New York Jets Passing Game Breakdown, Week 1 (Bengals)

Joe Caporoso breaks down the New York Jets passing game in week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals

Welcome back to our weekly New York Jets passing game breakdown, where we will review the strategy and output from their quarterback, pass catchers and offensive coordinator. Let’s dive into what went right…and what went very, very wrong in their week 1 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Questions? Leave them in the comment section or tweet them over.. On to the #TAPE…

The Game Plan: This was not a significantly different game plan from what we saw from the Jets in 2015. They dropped Ryan Fitzpatrick back 39 times (35 pass attempts, with 4 scrambles) compared to 26 rushing attempts. In reality, the two Jet Sweeps to Quincy Enunwa are running plays, despite being officially counted as pass attempts so the numbers are more balanced than they appear. There was a little more of a focus on getting Enunwa involved (8 targets) and less Bilal Powell than we are accustomed to (4 carries, 4 targets) but overall, this was still a fairly Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker target heavy approach. The problem was how inefficient the Jets were when throwing to them (5 receptions on 15 targets for a lowly 69 yards).

Matt Forte also received an enormous workload with 22 carries and 7 targets. He was productive, racking up 96 yards on those carries (4.4 YPC) and 59 yards receiving on 5 receptions. Also worth noting is that Rookie Jalin Marshall drew a penalty call on both of his targets in an encouraging debut for the rookie.

The Jets primary failures in this game were their inability to execute in the red-zone and a complete absence of a deep passing attack. We know Ryan Fitzpatrick has arm limitations but this was more horizontal route combinations than we were used to seeing in 2015.

The Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick had a thoroughly subpar all around game. After a competent first half (12/21, 111 yards, 2 TDs), he fell off a cliff in the second half with a 7/16, 78 yards, 0 TD and game ending INT performance. Fitzpatrick ranked 30th of 32 quarterbacks in completion percentage and 28th of 32 quarterbacks in yards per attempt for week 1. Despite a few missed opportunities from his receivers, Fitzpatrick’s inaccuracy and arm limitations plagued him throughout the day.

Regardless, he had his moments. Early in the game, Fitzpatrick does a nice job of feeling the pressure around him, stepping up in the pocket and finding Brandon Marshall on a deep in-cut for a third down conversion. This is a go to play for the Jets, which Fitzpatrick has generally shown a nice feel for.

Later in the game, Fitzpatrick shows good timing and placement on Eric Decker’s touchdown. To be clear, this ball was never going anywhere else but to Decker but that is okay if the ball is going to be placed here to a quality wide receiver because you can’t defend this play if executed like this.

Later in the game on a critical third down, Fitzpatrick shows good patience and placement when finding Eric Decker in the soft spot of the zone. This is a clever zone beater by Chan Gailey, which attacked all three levels of the Bengals defense, which helps spring Decker open. It is also worth noting the consistently strong job the Jets offensive line did on Sunday against one of the better defensive fronts in football.

On the other end of the spectrum, Fitzpatrick continued to struggle with accuracy and his habit of being a one read quarterback. Below, he is short and behind when targeting Decker on an intermediate in-cut multiple times. On the second pass, the ball is slightly deflected which was a recurring problem for him throughout the game on Sunday.

Later, he locks on to Marshall and is actually lucky the ball is deflected, otherwise it would have been heading uninterrupted into quadruple coverage. This is a should be interception which the Jets get away with.

Fitzpatrick isn’t so lucky later in the game when he locks on to Decker and Bengals backup Josh Shaw easily jumps his out cut to the end game. This interception looked similar to his game ender in Houston last season.

The Struggle: As alluded to at the top of the article, the Jets were highly efficient in the red zone last season. This was not the case on Sunday.

First off, Ryan Fitzpatrick needs to hold this for an extra second and come back across the formation to a more open Eric Decker, instead of forcing the ball in a tight window to Brandon Marshall. However, if you are going to target Marshall, you need to put it on him, not wildly overthrow him and open him up to a huge hit.

Later, Chan Gailey goes back to the play the jets beat New England with last season. The Z-slot fade to Eric Decker. Unfortunately, Decker is beat at the line and stumbles on his release. On a one read play like this, once he goes down, the play goes down.

Brandon Marshall won on this fade route 10/10 times last season but allows Dre Kirkpatrick to get the better of him here. This is a “meh” throw but the Jets are counting on Marshall, a potential Hall of Famer, to make up for “meh” throws for their journeyman quarterback. If he is not going to do that regularly, the Jets are going to be in trouble this season.

This was an ugly day for Marshall, who allowed the Bengals to get him out of his game. He had a critical drop on the game’s final drive, which could have went a long way towards putting the Jets in field goal range for the go ahead score. He struggled to get open against double coverage, picking up an offensive pass interference in the fourth quarter as well.

The Quincy: 3rd year player Quincy Enunwa is quickly developing into one of the most valuable players on the Jets roster. Don’t laugh. The Jets used him at tight end, H-Back, running back, fullback, slot receiver and wide receiver across 63 snaps on Sunday. He caught 7 of his 8 targets for 54 yards and his first career touchdown, while remaining a critical blocker for the team. The improvement of his route running and hands from last season is night and day. He does not make either of these plays in 2015, which were pure hand catches and involved clean releases by defenders. The reason you saw the Jets give him two Jet Sweep “handoffs,” including one on the first play of the season is because he is a freight train in the open field.

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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