New York Jets – Three Sam Darnold Specials, Week 6

Joe Caporoso with a closer look at three of Sam Darnold’s best plays against the Dallas Cowboys

Three gems from Sam Darnold and the New York Jets passing game for your enjoyment…


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

New York Jets – Maximizing The Passing Attack

Dan Essien with a film-centered look at how the Jets can maximize their passing attack in 2019.

I recently wrote about how Jets’ group at receiver stacks up to some of the best offenses in the NFL. What we found is that not every good and effective offense in the NFL is carried by a #1 wide receiver. But now let’s go to the film to see how the Jets can maximize the weapons they do have on offense and put together an successful passing attack. To do that we’ll examine the usage of particular players on other teams.

The Jets offense is trending up. Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Jamison Crowder, Le’veon Bell, and Chris Herndon together make up one of the most talented groups the Jets have had in a while. But they have to make sure they’re maximizing the strengths of each player. And they’ll have to do so without Chris Herndon for the first four games. So, to find some suggestions, I gathered film from comparable players and brilliant offensive minds around the league. I don’t think you’ll be surprised by how much Sean McVay ended up in here.

Deep Threat

Robby Anderson

Robby Anderson’s strengths start with his ability to take the top off of the defense. From there, he’s been able to use that deep threat to open up his route running underneath with comebacks, and digs. But the Jets can definitely get more out of Anderson than the 752 receiving yards he had last season. To find out how, let’s look at examples from Desean Jackson, Tyler Lockett and Brandin Cooks usage as deep threats in their respective offenses.

Like Anderson, Brandin Cooks is not a player you simply run stride for stride with. On this play, he runs a skinny post from a tight alignment. Adjusting the “launch point” for a speedy receiver can give secondaries issues when trying to guard against their deep threat. A deep threat doesn’t always have to just run nine routes from far wide. Here Cooks beats his man and when Harrison Smith floats down to cover the crossing route, Goff let’s it go and finds Cooks for a touchdown. Great quality about Cooks is that he just needs a little bit of separation and an accurate pass because he has strong hands, much like Anderson.


Here is a similar concept with Desean Jackson. You see his “launch point” is further wide. But, as he beats his man, the safety on his side occupies the post run by the tight end inside of him underneath. That signals to Fitzpatrick to let it go and he finds Jackson for a touchdown. Whether Jackson wins against his man is basically an afterthought. It’s all about what the safety will do. Thankfully having a tight end like Chris Herndon will require that kind of attention underneath that will lead to situations where Anderson just has to beat his man for a touchdown.

Here’s now Tyler Lockett taking advantage of play action. He runs a skinny post here. The run fake draws the front seven in and reveals that Lockett just had Marcus Peters to beat in the deep half. Once Lockett is almost even with Peters, you know its over. Wilson completes the fake identifies Lockett won, and bombs it to him for a touchdown. If teams dare to stack the box with Le’veon Bell in mind, these opportunities will present themselves for the Jets.


Here’s the clear effect of a deep threat. Cooks is lined up tight to the bottom of the screen. He attacks aggressively vertically towards Xavier Rhodes’ inside causing him to turn around and panic a bit knowing he doesn’t have the speed to keep up with him. Cooks then chops and breaks to the outside, dropping Rhodes to the floor and Goff finds Cooks for a big gain.

Crossing Routes

Robby Anderson & Jamison Crowder

Crossing routes are one strategy that I feel the Jets could utilize Anderson more with. Anderson’s speed is already hard to keep up with as is. But crossing routes are also a non-linear tracking challenge for defenders. I feel this also falls into Jamison Crowder’s strength as well with his speed and route running expertise. When mesh concepts are used with crossing routes it can create confusion for the defense and easier reads for the quarterback. It’s an excellent strategy against man coverage. Anderson and Crowder together could create havoc.

Here we see Brandin Cooks running a deep crossing route. Underneath him Robert Woods appears to be a countering crossing route which actually hooks at the mesh point. At that point, when he crosses the safety it’s clear he’s beaten his man and the safety hasn’t reacted quickly enough so Goff releases the pass and completes it for a big gain.

