The red zone offense.
It can often be the difference between ‘almost’ and ‘mission accomplished’ in the NFL.
How often are you finding yourself in the opposition’s 20 yard line? Are you efficient at converting those opportunities into six points when you get there? Do your points come from creativity, pure talent or both combined?
The New York Jets, despite losing their best red zone target over Summer to injury in Quincy Enunwa, were surprisingly average in terms of efficiency in 2017. They converted 54.55% of their opportunities into touchdowns, which was tied for 14th across the league.
Even more important to note is how well Gang Green did in this area with Josh McCown under center, who threw for eight touchdowns inside the 20 yard line (four coming from inside the 10) and zero interceptions.
He completed 55% of his passes (on 41 attempts) while in comparison his back up Bryce Petty only completed 36% of his. It’s safe to say when McCown went down, the Jets red zone offense efficiency did as well.
The last time McCown had at least 40 pass attempts in the red zone was 2015, where he threw for nine touchdowns, zero interceptions and completed 50% of his throws. The key takeaway is that for his faults over the years, the soon-to-be 39 year old is a relatively efficient passer in the red zone.
When the Jets selected Sam Darnold with the third overall selection in this year’s draft, they weren’t shooting for average.
They’re hoping for a star, one that strives to be in the upper tier of red zone passers such as Tom Brady (26 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and a 58% completion rate in 2017), Carson Wentz (24 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and a 64% completion rate) or even Jared Goff (23 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and a 55% completion rate).
Alternate view: pic.twitter.com/sfq57AYJwH
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) May 1, 2018
With Darnold’s mobility and ability to throw receivers open, he’s viewed as a high upside red zone player. Not just as a passer, not just as a runner but the entire package to make life extremely difficult for the opposition where they’re making their final stand.
This is yet another wrinkle in the interesting decision the New York Jets coaching staff will have to make this Summer. The rookie is going to make mistakes and turn the ball over, but if he’s countering that with a good offensive output it’s worth playing him (many forget Deshaun Watson threw eight interceptions and fumbled three times in seven games last year because he put up 21 total touchdowns).
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) May 4, 2018
For those in the Teddy Bridgewater corner (it’s safe to say everyone should be), you have to go back to 2015 for a sample of his red zone output and efficiency. That year the Vikings ranked 27th in efficiency, with a conversion rate of 47.73%.
Bridgewater only completed 36.36% of his passes for nine touchdowns and one interception that year, but it’s a fair disclaimer to note he was throwing to a rookie version of Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph and little else.
With that being said, it’s a key area he’ll need to improve on if he does want to battle for the starting job under Jeremy Bates this Summer.