The New York Jets will take on the high-powered Los Angeles Chargers at home on a mild November Monday night. The Chargers have an electric offense that the Jets will need to defuse if they hope to be successful. This is a pivotal game for the Jets as it’s a home game and they currently sit just outside the NFL playoff picture.
Last week’s dramatic last second drive against the New York Giants that forced overtime and the subsequent victory in overtime is a distant memory. The Jets need to fine tune an offense that has been out of tune most of the season.
What has been the problem on offense and how do the Jets fix it?
The easy answer here is to say the problems are at quarterback and the offensive line. Both have been graded poorly this season. These two parts of the offense have contributed to each other’s failures during the first half of the season. If the offensive line opened running lanes and gave better pass protection the offense would be much better. The quarterback would be able to find receivers without running for his life. Conversely if the quarterback was able to go through his reads faster, find open receivers and get the ball out of his hands, it would make the offensive line better. If a defense fears that the quarterback will find their holes, the defense usually becomes less aggressive.
The offensive coordinator has to be a factor in the offense’s failures as well. The Jets seem to have a problem with offensive schemes. Each offense has to be created after thorough research of the next opponent’s defense. Yet this scouting of the team they are about to face has been suspect. An offensive coordinator must find the holes in the defense, then exploit them. It’s basically his job once the offense is installed.
There are plays that work against every defense unless you are being totally overmatched. The Jet haven’t been overmatched on offense (for the most part), but the play calls could be better. Sure, the offensive line has been dominated at times, but as a play caller you must find ways (roll outs, quick slants, whip routes, misdirection plays) that keep a defense from overloading one area of the offense. When you have to cover the entire field as a defense (horizontal, vertical, inside or outside) it’s tough to be aggressive unless you are willing to give up big plays.
How do the Jets move the ball against the Chargers?
To determine what the Jets need to do on offense you have to look at the game from the eyes of the defensive coordinator of the Chargers. I am sure he wants to take away Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall, as they are the two best options the Jets have on offense.
The Jets offense likes to run the “outside zone” running game, where the object of the play is to block horizontally, which allows the running back to find a hole in the blocking to exploit for a nice gain. The offensive line is blocking “space,” not a particular player. Each blocker has an area he must move to where he blocks whatever defender is there. Although it is called outside zone, the play rarely makes it to the edge, but rather the running back finds a crease in the defense he can explode through. A back like Breece Hall (with tremendous speed) can make splash plays from this system.
The Chargers have two fast inside linebackers in Eric Kendricks and Kenneth Murray. They can be very disruptive to the outside zone running scheme. Both these inside linebackers come into the Jets game with injuries. Kendricks has some very sore ribs and Murray has a bad shoulder. These injuries will not affect their ability to move swiftly to the play, but taking on blocks may be more painful than usual.
For this reason I propose the Jets use an “inside zone scheme,” which uses double teams and combo blocks to create holes in the defense. The object of the scheme is to create first level movement while getting into position to take on second level defenders. For example, the Jets center and right guard would double team the left side defensive tackle. Once they get movement of the tackle the center slips off to pick up the inside linebacker who is trying to fill the hole. It’s a quick hitting play that allows Hall to get into the second level of the defense quickly and use his great elusiveness to get positive yards. You are making the inside linebackers take on blocks rather than flow to the play to make tackles. It’s essentially ground and pound using inside zone instead of a power gap system. The Chargers are not known as a tough/gritty team, so make them take on a downhill running scheme. This scheme weakens the defense as it moves down the field while also keeping the offense of the Chargers on the sidelines.
In the passing game the Jets need to use a quick passing system, where Zach Wilson is throwing to Garrett Wilson and Allen Lazard on quick slants and skinny posts. These routes are difficult to cover and get the ball out of Zach’s hands quickly. Also, the Jets need to use Xavier Gipson out of the slot. Randall Cobb is too long in the tooth to be an effective slot receiver anymore. Gipson would be an impossible cover on whips, drags and dig routes. You are looking here to stay ahead of the chains with positive plays. Once the Jets establish these types of routes the defense will have to adjust closer to the line of scrimmage, which will allow the receivers (Garrett Wilson especially) to get vertical.
How potent is the Offense they will face?
