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.
Fourth Quarter Third Down ConversionTo be candid, this was not an easy game to find positive plays for Darnold. Despite being burdened with a unimaginative game plan and a poor performance from his supporting cast, he still played a bad football game and did not look like the player we saw the first two weeks. This is going to be part of his learning curve and he did improvise a few nice looking plays in the second half when scrambling away from pressure. However, let’s look at a critical third down conversion on a fourth quarter drive where the Jets retook the lead, which is potentially a harbinger of increased involvement for Jermaine Kearse in the offense.
On third and long, the Jets go into a shotgun, four wide formation with Isaiah Crowell in the backfield. Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson are the outside receivers and run mirrored 14 yard comeback routes. Both slot receivers run seam routes to help hold coverage over the middle of the field. The volume of targets Quincy Enunwa receives helped him attract a little extra attention lined up next to Kearse in the slot.
This is not a complicated play or read as the Browns play cover 3 with the outside corner bailing enough to give Kearse space on the comeback route. The linebacker hesitates a beat too long handing Enunwa off in the slot, preventing him from undercutting the route in time. What is encouraging here is that despite interior pressure (Spencer Long is getting bull rushed), Darnold hangs in the pocket and makes a throw perfectly in rhythm for a key first down. This throw also requires a decent degree of arm strength, as you need to drive the ball outside the numbers into a fairly tight window.
Fourth Quarter Interception #1
This was on the game’s final drive, after Kearse made a spectacular 4th and 10 reception to extend the Jets chances. On first down, with plenty of time left to drive down the field, the Jets are again in a shotgun with four receivers. Kearse is in the strong side slot running a ten yard hitch. Bilal Powell releases for a short check down immediately and Robby Anderson runs a comeback route as the lone backside receiver. Outside of Kearse, Quincy Enunwa runs a 15 yard hitch route and Terrelle Pryor runs a clear out vertical route.
The Jets want Kearse over the middle on this play and he is open. It is not a huge window but if Darnold lets it rip out of Kearse’s break, the Jets are going to get another first down out around midfield. Darnold should be releasing the ball as his back foot hits on the last step of his drop but he becomes indecisive for some reason and then to compound the mistake, flings the ball to Kearse while being dragged to the ground, leading to an easy interception. This was a young quarterback realizing he missed an open receiver and then trying to do too much after the window was gone. Game over.
Five Other Things
- This wide receiver screen to Quincy Enunwa was about the only thing working for the Jets offense versus Cleveland. How about a pump fake to the screen and a vertical release to the blocking receiver now since teams will be preparing for it?
- The interior of the Jets offensive line is what really got worked over in this game. Spencer Long particularly struggled and it was a less than inspiring overall effort from either James Carpenter or Brian Winters. As a unit, they still make far too many mental errors and remain susceptible to consistent penalties in big spots.
- Terrelle Pryor is a difficult player to watch receive extended reps. He is lackadaisical with his routes and game speed. The amount of physical talent, size and speed he has is undeniable but I’d anticipate seeing more targets headed Kearse’s way behind Enunwa, particularly as Robby Anderson continues to struggle.
- Isaiah Crowell is racking up the touchdowns but Bilal Powell remains the Jets best back. Crowell has a way trying to run through everybody and lacks the elusiveness and decisiveness with the Jets zone concepts that Powell has. Also for god’s sake, enough with the toss plays Jeremy Bates.
- The Jets miss Neal Sterling more than offense ever should. Outside of Enunwa, he is the player that Darnold is the most comfortable with and there is a notable drop off in the passing game from him to Chris Herndon and Jordan Leggett.