The Jets face a near insurmountable task in beating the Super Bowl runners up Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. The Jets (who are already thin on the offensive line) will be without their best offensive lineman as Alijah Vera-Tucker tore his Achilles Tendon (much like Aaron Rodgers), so he is gone for the year. They are also without standout cornerback D.J. Reed, cornerback Brandin Echols and super special teamer Justin Hardee. All Pro cornerback Sauce Gardner is also out with a concussion so the Jets will be forced to play a lot of zone coverage.
The Eagles are also without some standout performers. They will be without their best cornerback in Darius Slay who would have followed Garrett Wilson around all day. They will also be without standout rookie defensive lineman Jalen Carter, who tweaked an ankle in practice so he will miss the game. Also missing is starting safety Justin Evans who was placed on IR on Friday. The Eagles will welcome back defensive tackle Fletcher Cox from a one game absence which helps their run/pass rush defense immensely. This is especially concerning since the Jets will start Max Mitchell at right tackle, so the Eagles defensive coordinator Sean Desai has already schemed up numerous twists, games and blitzes to destroy the Jets pass protection.
How can the Jets effectively survive the onslaught they are about to endure?
The Jets are a professional football team so they should act like it. No one cares in the NFL if you have injuries. The next man up better take care of business or he might not be an NFL player for very long. That may sound harsh or even simplistic but that will be the message to the players from the coaches. No excuses, do your job, make one play at a time and you will be successful. It should be the message. If you can’t handle being a starting player then you can’t play in the NFL period.
Realistically what can the Jets coaches do to help out their squad?
There is a myriad of things the Jets can do and should do every week to give the Jets the best chance of winning. Offensively just some of the ways are:
1) Keep the defense guessing
Stop running on first down every series. It puts a bullseye on your runner and the safeties are screaming up from the secondary to make tackles. Use the defense’s aggressiveness against them by play faking inside, then a super quick bubble screen or quick screen to the outside. This makes the defense defend the entire field horizontally and vertically, the safeties will be afraid to take a too aggressive attack to the run game if they feel they will be outflanked. All it takes is the Jets to fake a quick pass to Garrett Wilson to the right off a play fake, then fire a pass to the left to a player like Xavier Gipson with the speed and elusiveness to make a play. Also when you run the play the receiver should be moving towards the ball instead of just standing there. If you are already in motion you are able to have better acceleration and make moves rather than when you are standing still. Catch the ball on the run, don’t be a sitting target.
All it takes is a single missed tackle in this situation to make a game changing play. Also the Jets need to take a few deep shots down the field. It keeps the safeties honest so they don’t creep up in coverage. The Jets can do this by a designed roll out to the right side and using a tight end to seal off the inside rush. It is easier to protect a single side of the field instead of the entire field. Zach Wilson just has to realize that if the play is covered he is already outside the tackle box so he can heave the ball deep but out of bounds. A long completion would be great, but even if the pass sails out of bounds the effect will be enough to keep the safeties honest. It gives Breece Hall the best chance of success if he can get a gap in the line without a safety right in his face.
2) Blocking assignments
There are a number of ways to improve the blocking against an aggressive defensive team. First you can use double team/combo blocks in the middle to create a hole to run through. The strength of the Jets offensive line is on the interior. Use that strength to have a center/guard double team on the tackle where the center breaks off against the linebacker with Breece Hall right behind to find a crease. This is not a guarantee of a huge run, but it makes a positive gain possible. Also you can fake the same play while using the same play as above. This can also be used effectively with fullback Nick Bawden as a blocker or again as a fake to a play outside. Bawden can also be used as a receiver off the same look as the defense will be isolated on Breece Hall. Again it’s not a play that will be a long gain, but it would be a successful play for positive yardage and another thing for the defense to think about. When you make a defense think they react slower, which is what the Jets skill players can use to make a splash play.
Also the Jets can help out the pass protection with the tight ends helping out on the defensive ends to aid the offensive tackles in blocking. An intense shot to the defensive end while he is about to engage with the offensive tackle would help out immensely. You can also put the tight end in motion away from the defensive end to the opposite side but have the wide receiver to that side crash down on the unsuspecting defensive end. This is also a way to make the defensive end keep looking for the block instead of focusing on the pass rush. Even a half second of time can be the difference in a sack or a touchdown. Also running backs who are rolling to the flat can take a piece of the defensive end as he tries to make his way to the quarterback. The Jets should have multiple ways to “chip” block on the outside to help out the tackles. You know the Eagles will focus on attacking Max Mitchell with twists and stunts. It might be wise to use Bawden to that side to aid in pass blocking. He could also feign a blocking assignment, then leak out into the flat for a dump off pass.
3) Make Plays
It’s simple, in the NFL you have to make the plays you can make. Every player needs to understand that making big plays changes games. The Jets aren’t a team that can play from behind on a consistent basis. When you can make a game changing play you have to make it. When Sauce Gardner dropped a pick six it took the Jets from a 14-10 lead to an eventual 18 - 7 deficit against the Dallas Cowboys. The receivers in that game and many others have dropped passes right in their hands. You have to make the catch. Zach Wilson also needs to make the right decisions, but he’s evolving into a QB who makes quicker decisions.
