Jets quarterback Mike White was stellar on Sunday, throwing 3 touchdowns. Let’s take a look at the three scoring plays and what they tell us.
On the first touchdown the action is happening on the right side of the field in the red zone.
What is particularly interesting is that Garrett Wilson isn't really open when White decides to throw him the ball. The defender has outside leverage, and Wilson needs to break to the outside.
I think this is notable because Ty Johnson is open for a short gain if White wants to take it. Now there would be nothing wrong with just taking this gain and living to see another day.
This is what makes grading quarterbacks so subjective. There was a perfectly fine option, but White forsakes it for a better option. He trusts Wilson to win his matchup, and the rookie eventually does. The ball is thrown accurately.
You like to see this for a couple of reasons. First, it shows that White has a degree of trust and chemistry with his receivers despite starting the season on the bench. Second, White has a (not entirely undeserved) reputation as a checkdown artist. On this play, however, he saw an opportunity to push the ball down the field and didn’t pass it up for the safer play.
Now you might be saying, “Wait a minute. Doesn’t Zach Wilson get criticized for passing up easy throws?” As I said, grading quarterbacks is subjective.
Let’s move on to touchdown number two.
The Jets are running play action here. To sell the run fake, the Jets are leaving in both of their tight ends as blockers. Denzel Mims (yellow) appears to be the primary read. Garrett Wilson (red) is probably the second read. Bam Knight (blue) releases after the fake handoff to him and become the checkdown.
Now the run fake actually plays a significant role in the success of this play. The Bears are in man coverage, but there are two exceptions. Safety Eddie Jackson has the deep middle of the field. Linebacker Matt Adams is also playing a zone underneath. It’s difficult for defenders in man coverage to deal with routes that break inside so Adams is there to provide help.
You can see how the fake makes Adams move up.
This delays his zone drop and limits the amount of depth he gets.
Adams drops far enough to help take away Mims.
However, the inside help Garrett Wilson’s man might be expecting isn’t there. With only Jackson over the top, Wilson can cut his route inside and find daylight.
Now in a world where the Bears are playing two deep safeties, the play might require Wilson to adjust his route and hit the hole deep in the middle of the field. This is where things get tricky. This next picture features two lifelike illustrations of hypothetical Bears safeties playing two deep coverage. I promise you they aren’t real.
However, with one deep safety playing the middle. Garrett is to bend his route inside. And Adams comes close to making a play on the throw. However, that early move in to play the run might have been the difference between a completion and an incompletion.
I have some people argue that the pass was almost intercepted and thus a dangerous pass. I think the timing was pinpoint, though. Had the throw been made a split second later, the Jets would have had a problem. That's just life in the NFL. Passing attacks need to have extremely precise timing. The difference between success and failure is miniscule.
In any event, Wilson makes the catch and then takes it to the end zone aiding by an unfortunate injury to Jackson.
The last touchdown just looks like a total bust in coverage to me. The Bears appear to be playing a combo coverage based on Cover 3. The deep safety has the deep middle. The near side outside corner has the deep third to his side. The far side outside corner is released to play man on the shallow crosser because there are no other receivers on his side at the snap. And there are a number of underneath zones.
This play is such a mess for the Bears that I can't figure out exactly who messed up. There’s pretty much no communication, and Elijah Moore goes completely uncovered.
White identifies the bust and delivers the ball to the open guy. Based on the way he resets, I get the feeling Moore was not featured on this play. The quarterback just saw the opportunity and took advantage.
Where does Mike White goes from here? It is difficult to say.
I do think White’s performance on Sunday is being a bit unfairly scoffed at as a checkdown fest. Don't get me wrong. It’s great that White took easy yardage when presented. That has been lacking from the Jets passing game.
But he did more than just that. I saw a lot of skills that can translate from week to week. Sometimes you need a quarterback to have the trust in his receiver to win to take a calculated risk and forego the easy completion. Sometimes you need pinpoint accuracy. Sometimes you just need the quarterback to forget about the play and get it to the receiver who got open because of a busted coverage.
White’s quarterbacking on Sunday wasn't just the result of a bad defense. This was some high level play.