In-depth analysis: Falcons at Jets (Offense)

A satisfying offensive outing from the Jets saw them rack up over 150 yards through the air in the first half as they built a 17-point lead. They played with good tempo and moved the chains efficiently.

However, after halftime the offense stagnated completely. The Jets didn't score again, went three and out three times in the fourth quarter and only had one sustained drive - their final one - which stalled at the Atlanta 40-yard line.

This was hopefully mostly just a case of the Jets playing a vanilla style because they had the lead, but the Falcons' ball-control offense in the third quarter did seem to take them out of their rhythm.

Quarterbacks - Darn Good

While he was only the third quarterback to enter the game, we have to talk about rookie SAM DARNOLD first. His maiden appearance went about as well as could be expected as he moved around well in the pocket, made good reads and threw the ball accurately. It was as polished a preseason performance as we've seen from a young Jets quarterback in recent memory.

Before we overwhelm him with praise, though, it would be remiss of us not to note that the likes of Brett Ratliff, Kellen Clemens, Matt Simms and Erik Ainge have had preseason campaigns for the Jets where they posted a quarterback rating in excess of 100 playing mostly against backups. So, for Darnold - who completed just four of seven passes for 22 yards after halftime - let's temper the hype levels. It was good to see him put his best foot forward though.

Speaking of which, the first thing to notice was Darnold's stance in the shotgun. The rookie fielded the snap each time with his right foot forward - that's a departure from what he did at USC where he would receive the ball from a more conventional stance with his feet parallel to one another. This has to be something they've encouraged him to do to ensure he's conscious of the fact he needs to step into his throws and avoid making "all-arm" throws with his feet parallel to the line of scrimmage.

Also interesting about this is that Baker Mayfield used the same approach towards taking shotgun snaps at Oklahoma and I'd been wondering if he'd be required to adjust at the NFL level. He hasn't done so - not yet, anyway - as he continued to do this in the Giants game. In fact, maybe this is where the Jets got the idea from.

Did it work? Ah, not exactly. Every journey has a first step though.

In his first half performance, Darnold showed the ability to make throws under pressure and to move around to avoid getting sacked without being too eager to escape the pocket. His accuracy was pretty good as he only missed on a couple of throws and the ball placement on most of his completions was good.

One area in which Darnold has been excelling in camp has been in red zone drills and we saw that manifest itself last night as he basically threw three consecutive touchdown-worthy passes to CHARLES JOHNSON in the second quarter. The first was dropped and the second one didn't count due to a penalty, but the third time was a charm as Darnold stepped up, rolled out and found the open man after his initial read had been covered.

While that play showed a maturity beyond his years, there was an earlier play which was perhaps equally revealing. Darnold instantly recognized that a man was coming free off the edge and looked for his hot receiver - TRENTON CANNON in the flat. However, Cannon was a beat late looking back for the ball so Darnold processed this quickly enough to come off that and instead found his secondary option underneath for a first down before the pressure could get to him. Note also the subtle movement within the pocket to buy that extra split second.


The reaction of JOSH MCCOWN to this play on the sideline was illuminating as he was first super-psyched that Darnold made the play and then sought out Cannon to good-naturedly counsel him on what he should've done differently.

The ability to process, react and execute on a play like that is already worlds ahead of the young quarterbacks the Jets have had recently.

In terms of negatives, Darnold did almost have one throw intercepted but that may not even have been his fault - more on that later. He also lost the ball at the end of a play and, although he was down, that reminds us that ball security was an issue for him in college at times.

Let's move on to TEDDY BRIDGEWATER, whose performance could also be said to have gone as well as could have been expected.

His only missed throw was an overthrown pass down the seam. Otherwise, Bridgewater looked sharp and composed. That composure isn't something we should take for granted either, especially from a player coming off a serious leg injury.

That's illustrated best here, as he trusts his protection. BRIAN WINTERS is initially moved off his spot at right guard, but Bridgewater stays at home and gives him time to reanchor, then resets to make a clutch, tight window throw on fourth down.


