TOJ New York Jets Film Breakdown – Sam Darnold vs. Minnesota Vikings

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

Third Down Playmaker 

Sam Darnold did not play well on Sunday but was also not helped by his supporting cast or Offensive Coordinator. On these back to back third and long situations, the Jets went shotgun, five wide with Eric Tomlinson functioning as the slot receiver and running a whip route both times.

A whip route is when you release on an inside angle (somewhat similar to a slant), plant your upfield football and then work back towards the sideline. It is a route built for a quick footed slot receiver, not a lead foot blocking tight end with cement blocks as hands. The surrounding route combinations on each play are the same but with the sides flipped. One pair of outside receivers runs a smash/fan concept, the other pair of outside receivers runs a seam route from the slot and a hitch from the outside.

On the first play Darnold takes advantage of a running lane when nobody breaks open and is able to scramble 8 yards for a first down. He shows nice athleticism breaking a tackle when moving through the A Gap and creating something out of nothing.

On the second play, Darnold is again flushed from the pocket, eludes the rush beautifully and drops in a perfectly placed ball to Tomlinson for what should be a 15-20 yard gain. Unfortunately the ball is dropped. On this second third and long play, the Jets split out Tomlinson, Chris Herndon, Trenton Cannon, Jordan Leggett and Robby Anderson (back side slot). For some reason, Jermaine Kearse and Neal Sterling were on the bench while Tomlinson was running the route as the primary pass catching target. Needless to say, this is poor personnel usage and it negatively impacted the Jets offense.

Check Down Time 

On Darnold’s first interception, he was the victim of making a pre-determined throw before the snap. The Jets align Robby Anderson tight to the formation on the backside and release him on a corner route, which is well covered and handed off from the corner to safety Harrison Smith. On the front side, the Jets run a short speed out and spot route that is well covered. However, running back Isaiah Crowell releases into the flat for a check down. Darnold has time to pivot off Anderson when he clearly isn’t open and check the ball down to Crowell for what should be a 6-8 yard gain but instead forces the ball to his primary target and is fairly easily intercepted on the well covered route.

Four Other Observations:

  • Sam Darnold and Robby Anderson narrowly missed on two deep ball connections: here and here. These are the plays the Jets offense must hit if they are going to be competitive, particularly when they are substantial underdogs. If Anderson wants to be paid like a lead receiver this offseason, he needs to win 50/50 balls when Darnold gives him a chance to make a play and if Darnold wants to shake the reputation of not being able to hit the deep ball, he needs to not overshoot Anderson when he is able to run by coverage on the outside. This connection has made progress in recent weeks but the offense has been held back by the multiple missed opportunities from it.
  • Rishard Matthews, if he can not be a problem in the locker room (Hi, Terrelle Pryor), will be a strong addition to the Jets offense. Matthews is a well rounded receiver who can stretch the field and has good ability as a runner after the catch. To be candid, he’s been more productive than any receiver on the Jets roster over the past two seasons. He will not play over Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse or Quincy Enunwa when he comes back but if he makes the most of his opportunities before the bye week, he could be slotted for a bigger than expected role and have a future here beyond this year. Considering the state of the depth chart, this was a worthwhile risk. There is a world of difference between Matthews and Andre Roberts, Charone Peake and Deontay Burnett.
  • The Jets need Eli McGuire back as soon as possible. Bilal Powell was the Jets best overall back but more specifically their best back in pass protection. Isaiah Crowell struggles in that area and is playing at less than 100%. Trenton Cannon has flashed as a pass catcher but is unlikely going to be able to handle a substantial role. McGuire is returning to a situation where he can be highly active as both as a pass catcher and a runner, while most importantly giving the Jets a shot of much needed depth. In the near term, the Jets would be wise to elevate a back from the practice squad (De’Angelo Henderson) or bring back Charcandrick West.
  • Chris Herndon is functioning well as an oversized slot receiver and a target Sam Darnold is increasingly comfortable with. He needs more opportunities in the passing game, while Jordan Leggett has done nothing to show he merits more opportunities than him (same with Eric Tomlinson).

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