4) Use Zach Wilson’s talents better
Zach is a player on the cusp of figuring out the NFL. He needs positive reinforcement, so find ways for him to be successful. Zach has a great arm with great movement skills, but when he has to improvise with limited time, he’s a disaster. That evolution will come in time but as of now the Jets need to avoid that situation.
NFL defenses aren’t that difficult to beat unless you are behind the chains so to speak. If you can make positive yardage (4 yards or more) then you can keep a defense fairly vanilla. Zach has a great arm with a very quick release so use it. Slants, whip routes and bubble screens are nearly always open. Use them. Once a defense looks to stop them then the deeper routes become more advantageous. Also Zach can be used in QB draws to the outside where he can go out of bounds or slide. These are all positive plays the Jets should look to incorporate into a cohesive game plan.
A passing concept I wrote about last year is a good example. You can fake a run to the left then the quarterback will roll to the right.
The sail concept basically works one side of the field. The advantage is the offense sends the right wide receiver on a deep corner route. The slot receiver to that side then runs a 10 yard out to the same side. The running back then runs a short 5 yard flat route. It gives a quarterback a choice (after the fake) of a deep, intermediate or short route. In a zone situation it puts the left cornerback (right side of the offense) in peril since he must decide which route to cover, the short or intermediate route. The inside linebacker has coverage on the back out of the backfield but has to wait on the play fake so he will be very late in coverage.
As Zach rolls to that side he can also make hay with a scramble. The result should be a positive play. You hope to hit the deep corner route, but if that is not open you have other options. It’s an easy read for the quarterback since all the options are right in front of him.
These are simple examples, there are many others which would be too laborious and boring to elaborate on. Simply design plays that are not throw away downs where the quarterback has few options if his initial reads are covered. Give him options to make a simple play that might not be a game changer but a possible chain mover. A dump off possibility should be designed into every throw.
5) Take away the opposing team’s best player
This is a Bill Belichick mantra. Take away the guy the other team is counting on. How the Dallas Cowboys’ CeeDee Lamb was uncovered for 11 receptions for 143 yards against the Jets is infuriating. CeeDee has had a high of 4 receptions in every other game this year. How do you allow 35% of the opponent’s receptions and 56% of the yardage to go to your opponent’s best receiver when you have two Pro Bowl type cornerbacks on your team? It’s foolish. You have to be (as a defensive coordinator) able to devise a plan against a team’s best player. It seems all the other teams did that considering that the Jets allowed 40% of his yardage on the year and 41% of his receptions in 5 games. The Jets allowed the Dallas Cowboys’ best receiver 37.1% of all the targets he has received in 5 games. That’s idiotic.
6) Use your best players more
Bryce Huff is a terror on the defense. When the Jets are able to use Jermaine Johnson and Bryce Huff on the edges the pocket just collapses. Huff has not reached a high of 45% of the snaps in any game this year. Just his presence on the edge makes opposing quarterbacks nervous. Use him more. I realize the Jets fear that teams will run at him because he is not that stout, but he is also quick so he can still make plays in the run game.
7) Be smart on defense
This is football, it’s not rocket science. As a defense you rush the passer in lanes as to not let Jalen Hurts escape the rush. You need to make him make plays in the pocket and not allow him to get outside where he has options. The Jets should look to collapse the pocket and not look to get around the edge which can allow Hurts to step up and escape the pocket. Hurts is not Joe Burrow or Brock Purdy who make plays from the pocket. He is best when he has options. His legs are a great asset. Take away his legs, make him make plays from the pocket where he is prone to mistakes.
The rush needs to be controlled. Don’t get out of your lanes. That keeps Jalen Hurts in the pocket. It’s where he can he sacked or make the worse play. You want a turnover, keep Hurts in the pocket.
I hope there is an element of revenge in this game. The Jets have never beaten the Eagles. The Eagles are the only team the Jets franchise has never defeated. They are 0-12 lifetime against the Eagles. I hope the team remembers the last time the Jets and Eagles played in 2021. The Eagles came to New Jersey and beat the Jets 33-18. After the game the Jets players said the Eagles disparaged the Jets.
It was said that the Eagles Fletcher Cox laughed at Coach Saleh and the Eagle captains wouldn’t even shake hands with the Jets Captains after the coin toss.
“At the end of the day, this is all about respect,” Mosley said. “Right now, teams are not respecting us.
“When you handle your business and you’re doing things right, teams don’t have time to do all that laughing, don’t have time to be doing all that stuff because you’re punching them in the mouth,” Mosley said. “That just has to be our mindset. Nothing is going to come easy for us. We have to go take everything, not earn it. We have to go take it. We’ve just got to really believe that.”
The Jets can win this game handily if they use the right techniques. They can use a few of the defensive suggestions I highlighted plus a few well know offensive systems. The way to win this game is to make positive yardage on the early downs to stay ahead of the chains. The Eagles are a team that is used to playing with the lead. If you make them play catchup they are prone to errors. Don’t be predictable on offense or defense. Use the entire field on offense and mix up coverages on defense. Hurts will make mistakes if you can frustrate him. Get him in long yardage situations then use a trap coverage. He will throw you the ball.
Or you could just pray and hope for the best.