’s just my opinion. Also Jones should of thrown the ball away.
The Jets offense is a work in progress with the priority on the development of Zach Wilson. Still the Jets need to self evaluate the roster so they can establish a hierarchy of needs in the offseason. The future will look very bright with the right moves and some development from Zach Wilson.
Defensively the front seven has looked good at times with some quality stops. The addition of Quincy Williams has been a huge boon as well. Quincy is undersized but makes up for it with quick recognition of the play plus has the suddenness to shoot a gap to avoid blockers then make the stop. The no name secondary has held its own for the most part even though the Jets have yet to grab an interception, the only team in the league not to do so. Yet with solid defensive play for the most part the team has given up some of the biggest yards on some of the most innocuous plays. This has to stop.
First of all I would like to praise Joe D for his insightfulness to bring in John Franklin-Myers from the Rams. Franklin-Myers was a size/speed specimen I liked in the 2018 NFL Draft. Sadly the Rams thought as highly of him as I did and took him in the 4th round from little Steven F. Austin. He was a contributor a a rookie and even had a strip sack of Tom Brady in the Super Bowl in the 2018 season.
Franklin-Myers has played between 63% and 73% of the snaps this year on the edge in each game. He has just turned 25 years old so he has a long future ahead of him if he continues to develop.The Jets must believe in him because they just signed him to a 4 year/ $55 million contract.
Here is Franklin-Myers this year on the edge against Tennessee on a third and 6 play. You can see that Tennessee was worried about Franklin-Myers since they kept a TE in to chip block him before he ran his route.
Franklin-Myers is a building block who the Jets believe in for the future. This is a gamble on his development as he is not quite to the level his contract dictates. Yet Joe D has hedged his bets as Franklin-Myers has zero guaranteed money after two years although the Jets are on the hook for $1.2 million ($400,000) in signing bonus money over the next three years.
Overall the Jets have been burned defensively on numerous plays I think because of structural tendencies that are shown on film. These tendencies are the reason that the defense has stayed on the field so long and given up so many points.
The Jets are a bend but don’t break defense I think because they don’t have any confidence in their defensive backfield. The second level of the defense has to drop back so far to cover the secondary that teams have seen huge gaps in the defense. This is a case in point.
This is a 3rd and 21 play that is caught over 6 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Not a single lineman makes it past the line of scrimmage so the RB has zero blocking except a few WR’s who basically just get in the way. Poor angles but also an idiotic scheme led to this debacle.
This is a 3rd and 21 play and any person who has watched even a few games of football would realize that the offense in 95% of the times will either call for a screen pass or a draw play. How in God’s name could your defense give up a first down on a 3rd and 21 play on a pass that was caught 6 yards behind the line of scrimmage? Watch how deep the 2nd level of the defense drops and can’t make it back to the play. This must be corrected or the Jets will see this type of play all year long. This is not an isolated case.
Here is the same team on a 2nd and 13 play. It is obvious they saw something in the tape that led them to these play calls. This is nearly an identical huge play for the offense on a pass that didn’t travel 2 yards.
This is mid 3rd quarter so the Jets had a chance to change the defense at halftime. The Jets are down by a mere 2 points, but they allow a 26 yard gain when they have the opponent trapped deep in their territory. The LBs are dropping way too quickly without waiting to see if a draw or screen is developing. This is obviously on Robert Saleh’s plate as he is the designer of the defense. Again this is not an isolated situation.
This time the play is a first and 10 with the Jets in the lead for once. Yet the defense is unable to stop a slow developing screen to a tight end giving up a 14 yard play.
This inability to stop simple plays that are given to non explosive players is troubling. What happens when a team devises a play to a elite talent? The Jets could get burned. The Jets ended up winning this game, but they could have done so going away if they had some defensive discipline instead of folly.
Even with all the previous defensive follies, the next two plays capture the essence of the schematic ineptitude of the Jets defense. The first play is having John Franklin-Myers, a defensive end who is 6’ 4 295 lbs cover a talent like Kyle Pitts who is 6’ 5” and runs 4.4/40 with 33.5” length.
The fact that John Franklin-Myers was covering him from the start is no mystery, it was the plan from the start. As you can see off the snap that Franklin-Myers has Pitts all the way. A 295 lbs defensive end covering a 245 lbs TE who runs 4.44/40 with great length and without any help over top. This is a recipe for disaster as a defensive planner. Watch from another angle on the play.
This play is one of the reasons the Jets lost this game. John Franklin-Myers does his best in coverage, but Pitts is too quick and too fast for the coverage. In that part of the field how do the Jets not have a solid defender who is versed in coverage against Pitts instead of a defensive end?
Yet possibly the worst defensive play the Jets concocted during the first 5 games was a coverage in the Atlanta game that allowed them to win the game. This scheme was so bad and the coverage even worse I wonder who will take responsibility for this gaffe.
You are down by 3 points but have the opponent in a 3rd and 13 situation outside of field goal range with just under 5 minutes on the clock. This is an opportunity for the defense to pressure the offense and make them try a low percentage heave to get a first down. Instead you have a soft coverage on the outside by Bryce Hall and he is bailing on the play to boot. There is no defender inside to stop the throw so the window for Matt Ryan is enormous. He could hit this in his sleep.
The safety is 12 yards off the ball and is slow to react to the play right in front of him. They should have charged him for a front row ticket since he sat and watched the play and allowed a simple slant pattern to gain 15 yards and an easy first down. This was the play of the game, and these are the type of bonehead coverages that will get you beat every time. A high school QB could have easily made this throw to the wide open receiver.
Why was Hall playing outside coverage with a free release, without any defender inside? He should have forced him outside and forced Matt Ryan to throw the ball over the head of Hall to the outside and try and drop it in between Hall and the safety. This is by far the worst defensive play of the year given the game situation. It took any chance for a beautiful comeback win and tossed it in the garbage.
The Jets are a team in flux. They need to come together as a team then win as a team. This means the coaches too. Everyone needs to reevaluate their performance this season so far. There is huge opportunity for growth on this Jets team. They should not waste it.
That’s what I think.