How many times have we seen a player like Robert Griffin III or Geno Smith take off or rush a throw as soon as the threat of pressure challenges the integrity of the pocket? Yet, Teddy showed excellent poise there and throughout his performance. We'll see if he can build on this, but he showed signs of being a viable option to start...somewhere.

As for McCown, he was only in for one series and went three and out as his only completion was a yard short of the marker on 3rd-and-5.

Prior to that, he had rolled out but been unable to find anyone and instead stepped out of bounds for a short gain.

That was notable because it was a play the Jets ran several times with the action designed to make it look like a stretch zone play in one direction with the quarterback faking the hand-off and rolling out the other way with the receivers ahead of him running a sail concept (ie receivers flowing in the same direction as the roll-out, giving the quarterback short, intermediate and downfield options in his direct eyeline). The Falcons were all over this play all day, perhaps recognizing how the Jets used a similar concept to grease the wheels last year. It also gives us an example of some carry over from last year's scheme.

Running Backs - Shot out of a Cannon

Rookie running back TRENTON CANNON continued his stellar training camp performance by leading the Jets in rushing. In fact, he was the only running back to have any consistent success, as the other three backs combined for just 23 yards on 17 carries.

Nevertheless, it wasn't all smooth sailing for Cannon, who still only generated 45 yards on 14 touches. There were tantalizing glimpses of his burst into the hole, ability to cut at the second level and, perhaps most exciting of all, a display of blazing speed on a go-route. That play was unsuccessful as he appeared to lose Darnold's throw in the lights, but he contributed a nice first down with an 11-yard run, slipping a tackle in the hole.

We'll discuss his special teams performance later on but, for now, Cannon's debut was a positive sign of things to come. However, ball security, pass protection and overall awareness in the passing game will be paramount for him if he's to earn any real playing time.

Ahead of Cannon, BILAL POWELL looked sharp on a seven yard catch in the flat and a powerful run for a third down conversion, but otherwise was completely stifled and uncharacteristically lost yardage on a play where he tried to reverse his field.

New addition ISAIAH CROWELL made an instant impression, scoring the first touchdown as he lined up out wide - something that looks like it's going to be a major feature of the offense this year - caught a pass on a crossing route, and then went low to break the plane. Unfortunately, his head-first dive for the pylon also knocked him out of the game. Let's hope his absence was mostly precautionary.

With THOMAS RAWLS out, the other back to see action was GEORGE ATKINSON II. He exploited a big hole to skip through a tackle on 3rd-and-short for 10 yards, but his other 10 touches netted just three yards and he also lost a fumble and gave up a half-sack in pass protection, so he didn't help himself much on offense.

As anticipated, LAWRENCE THOMAS got the start and played the first half at fullback and DIMITRI FLOWERS played the second half. Thomas whiffed on one block and failed to sustain another, leading to a run stuff. Flowers, on the other hand, showed some competence as a lead blocker and contributed a short catch in the flat. Round one to the rookie.

Pass catchers - Charles in Charge

Johnson was the Jets' leading receiver with 45 yards on three catches. That doesn't include his negated touchdown, which came on a play where he was harshly adjudged to have pushed off, one play after dropping an easy touchdown pass and one play before finally making one that counts.

Johnson's 23-yard catch from Bridgewater was also the Jets' longest play from scrimmage as he was wide open on the outside. It's not surprising to see him show some chemistry with his former teammate, but it was disappointing to see Johnson miss a block down the field. Little things like that could make the difference between being on the team and out of the league for a guy like him.

The only other Jets' receiver to catch multiple passes was TRE MCBRIDE III, who had 16 yards on two catches, one of which generated a first down due to an illegal hit at the end of the play. He also missed a downfield block.

At the top end of the depth chart, QUINCY ENUNWA and TERRELLE PRYOR did not play so ROBBY ANDERSON and JERMAINE KEARSE got the start. Anderson caught a short third-down pass underneath but couldn't get to the marker, while Kearse made a clutch fourth-down snag to extend Bridgewater's touchdown drive on his only target.

