QuickFix: Saucy Nuggets from the Jets' win over the Broncos

We're going to kick off today's analysis with some things you might not have noticed from yesterday's win over Denver:

Totally addicted to base

One of the main questions after the Jets' defensive turnaround this week was whether the fact Todd Bowles was calling the defense made much of a difference. Our initial view was that is probably didn't, since the gameplan likely would already have been formulated before it became apparent defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers would be rendered unable to coach due to illness.

Ultimately, the defensive plan was simplified, which we anticipated would be the case anyway after there was so much confusion in the secondary last week. Also, there were no major defensive breakdowns, which might have had as much to do with the players meeting independently to assure everyone was on the same page as it did the defensive scheme.

However, there was one defensive adjustment which had Bowles' fingerprints all over it. The Jets ran more base this week, despite the fact that once they had the lead, Denver was operating out of spread personnel. This was something Bowles would often do while in Arizona.

Ordinarily, the Jets - who still mainly operated out of their nickel packages - would match personnel in such situations. For example, in the win over Detroit, they only had base personnel on the field once in the last 29 minutes - on Detroit's final snap when they took a knee.

The Jets played plenty of base into the second half this week, which effectively meant they played with one safety and Jamal Adams operating as a slot corner when the Broncos spread their offense out:

This still might not be anything to do with Bowles' calling of the game, because the Jets might already have decided to do this beforehand and Rodgers perhaps would have done the same had he been there. Alternatively, perhaps this was their contingency plan in the event there were injuries in the secondary, reducing how exposed the backups were by limiting their snaps.

The Jets may have gained more trust in Parry Nickerson after he settled down in the second half, so perhaps they will have more confidence to run more conventional coverage schemes if the injuries to Trumaine Johnson and Buster Skrine linger.

For now, Morris Claiborne is the healthiest starting cornerback the Jets have, which probably means the team should have more contingency plans in place.

Magic Mike

An under-the-radar performance in yesterday's win came from backup defensive lineman Mike Pennel. While he didn't play much, Pennel made some excellent contributions while he was in the game.

Against the run, Pennel had one tackle and helped bottle up a few other runs, but it was in the pass rush where he made his best contributions.

On consecutive plays in the second quarter, Pennel shed his block to pressure the quarterback and then, in the fourth quarter, he absolutely blew up center Matt Paradis to get some pressure at Case Keenum's feet.


Pennel isn't a player that Jets fans have particularly high expectations for, but if he can make an impact like this then he perhaps deserves more playing time, which can help to keep Steve McLendon fresh. He might even challenge for McLendon's starting role when his contract is up at the end of the year.

Pocket Watch

Somehow, the Jets managed to prevent the Broncos from hitting Sam Darnold on all but two of their offensive plays on Sunday, with none of those hits credited to the Broncos' stable of edge rushers.

Of course, the Jets took the usual steps to curtail the potential threat, throwing a lot of quick passes, leaving extra blockers in at times and chipping edge rushers. It also helped that the running game was so successful.

One thing the Jets didn't do much was roll Darnold out. Instead, where they did run plays that required more time for routes to develop, they tried to maintain good pocket integrity so Darnold could throw from within the pocket.

In order to achieve this, the Jets operated a mixture of fan protection - where the line fans out to form a semi-circular shell around the quarterback - and inside out protection, where the guards and center work together to prevent any interior penetration, while the tackles try and force the edge rushers to take the long route around the outside, thereby enabling the quarterback to step up.

Here's a good example of the latter. Note how Brian Winters initially helps the center to control his block and then is freed to go and help out the right tackle and guard against a pocket-collapsing inside move.


The two times there was a breakdown were avoidable too, which could be seen as an encouraging sign.

On the only time he was sacked all day, the protection was messed up as Winters let a man into the backfield completely unblocked. In addition, Spencer Long was driven back into Darnold. If it wasn't for a bad snap from Long on the play, Darnold still might have been able to find one of his tight ends, each of whom were momentarily open.

The only other play on which the Broncos recorded a hit (officially) saw Kelvin Beachum beaten around the edge by Shaq Barrett. Again, Long was driven back into Darnold on this play, so Darnold couldn't step up. However, he still threw a touchdown to Terrelle Pryor on the play.

Perfect timing

One of the best aspects of Darnold's performance - and something which he showed some burgeoning signs of last week - was his ability to make anticipatory throws.

Both touchdowns to Robby Anderson were of the "if he's even, he's leavin'" variety and he also completed a nice long out to Jermaine Kearse which he released as Kearse was making his break rather than after.

However, no image illustrates that better than this angle of his touchdown to Pryor:


It must be nice to turn around and find the ball already on its way to the exact spot where you'd like it. Nice catch by Pryor, but that's a wonderfully-timed throw, which shouldn't be overshadowed.

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.