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Breaking Down Denver’s Sacks on Zach Wilson

NFL: New York Jets at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Things certainly did not go well for the Jets offensively this past Sunday in Denver. There were issues across the board, especially in pass protection. The Broncos registered five sacks in the game. Let’s take a look at where things went wrong on each of them.

The first came in the opening quarter on a third and six from the Jets’ 29 yard line. The Jets bunch three receivers on the right side of the formation, and all three run a shallow in route.

This play has been mocked repeatedly in the days that followed because it clustered three receivers in one area. Now sometimes a still shot of a football play doesn’t offer the full context of what is happening. A play that looks ridiculous at one moment sometimes develops into something clever.

This is not one of those times. The spacing of the receivers here is ridiculous. These quarters are way too tight to have three targets crammed into.

This is so bad that I actually wonder whether one of these receivers mixed up the route he was supposed to run.

In any event, Ty Johnson whiffs on a linebacker blitz pickup leading to pressure up the middle.

This sack is almost all on Johnson in my book.

I will say this. Despite the pressure and the absurdity of the play design, Zach Wilson could have completed a pass to Corey Davis, who was open. He loads up to throw but then pulls the ball down.

After pulling the ball down, he backpedals his way into a bigger loss.

This particular spot shows a key moment because it looks like Zach is breaking to his right.

However, you’ll see him then turn back to his left and run himself into a bigger loss. Maybe he realized none of his receivers were on that right side. Still he might have had a chance to throw the ball away. He left himself with no chance by going straight back.

However, I don’t put the failure of this play on Zach. There are things that could have gone better, but the routes that were open weren’t going to be a first down anyway.

I also go back to some comments I made last week about situational football and knowing when to take chances. This is third down. I can forgive you for trying to make something happen here. Either way you’re punting if it fails, even if you are surrendering field position.

There are some things to not love from Zach on this one if they continue, but the failure was on the play itself and Johnson in my opinion.

Moving on, our second sack comes on a first and ten from the New York 33 late in the second quarter.

The protection has the Jets sliding the right side of their line to the right on the snap, including center Connor McGovern.

The problem is the gap to McGovern’s left is unoccupied as the defensive tackle runs right through it.

Look, sometimes the center slides to the right A gap, and the running back is responsible for the pass rusher who comes through the left A gap. That happens when a linebacker is blitzing, though. It doesn’t happen when a 300 pound defensive tackle rushes the passer. There isn’t a back in the NFL capable of picking this up. Michael Carter has no chance here.

Zach doesn’t have a chance either. In fact he does a good job evading pressure and turning this into just a one yard loss.

Two plays later it was third and eleven. The Jets have to deal with Von Miller going against Morgan Moses, a difficult matchup. Moses doesn’t have the most nimble feet, and it’s going to be difficult for him to prevent Miller from turning the corner on him. To try and combat this, the Jets have Ty Johnson line up as a wingback. His job is to chip or obstruct the pass rusher to slow him down and give Moses a fighting chance. Ideally he’ll be able to redirect Miller into an easier angle for Moses.

However, Johnson does a terrible job. He mostly whiffs on his assignment, and what little if any contact he makes pushes Miller out wider, giving him an even better angle and making Moses’ job tougher.

In the lead up to games like this people will frequently talk about ways to slow down a pass rusher like Miller, and putting chips like this in the game plan frequently come up. These aren’t bad ideas, but the players have to execute them. There’s no guarantee they will.

Moses allows Miller to get to the edge. However, this is a sack where I think Zach Wilson has to take some of the blame. He has plenty of room to step up in the pocket, and if he does, Moses is pushing Miller past him.

Beyond this, Corey Davis is open. Zach is loading up to throw the ball when he is hit, and it looks like he’s going to throw in Davis’ direction.

Good protection is frequently about all of the parts working together. Nobody worked too well on that play.

In the final minute of the first half the Jets had a first down on their own 26. They were looking to get a field goal before the break. They have four receivers going out into patterns, including Corey Davis who is running a fifteen yard-ish out.

This is a sack I have to put almost entirely on Wilson. He sees Davis breaking open and loads up to throw.

When I’m doing these breakdowns I frequently need to piece together two different angles, the all twenty-two and the end zone view. The end zone view gives you a better idea of what the quarterback is seeing. Sometimes a receiver might look open on the all twenty-two, but in the end zone view you see either he wasn’t in the progression or the quarterback’s vision was obstructed.

That isn’t the case here. Zach seems to see him fine and is about to fire. Then he just doesn't.

Instead he tries to bail the pocket moving to his left and runs himself into the sack.

This was a recurring theme in this game on many plays that did not end in sacks. Zach would hesitate or double clutch when he had a window over and over. I can’t help but wonder whether the four interception game against New England made him a bit hesitant to fire the ball in this one.

The final sack came on a fourth and six with just over 3:00 left in the game. The Broncos load the line of scrimmage presnap.

On the left side of the formation they run a stunt.

Alijah Vera-Tucker and Connor McGovern do not pick it up well at all. Meanwhile on the right side Michael Carter whiff on a blitz pickup of his own.

When it comes to the line play, the glass half empty view would be that the Jets can’t pick up a simple stunt. The glass half full view is this might just be a chemistry thing. McGovern and Vera-Tucker are still learning how to play together. This was third third game after limited time in training camp and no preseason reps.

The Carter end of this play left me with a thought. In the first two games I was frustrated that Tevin Coleman was seeing the field. Carter’s whiff along with Ty Johnson’s struggles are a good thing to keep in mind if we look for clues in future weeks why Coleman still might get playing time. These backs really had issues in pass protection that a veteran like Coleman might help stabilize. You have to give Coleman carries as well, though. If you only trot him out there to protect the passer, you’re telling the defense the play call with a neon sign.

This was just total failure. On top of the missed blocks, there’s nowhere for Wilson to go with the ball. Every receiver is covered.

This is a play where the quarterback simply had no chance.

Of course there were protection issues that went beyond the sacks, but these plays offer a sampling of the problems. The offensive line was not very good, but at times the running backs and the quarterback exacerbated the issues.