Otherwise, there wasn't much to write home about from the receivers, albeit that they barely tried to throw the ball in the second half. ANDRE ROBERTS had a third down conversion on a nice crosser from Darnold.

Worryingly, CHAD HANSEN seems to have slipped right down the depth chart and he wasn't targeted. His fellow second year receiver ARDARIUS STEWART also didn't register a catch, although he did get a couple of looks.

Stewart, who will start the year off suspended anyway, was a targeted on a tunnel screen by Darnold that ended up being almost intercepted as the timing was slightly off. It appeared that Darnold threw to his intended spot but Stewart was slowed up by the defender. Stewart also arguably could have come down with a catch on his other target, a high throw into traffic, and had one missed block.

JONAH TRINNAMAN and LUCKY WHITEHEAD saw action late but weren't targeted.

Tight Ends - The Neal Deal

With JORDAN LEGGETT already out, the absence of rookie CHRIS HERNDON (due to "a couple of bruises" per Todd Bowles via Connor Hughes) afforded the other tight ends on the roster a good opportunity and NEAL STERLING made the most of it with a team-high four catches, three of which picked up first downs.

Unfortunately, Sterling limped off with a twisted ankle after the last of those catches, which saw him break a tackle in the flat to get to the marker.

With everyone else getting injured around him, CLIVE WALFORD made the most of his opportunity by making a couple of first down catches. One of these came on a completely blown coverage by the Falcons and could have gone for a bigger gain if Walford didn't slip after having had to reach back awkwardly for the ball.

ERIC TOMLINSON wasn't targeted but was deployed liberally as an extra blocker, making one effective seal on the backside. The other tight ends were less impressive as blockers, although Sterling set the edge well on one play.

Offensive Linemen - Long-ing for more

As we were told they would, the Jets mixed and matched on the offensive line with players like BRENT QVALE, JONOTTHAN HARRISON, BEN BRADEN, BEN IJALANA and DAKOTA DOZIER playing multiple positions.

Qvale was employed as the left tackle with KELVIN BEACHUM out, then moved to right tackle later on. He had an inconsistent game as a run blocker but held up well in pass protection. There was one play where a rusher came free off his edge for a hit on Bridgewater but that was a five-man rush so that may have been on Bridgewater or SPENCER LONG for not setting the protection.

Long's first game was okay, although he allowed penetration a few too many times. Hopefully he will start to look more and more effective once the line starts to gel.

The Jets are relying heavily on BRIAN WINTERS to bounce back from last year's abdominal injury and he didn't get off to a great start as he was bull rushed back into the quarterback early on. However, here's a sign that hopefully he can have more of an impact this year as, although this run goes nowhere, he dominates Grady Jarrett to win this rep.


There wasn't too much to report from the other starters in their brief time on the field. BRANDON SHELL had one good block on the move, a good sign as the Jets make their scheme change. JAMES CARPENTER had one good second level block but also missed one.

In terms of the reserves, Dozier was a mixed bag in the running game, but impressed in pass protection as he repelled a spin move well from the guard position and then recovered well after being beaten inside while at left tackle.

On the other end of the scale, TRAVIS SWANSON and ANTONIO GARCIA really struggled. Swanson gave up plenty of penetration at the point of attack, including one play where he was driven back and the run was stuffed for a loss. He also got beaten for a sack by a spin move on a A-gap blitz. Garcia had two penalties, failed to sustain a block, was beaten outside once and allowed too much penetration.

Braden had some promising moments as a run blocker, including a good kick-out block to spring a third down conversion. He had issues in pass protection though, allow his man to drive him back and spin off the block for a pressure while at guard and then getting beaten outside after he moved to right tackle.

Ijalana had a rough game as he had two penalties and was beaten a handful of times in pass protection, including on an inside move that led to a low hit on Darnold.

Finally, Harrison was a mixed bag in the running game, but did make a couple of second level blocks. He was bull rushed into the quarterback once.

New (re-)addition ALEX BALDUCCI and rookies DAKODA SHEPLEY and DARIUS JAMES didn't get into the game on offense.

Check back later this morning for the defensive review!