We're going to kick off today's analysis with some things you might not have noticed from yesterday's loss to the Texans:
Here's what Sam Darnold said last week:
“For me, it’s playing fast, just being able to move through my progressions pretty fast and understand where everyone is on the field,” Darnold said. “So, I think that’s the biggest thing and just continuing to stay consistent with that.”
Here's the best example you could hope to see from yesterday's game, as he hits Robby Anderson for a 26-yard pass on what looks like his fourth read.
Darnold's ability to go off-script is impressive, but what will really take him to the next level is being able to succeed within the system. His ability to do this kind of thing will enable that.
(The usual deep dive on Darnold will follow later today).
Watt are you doing?
One of the more confounding strategic decisions from the Jets was the fact that they opted to single-block JJ Watt so often.
As you may recall from my previous research, the percentage a player gets double teamed is, in large part, a function of where they line up and a player who lines up inside is much more likely to draw an initial double team or a chip block. However, when you have a player like Watt, it makes sense to give him some additional attention even though he lines up on the edge a lot.
(And how's this for a nugget within a nugget? Leonard Williams has been lining up on the edge over 20 times per game since the bye week. He only did it five times per game prior to the bye week).
The strategy bit the Jets hard in the second quarter when Watt beat a Jordan Leggett block to force an Elijah McGuire fumble. He also beat Brandon Shell and Brian Winters for sacks.
Kudos to Eric Tomlinson who completely owned him on this running play, though:
Spot are you doing?
Todd Bowles' decision not to challenge the spot when Trenton Cannon clearly should have had a first down on 3rd-and-short drew a lot of attention.
It ultimately didn't matter because Darnold found Anderson for a clutch conversion on fourth down and the Jets went on to score, but the narrative would have been very different if Anderson didn't make that catch.
However, it was perhaps even more costly that he didn't challenge the spot on this 2nd-and-7 pass to DeAndre Hopkins.
Trumaine Johnson clearly stopped Hopkins short of the marker and it should have been 3rd-and-short. Is this worth risking losing a timeout for? Absolutely, because first of all there shouldn't be any risk if the officials make the right call. Secondly, there was still plenty of time remaining so losing a timeout wouldn't have been that devastating. And, finally, the Texans really struggled to run the ball, gaining just seven yards on nine carries after halftime, so the 3rd-and-short was no gimme. In fact, Watson's 24-yard keeper in the first half accounted for over half of the Texans' rushing yards.
However, the Jets just let the play stand. It's almost as if Bowles doesn't want to do anything to draw attention to himself as he plays out the final few games of the year.
Deshaun Watson completed 22 of 28 passes, but the Jets' coverage was responsible for most of their six sacks. It will be interesting to review the all-22 footage for those plays later in the week, but clearly Watson wasn't going to take many risks, knowing that the Jets usually lose when they can't force any turnovers.
The Jets didn't help themselves with some more screw-ups in their zone coverage though, the most egregious of which once again saw the receiver lined up across from Buster Skrine (Hopkins) running a deep crossing route and never getting picked up by the linebackers. That's been an issue all season and teams continue to exploit it.
Late in the third quarter, the Jets had a bunch of momentum on defense only to give up a 50-yard play. On this occasion it seems unfair to blame any individual defender because this seems to be an issue with the scheme. With Skrine blitzing, DeAndre Carter is the hot read and Jordan Jenkins has to drop and run across the field if he's going to prevent this play:
Obviously that's a systemic failure which perhaps could have been resolved with better pre-snap communication. However, relying on Darryl Roberts to rectify this seems like a tall order for someone who is so new to the deep safety position.
Two plays later, the Jets ran what can only be described as a cover-zero zone. There's so much space between Morris Claiborne and Neville Hewitt that both Hopkins and DeMaryius Thomas are open and a talented passer like Watson is always going to be able to exploit that.
What's interesting about this play - the first play of the fourth quarter - is that Roberts was replaced by Rontez Miles immediately afterwards. The Jets reported this as a toe injury for Roberts, who did seem to be limping at the end of the play, so this wasn't a benching, but it might have been a case where the Jets knew Roberts was limited physically so they opted to get someone with more experience into the game.
Earlier in the game, Roberts had given up a long touchdown to Hopkins on a play which some attributed to his inexperience at the position, but realistically a cornerback should be perfectly adept at downfield latch coverage and perhaps his failure here was because he was already not at 100 percent or thinking too much about his other responsibilities.
Much more analysis to come later today and over the next few days. Please let us know who you'd like to see us feature in more detail in 3-on-D and 3-on-O.