New York Jets Passing Game Breakdown – Week 2

Joe Caporoso breaks down the New York Jets passing game in week 2 and previews what to expect in week 3

Welcome back to our weekly New York Jets passing game breakdown, primarily focusing on the quarterback and receivers. Let us know any plays you want to see going forward down in the comment section or on Twitter! Today we’ll look at what went right and then very wrong against the Green Bay Packers, along with preview what to expect against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football.

Quarterback

  • Geno Smith: 16/32 (50%), 176 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. 26 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown.
  • Mike Vick 0/0. Sacked. (2 plays)

Wide Receiver

  • Eric Decker: 7 targets, 4 receptions, 63 yards, 1 touchdown. 44 snaps
  • Jeremy Kerley: 8 targets, 3 receptions, 22 yards, 45 snaps
  • David Nelson: 1 target, 1 reception, 6 yards, 61 snaps
  • Greg Salas: 2 targets, 0 receptions,  21 snaps

Focus Player: David Nelson/Greg Salas

After Eric Decker left the game with his hamstring injury, the Jets basically seemed to bump Salas into his role. They kept Nelson at his regular spot, which involves a ton of clear out and decoy routes. They kept Kerley in his normal role, which is predominantly working out of the slot and they stayed with frequent three wide receiver looks, instead of leaning on Jace Amaro and Jeff Cumberland more.

Salas struggled to gain separation. Smith tried to hit him on this short crossing route (he is at about the 46 yard line below) but even though he ran an OK route, he just couldn’t pull away from linebacker. Later, it appeared Smith and him had a miscommunication on a deep route. Salas also was the primary receiver on a deep post when Mike Vick was brought in but the Packers had it well covered. When you are asking Salas to be the primary receiver on more than 1-2 routes per game, you are overextending him. He simply doesn’t have the skillset to consistently get open against starting caliber corners.

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Nelson’s status is a little brighter. After a week one game with a single target and plenty of clear out routes and blocking, Nelson saw much of the same on Sunday. However, he did flash open a few times in the second half. Most notably on the play below, which was the Jets next to last offensive play of the game. They ran a curl/flat concept, with Jeremy Kerley and Nelson on the curl routes (at the 15 and 17 yard line respectively) and Amaro and Cumberland out in the flats around the 25 yard line. Smith tried to squeeze this pass in to Kerley and it was tipped. He should have went to Nelson at the bottom of the screen, who is much more open. Nelson actually thew a minor fit on the field after not being targeted.

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Prior to that, Nelson made this tough catch on 4th and 4 to move the chains for the Jets in a big spot. He is at the bottom of the screen, where he beats man press coverage, gets past the marker and makes a contested catch to move the chains.

Nelson is far from a game breaker but is competent enough to handle a more featured role if Decker is out, much more so than Salas. Even if Decker does play, I’d look for more targets coming Nelson’s way in the coming weeks.

Geno Smith – Worst Throw

The interception before the end of the first half has been discussed endlessly but it was not Smith’s worst throw of the day and in large part not his fault. Let’s make a few things clear:

  • It is was not a bad play call. Just because you are up 21-9 late in the first half, doesn’t mean that you go into a conservative shell, ESPECIALLY when you are playing Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. You play to win. You don’t play to not lose. The Jets have been overly conservative in this situation far too many times. It was the right call to attack.
  • The play design was perfect and the read was right…look at how wide open Zach Sudfeld is! Some people are saying Smith should have checked down to Ivory but his first read is Sudfeld and he is all alone.

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  • This play was doomed by Brian Winters being smoked to the inside and having his guy smash Geno Smith as he released the ball, sending it fluttering in the air. Sudfeld, who has a legitimate 8 inch height advantage over Tramon Williams, failed to break up the pass. Tackle the guy and take the OPI penalty.

Smith will always get a share of blame on an interception but he was hung out to try by Winters and Sudfeld here.

What was Smith’s actual worst throw? It was missing Eric Decker on what should have been a 79 yard touchdown. Decker runs a beautiful post route and is open, Smith navigates the pocket but overthrows him just a bit. Yes, Decker probably should have made this tough catch but this miss is on Geno. Decker should have been hit in stride and walking into the end-zone. Simply put, you can’t miss on plays like this. You need to hit your home runs when they are there to be hit.

Geno Smith – Best Throw

This was an easy one. Smith dropping in this dime to Decker on a perfectly executed third down Sluggo route (slant and go). It doesn’t get any prettier than this. Smith even took a shot while delivering this gem and that route from Decker is among the best I’ve seen from a Jets receiver in the past 5 years…and of course now he tweaked his hamstring. WHY WON’T YOU LET US HAVE NICE THINGS?

Player Reviews

Geno Smith – He played his best half of NFL football to start this game but took a big step back after the interception and more notably after Decker got banged up. The narrative about him changes if that timeout doesn’t wipe out a beautiful 4th down touchdown to Jeremy Kerley but if it doesn’t count, it doesn’t count. Smith is going to still make mental errors but is trending in the right direction as a starter in this league.

Eric Decker – Was playing a terrific game (minus just missing the diving catch shown above) before his injury. GET HEALTHY #87!

Jeremy Kerley –The reception to target ratio isn’t pretty but again if that timeout doesn’t wipe out his touchdown…ah well. More seriously, the numbers don’t look as pretty because Smith threw to Kerley deep in double coverage on the Jets final offensive play and he had two passes either tipped or knocked away before they reached him. Kerley is still Kerley.

David Nelson – He seems like a guy poised for more targets this week. Nelson was inconsistent getting open but was also missed a couple of times by Geno Smith.

Greg Salas – Overworked as anything more than a 8-12 snap per game role player. Salas struggled on Sunday and when you factor in his touchdown drop in week 1, it hasn’t been the best start to the season for him.

Thoughts on Chicago

The big question will be whether or not Eric Decker plays. Personally, if he isn’t 100%, I think you let him rest for another week. You do not want somebody coming back too early (Hey, Dee Milliner!) hurting the team and allowing his injury to linger. However, Decker did say he didn’t even receive a MRI and that he believes it is just tightness, not a tear or more severe injury. With or without Decker, the Jets need to get Jace Amaro more involved. Line him up in the slot, line him up at H-Back, get him out wide…take advantage of his skillset as a pass catcher.

As mentioned earlier, I think Nelson will take on a slightly bigger workload in terms of targets and routes where he is a featured receiver. If Decker doesn’t play, it is likely Jalen Saunders will see his first offensive snaps of the season. The Jets likely have a small package of plays that feature him, which could get a look this Monday.

The Bears have the 10th ranking passing defense in the NFL right now and 27th ranked rushing defense…so on paper it makes sense to be a bit run heavy. They will still need to take their shots down the field but I’d expect Smith to be under 30 pass attempts.

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the EVP of Content at Whistle Sports