The Jets will face a Chargers offense that is tied for 8th in the league at scoring touchdowns despite already having their bye week. The Jets on the other hand are tied for last in total offensive touchdowns. The Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert has thrown for more than 14,000 yards with 94 touchdowns and only 35 interceptions in his first three seasons in the NFL. To say he is a prolific passer is an understatement. This was accomplished while Herbert went through three offensive coordinators in four years. As a rookie he had Shane Steichen, who was hired as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. The Chargers then brought in Joe Lombardi, but even though they had success it wasn’t good enough. In 2023 the Chargers hired Kellen Moore away from the Dallas Cowboys. Whereas the Cowboys wanted to throw the ball less, the Chargers hired Moore to throw the ball more, and they have done so. This year Herbert has a QB rating of 101.1, which is the first time he has been over 100 in his career.
The Chargers have a super quality slot receiver in Keenan Allen, who is not a game changer, but an impossible cover and a chain mover. He was a perfect complement to Mike Williams (who is on injured reserve). Now the Chargers are working in a new wide receiver in rookie Quentin Johnston. The tight ends, Gerald Everett and Donald Parham, are two completely different types of receivers. Everett is more of a slasher who works slants and outs but has middling speed. Parham is a monster at 6’ 8”, so he is a red zone threat, but he is not an adept route runner. His size is his best asset, but he still can be effective.
The Chargers are down to their fifth best receiver since Mike Williams is on injured reserve and Josh Palmer is out for this game. That means in three wide receiver sets the Jets will face Keenan Allen, Quentin Johnston and Simi Fehoko on the outside. Johnston is a talented but raw rookie and Fehoko is in his third year in the NFL, with a grand total of four receptions for 33 yards. The Chargers are also missing their All-Pro center in Corey Linsley, and their offensive tackles are suspect. Rashawn Slater is a good pass protector but poor in run blocking while Trey Pipkins (from the University of Sioux Falls) is average at best in run and pass blocking. There will be opportunities for the Jets defense.
What do the Jets need to do defensively?
The Jets must make the Chargers one dimensional by stopping the run. I know it sounds silly to stop the run against a prolific passing team, but it’s what you need to do. The Chargers are going to get their yards through the air, you can’t stop it, but you can limit it. By eliminating the run the Jets can pin their ears back and rush the passer. Herbert is a big kid who is a statue. He is fairly fast, but he takes a little time to get the speed going. Lamar Jackson he is not. Herbert has 81 yards rushing this year on 29 attempts (2.3 YPA).
The Jets need to be much better at rushing the QB. The Jets get pressures, but they are tied for 21st in sacks, which is a horrendous amount for the talent they have on the edge. The Jets lost their best run defender in Al Woods last week, who was put on injured reserve with an Achilles injury (the third for the Jets this year). The Jets may need to shorten their rotations on the defensive line. Move John Franklin-Myers inside to defensive tackle only, and make Bryce Huff a starter as a defensive end. I realize putting Huff on the edge may jeopardize the “stop the run” philosophy, but Huff is quick and better against the run than given credit for. The defensive end spot should be pared down to a rotation of Huff, Jermaine Johnson, Micheal Clemons, Will McDonald and Carl Lawson. The Chargers offensive line is suspect. The Jets should put as much pressure as they can on that unit with stunts, blitzes and DE/DT games. The mantra must be pressure, pressure, pressure.
On the outside the Jets cornerbacks should easily handle the trio of Allen, Johnston and Fehoko. Allen will get his catches, but the Jets need to limit the yards. If the Jets have the guts they could put a spy on Austin Ekeler, using Tony Adams near the line of scrimmage. It would leave the Jets suspect in the deep secondary, but take away one of the most potent offensive options for the Chargers. When Herbert can’t find a receiver on the second option, he immediately looks for Ekeler. The Jets need to stop that. If Adams is there to stop Ekeler in the passing game he is also there to stop the run. He is an unaccounted for defender who can make plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. If Mike Williams or Josh Palmer were playing in this game I would opt out of this option. Fehoko has speed but is awkward at times. Johnston is a raw rookie, which makes him an easy cover for the Jets. I vote for the safety in the box look.
The Jets should be victorious in this game, as the Chargers usually find a way to self-destruct against good defensive teams. Defensively the Chargers are one of the worst teams in the league as they are 30th in yards allowed per play.
This is a home game, which needs to become sacrosanct for this franchise. It’s a chance for the Jets to gain on their playoff hopefuls while hurting one of their chief rivals.
This is a game the Jets can win.
What do you think?