New season, new format for our weekly passing game breakdowns of the New York Jets. After each game we will focus on one positive play and one negative from San Darnold, explaining what happened and why. At the bottom of the article, I will also drop 5 extra observations on the team’s overall offensive performance. For further breakdowns of the film, make sure you are subscribed to us on YouTube.
The Jets come out on third and short in a spread, shotgun formation. Neal Sterling and Quincy Enunwa are in the slot and Robby Anderson and Terrelle Pryor are on the outside. This is a mirrored route concept on each side of the formation, with the slot receiver running a ten yard hitch route and the outside receiver running a nine (vertical/go) route down the bottom of the numbers. The Jets also release Bilal Powell immediately for a quick hook route over the middle of the field, leaving only five in protection.
Leaving only five in protection pays off as the Lions drop eight into coverage and only rush three players, a conservative move on third and short against a rookie quarterback. The offensive line easily holds up, giving Darnold more than enough time to let the play develop. After initially looking to the frontside route combination, Darnold pumps his shoulder to pump to the short hitch route backside, helping hold the cornerback underneath on Sterling. This gives the Jets exactly what they want: Robby Anderson one on one down the field with as safety. Detroit has been baited into double covering Sterling on a 10 yard hitch route, covering Powell on the check down and having their middle linebacker in no man’s land.
Anderson easily runs by the safety and while Darnold’s throw is not perfect. It is put in a position that allows Anderson to make a play in a matchup he is going to win the overwhelming majority oft the time.
The Jets start the game with two tight ends, Robby Anderson in the slot on the line and Quincy Enunwa at split end coming in motion across the formation. Bilal Powell is the single back, while Eric Tomlinson is the Y tight end and Neal Sterling is the H tight end.
They run a basic boot concept with a backside wheel route from Powell. The Jets ran a ton of boot plays with Darnold in the preseason, which is something Detroit likely spent plenty of time preparing for. The thought here was to use that preparation against them and sneak Powell out for a potential home run on the game’s first play.
Enunwa runs a flat route after his motion for the first level of the boot, Tomlinson runs a corner route route for the third level and Anderson runs a short crossing pattern for the second level. The Lions get good penetration against Sterling forcing Darnold to step up in the pocket. He decides to stay with his primary read and take the home run swing. After Darnold stepped up, he simply should have thrown this football away with all his frontside options blanketed and with safety Quandre Diggs disciplined enough to stay within striking distance of Powell. There is a window for this throw to be made but it is too high risk, particularly when you are being flushed forward in the pocket.
Five Other Things
- It is only one game but it certainly looks like the thought that Quincy Enunwa will catch more passes than Robby Anderson was the right one. Very generally speaking, there is usually one receiver in an offense who is moved around all over place and peppered with a higher volume of targets than his starting counterpart, who will get opportunities down the field but will spend more time clearing out space and opening up throwing lanes for the other receiver, than he does being a primary target. It looks like Enunwa will be the volume guy while Anderson alternates between being the clear out receiver and home run threat (with a handful of routes breaking off it). Again, it is just one game but I’d bet on Enunwa finishing with at least 20 more catches than Anderson this year.
- Credit to the Jets offensive line, which held up very well against a less than imaginative defensive scheme from Matt Patricia (good luck with him, Detroit!). James Carpenter and Brandon Shell in particular were strong in both the run and pass game, with Shell showing better mobility than he did in 2017. If this unit stays healthy, it will be better than most people expected in 2018.
- My guess is that Jermaine Kearse takes a chunk of Sterling’s reps (he spent some time split out as a receiver) and a chunk of Pryor’s reps, which I am not sure is the best thing for the offense. Pryor looked fluid out there and caught all three of his targets. He has a skill set much more conducive to take advantage of one on one matchups backside than Kearse does. With Enunwa back, Kearse’s value on this offense will be substantially diminished from what it was in 2017.
- Isaiah Crowell looks both leaner and faster than he did in Cleveland. He ran the ball decisively and was consistently breaking tackles or falling forward on his handoffs. He didn’t hit the home run but Bilal Powell was efficient as usual, racking up 60 yards on only 12 carries. Both backs looked particularly good running stretch concepts off tackle behind Shell and Kelvin Beachum.
- This is going to be a tight end heavy offense. The Jets were not shy about giving extended reps to Sterling, Eric Tomlinson and Chris Herndon. They experimented with different formations that utilized all three.