Again here we see Brandin Cooks lined up tight to the bottom of the screen. He runs a crossing route but this time he crosses underneath Cooper Kupp who is running a deep corner route on the opposite side. Cooks beats his man easily once again, and Kupp’s route and the play action to Gurley drawing the linebackers down, clears out the space necessary to make it an easy throw for Goff. The Jets will be able to manipulate the defense in a similar manner with Le’veon Bell in play action and Crowder or Anderson crossing the field.


What the Rams and every good offense does well is setting up defenses with what tendencies put on tape. Here we see Brandin Cooks lined up tight to the bottom of the screen. He looks like he’s about to run the same type of crossing route we showed in the previous clip and that the Rams run often. However, as he gets to that same mesh point, he instead cuts to the outside, breaking wide open. Goff finds him easily for a first down. The fear in the challenge of keeping up with Cooks makes his change of direction that much more effective.

Home run playmaker

Jamison Crowder

The Jets need to utilize Jamison Crowder’s unique ability to make plays with the ball in his hands. He’s a smaller receiver so you don’t want him taking too many hits, but he’s so dynamic that you have to find ways to get him into space. Let’s use the Rams usage of Brandin Cooks again as an example.

The Rams are very creative in the redzone to make up for their lack of an imposing physical big target. One thing they like to utilize is the jet sweep. They like to do this with Brandin Cooks because, like Crowder, he’s adept at making plays with the ball in his hands. The key here is that the defense has to respect the threat of a Todd Gurley run, especially in the red zone. But with Cooks’ speed even the slightest hesitation on the jet sweep read means its already over. The Jets will have that threat at RB in Le’veon Bell. The defense will have to respect that.

Here the Rams take advantage of Cooks size first and then his playmaking ability. He lines up like an “H” would, inside and behind the tight end. The Rams use play action with Gurley, which, again, the defense has to respect. Cooks comes across the formation to the backside, behind the larger offensive lineman. Nobody tracks him coming out of the backfield and Goff finds him for an easy completion and big gain. With Darnold’s knack for making throws on the run, particularly to his left, this would be a perfect play for him and Crowder.

Here we have your typical jailbreak screen to Cooks. The Rams use trips to the opposite side of the screen to get the defense to shade to that side. Goff then gets the ball out quick and Kupp, the playside tackle, and the playside guard get the key blocks to spring Cooks. For the Jets, this is perfect setup for Crowder as the target, and Enunwa as the blocker receiver, and Beachum and Osemele getting out quick from the line to make the key blocks. The vision alone of Osemele exploding some poor DB is what dreams are made of.

Physical presence

Quincy Enunwa

The quality that makes Enunwa standout amongst the Jets receiver group is his physicality. That same quality is quietly what makes Cooper Kupp such an incredible receiver. He and Robert Woods are willing and gifted blockers from as wide receivers. Much like Hines Ward back in the day, their blocking ability opens up opportunities not just for the running game but also for themselves in the passing game. On top of all that is the ability to run after the catch. That is a huge strength of Enunwa’s game and a big factor on some of the opportunities the following strategies can create.

On this play, we see Kupp lined up tight at the top of the screen. Again, the Rams use play action but in this case its a very slow fake. We see Kupp fake a block slow, making sure to not engage. The run action is drawn out but then Kupp breaks to the outside, and is completely wide open. Goff finds him for a touchdown. This slow run fake works because of his ability to block in the run game and how much he had already done so on tape.

Again, here we see the Rams utilizing play action. Kupp (lined up tight in the slot towards the top of the screen) initiates contact with the defensive end behind the line of scrimmage during the play fake. The Seahawks’ front draws forward on the play fake, Kupp then breaks off and runs a crossing route. The defenders are already off-balance at that point. Kupp beats coverage easily and Goff find him for a first down.

Kupp is again lined up tight in the slot towards the top of the screen in the same game against the Seahawks. This is another example of using previous tendencies against the defense. Once again, the Rams use play action with Kupp slow-playing a block fake. This time, instead of a crossing route, Kupp breaks out into the flat and is wide open. He then gets some solid yards after the catch. YAC is definitely Enunwa’s territory.

