We are back with another edition of the New York Jets weekly passing game breakdown. Last week’s edition is right here. In game three AM (After Mornhinweg), we saw our first largely negative outing from JR Fitz and an unfortunately overused Jets passing game. Feel free to leave questions in the comment section or send them over on Twitter. On to the #TAPE…
The Game Plan: It is never optimal to have your quarterback throw 58 passes, particularly if that quarterback if Ryan Fitzpatrick. Unfortunately, the Jets did not have a competent running game to turn to as they only managed 16 carries for 47 yards. The absence of Chris Ivory and Willie Colon in the second half certainly did not help. However, similar to the Colts, the Eagles routinely stacked the box against the Jets and dared them to throw over the top. After a conservative, short passing attack in the first quarter, the Jets began to open it up but were unable to take advantage when they had opportunities down the field.In the absence of Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley took over his old role and was used in a very similar way to how Decker was in the first two games. It worked the same way with Devin Smith replacing Chris Owusu on the outside. Quincy Enunwa was also much more involved as a target from the H-Back spot, while Brandon Marshall saw more action than usual from the slot to further help compensate for Decker’s absence.
The Quarterback: Fitzpatrick had his worst start of the season, finishing 35/58 for only 283 yards with 2 TDs and 3 INTs. Through three games, he has a 62 completion percentage, 6 TDs, 5 INTs and a 6.09 yards per attempt, which is 29th in the NFL. Two of Fitzpatrick’s interceptions came on tipped balls but he also had at least two other potential interceptions dropped by the Eagles (including the one shown below). What was more concerning than the interceptions was the amount of missed throws down the field to open receivers. For the first time this season, we have to put Fitzpatrick below the SANCHIZE LINE as the bad side of #JRFitz appeared (blame Rihanna?).
It is hard to get too down on Chan Gailey this week despite a few shaky series because the Jets had opportunities for big plays that were not executed. In the first quarter, Quincy Enunwa shook his defender and should have had a long catch down the sideline but FItzpatrick had an errant throw out of bounds, instead of giving him a chance to make a play. Yes, there was pressure but yes this ball still needs to be kept in the field of play.
Rookie Devin Smith had a promising debut but he was most regularly the victim of Fitzpatrick’s accuracy and deep ball issues on Sunday. Below, he should have had his first NFL touchdown and later in the game been in a hit stride for a potentially huge gain on a deep dig route.
We know Fitzpatrick does struggle with the nine route and he went 0/3 when targeting Smith on them, all coming down the left sideline. This is the cleanest/nicest release Smith got of the three and should have been a big play if the ball is thrown to his outside shoulder, instead of inside and at the height of the DB’s helmet.
This was a similar situation on his interception when targeting Smith, however to be fair Smith does need to be stronger at the catch point here to at least force an incompletion, instead of an interception.
Brandon Marshall was also a victim on a deep post route in the third quarter, notice how he initially has a step but is forced to slow down due to the pass leading an acrobatic catch attempt.
On the whole, Fitzpatrick did show good continued chemistry with Marshall. This on time, accurate throw on a deep in-cut in the fourth quarter is a good example.
He also showed good patience on his second touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley, allowing him time to break him behind the underneath defender into the wide open hole in the back of the end-zone. The first touchdown to Marshall, he also extended the play by stepping up in the pocket and allowing him to play basketball with a shorter defender.
The Wide Receivers: The Jets threw Smith right into the fire for his NFL debut, giving him 60+ reps and 9 targets. Smith finished with 3 receptions for 39 yards. As we saw above, he was regularly working himself open, although his routes could absolutely still use fine tuning it was an encouraging start. Below, he showed a good ability to use the threat of his deep speed to succeed on comeback routes outside the numbers.
It would be surprising to see Chris Owusu take many reps back from Smith when he returns from an injury. As for Jeremy Kerley, he did a competent job filling in for Eric Decker with 6 receptions for 33 yards and a TD on 9 targets. Kerley lacks the vertical speed of Decker but showed his always reliable ability to get open underneath. Regardless, when Decker is back, expect Kerley’s reps to drop substantially.
Quincy Enunwa remains the only Jets tight end involved in the passing game, as the team’s H-Back. Despite an ugly first quarter with a drop, missed block on a wide receiver screen and a false start, Enunwa bounced back to finish with three solid quarters. He finished with 5 receptions for 50 yards, including this terrific grab on an off target pass below. More importantly, his blocking stabilized a bit and he showed a good ability to fight for yards after the catch.
Jeff Cumberland secured a short catch to convert a third down, caught a check down and dropped a pass over the middle. He left late in the game with a head injury and may not be available next week, which could potentially lead to Wes Saxton being called up from the practice squad.
Brandon Marshall finished with 10 receptions on 14 targets for 109 yards and another TD. Obviously, Marshall has two big negatives on the day: his insane lateral attempt and an interception that bounced off his hands. Outside of those plays, Marshall was predictably dominant. He caught 3 of his 10 passes from the slot, despite spending a few more reps there on passing downs than in previous weeks. Marshall continued to be a difficult cover outside the numbers, particularly on back shoulder throws.