On this play, the Rams are in the redzone at the 6 yard line. Kupp is lined up tight to the line in the slot at the top of the screen. The Rams use play action to his side. Similarly to the earlier clip with Brandin Cooks, Kupp comes across against the direction of the play fake, into the flat. Goff comes off the play action on a bootleg and finds Kupp who then uses his physical YAC ability to shed defenders and get into the endzone.

Here’s the same exact play against the Saints later on in the season. You see the entire defense flowing to the play action as Kupp slips free backside.

On this play, Kupp lines up as an “H” inside and behind the tight end towards the top of the screen. Rams go with play action to his side. This time, Kupp and Woods run a mesh concept, with countering crossing routes. You can see their routes create a natural pick which traps Kupp’s defender and leaves him wide open. Goff finds Kupp and he flies down the sideline for a touchdown.


The Receiving Back

Le’Veon Bell & Ty Montgomery

The Jets acquiring Le’veon Bell has opened up so many opportunities for them on offense. Many of them we’ve shown already with how much an elite running back can sway a defense with play action. But there’s also a great deal the Jets can do with Bell in the passing game. To examine some strategies we’ll use Damien Williams in the Chiefs’ offense, and Todd Gurley in the Rams’ offense.

Keep in mind that this was a play call with the game on the line on 4th down in the 4th quarter on their final possession in regulation. The Chiefs put trips towards the top of the screen with Damien Williams lined up to Mahomes’ left. At the snap, the receivers to the trips side all run staggered in-breaking routes, creating a wall. Williams darts through the line into the flat past the wall created. The Ravens can’t track Williams as a result, he breaks wide open and Mahomes finds him for a touchdown. This action is something the Chiefs to great success last season. We’ve already seen Gase use this in the preseason.

One thing the Chiefs do really well is running the same action out of different formations. On this play, instead of a tight bunch, the Chiefs have spaced out trips. Instead of Williams running through the line, he starts in motion and runs a swing. But the concept is the same as the last play. The two receivers closest to the line run in-breaking routes to clear out space for Williams with a natural screen blocking his man from tracking him in coverage. Tyreek Hill on the outside just occupies his man, breaking inside to take him out of the play as well. Mahomes delivers a quick pass to Williams who has all sorts of room to the outside and has a huge gain.

Here’s the Rams using the same concept out of a different formation. On this play, Gurley lines up wide to the top of the screen. On the backside, the Rams have two receivers and a tight end. All three of them run crossing routes and stop short, creating a wall. Gurley runs a bit of a delayed drag to set up the picks. As Gurley passes, his defender gets lost in the wall, and Gurley breaks open. Goff gets him the ball and Gurley does the rest.

This play combines a concept we previously went over to further confuse the defense. The Chiefs have Kelce lined up as an “H” here. They use play action and roll Kelce to the backside of the run action much like we saw earlier with Kupp. But this play isn’t for Kelce much to the defense’s disappointment (and Bill Belichick). Williams carries out of the fake all the way towards the numbers as the Chiefs use the run action to setup a screen. Mahomes turns and throws back to the Williams who has nothing but open field in front of him for a touchdown. If the Jets could successfully establish the earlier depicted action with Enunwa, this would be an excellent wrinkle with Bell or even Ty Montgomery.

There’s nothing complicated about this one. The Jets need to take advantage of every opportunity they have when Bell is one-on-one with a linebacker. On this play, the Rams do so with Todd Gurley when the Vikings tasked Erik Kendricks with man coverage on him. They send Gurley on an option route and he just cooks Kendricks with a head-fake inside and go, and Goff finds him in the endzone for a touchdown.

If the Jets can keep this group healthy through the preseason, they can field a legitimately effective offense. The NFL is a copycat league so hopefully they can pick up on some of these concepts from some of the best minds in the game. Not every throw will be easy for Darnold, but it’s in the best interest of Adam Gase to manufacture as many simple reads as possible by keeping the defense off-balance and gearing the offense to the strengths of their skill players.

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