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2020 Opponent Scouting Report: Jets Offense; 1 rookie and 10 guys that could be replaced by backups

New York Jets v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Overview

On September 27th, 2020 the Indianapolis Colts will host the New York Jets. In this Week 3 match-up, I sought to understand our opponent and get a better idea of how they may attack our Colts.

The Colts vs. Jets is a classic NFL matchup. The two teams have met 74 times since their most famous, initial meeting in Super Bowl 3. Our Colts currently lead the all time series 42-32, but long gone are the days of Joe Namath’s Super Bowl guarantee and Peyton’s excellence. In their past five contests the Jets are 4-1 against our Colts. The Colts one win came in a 41 to 10 shellacking in 2016. Outside of that win, recent history favors the opponent.

Let’s see what we can expect in week three.


Head Coach

Normally I don’t do a section on just the opponents head coach, usually it fits in with the discussion of the system/scheme but Adam Gase is such an interesting case, I felt he deserved his own section in this weeks scouting report.

Adam Gase has worked with and for some of the best minds football has ever known. He started as an assistant to the coaching staff under Nick Saban at Michigan State. His first NFL job was as a scouting assistant under Steve Mariucci. He became a quarterbacks coach after being promoted by Mike Martz. Gase went on to be Peyton Manning’s offensive coordinator during Manning’s final MVP season in 2013.

As far as resumes go, Gase’s is really good as an assistant.

As a head coach?

Things have not gone well. 2020 is Gases fifth year as a head coach and he has had one winning season in that time. As an offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos in 2013 and 2014 his offense ranked 1st and 4th respectively. As a head coach his offenses haven’t even been below average, they’ve been bad.

The 2019 Jets were 32nd in yards gained, 31st in points scored, The only offensive statistic that the Jets were even middle of the pack in was fumbles lost where they ranked 15th in the league. I can give you all of the reasons Gase wasn’t fired after last season (his starting quarterback did have Mono and missed a good chunk of the early season among many other things) there are a lot of very legitimate reasons the Jets were bad in 2019 that Gase had very little control over. But someone hailed by team CEO Christopher Johnson as a “brilliant offensive mind” should be able to game plan his way to gaining more yards and scoring more points than... someone... anyone in the league.

It’s pretty easy to pile on Adam Gase. He coaches in New York and New York media has a reputation for being brutal for a reason. Searching for “Adam Gase” in any search engine returns a plethora of hit pieces from the New York Post. Knowing how easy it is to pile on, I’ll try not to do that here. It’s just so interesting that his teams have ranked no higher than 24th and have an average rank of 28th in his four full seasons as a NFL head coach, and yet he still has a job as a head coach.

Not only have his teams ranked poorly but he has demonstrably damaged the career of at least one quarterback during his time in charge.

In Ryan Tannehill’s four years before Adam Gase arrived he averaged 241.6 yards per game. During his time with Gase that number dropped to 207.3 yards game. In his two years post Gase (only 14 total games, starting in 12, for what it’s worth) Tannehill is averaging 230.7 yards per and his touchdown to interception ratio (28/6) is better than it’s ever been. He’s averaging nearly half a touchdown more per game than during his time with Gase. As Colts fans I probably don’t have to tell you but Tannehill is putting up those numbers for a Tennessee Titans team that loves to run the football. They aren’t a pass first team by modern standards.

If the Jets want to trade Sam Darnold for a sixth round pick, like the Dolphins did after Gase tried to destroy Tannehill, I hope Chris Ballard makes that deal.

Let’s look at what Adam Gase’s offense is and how he’s gotten here.


Offensive System

Gase’s scheme has been influenced by a lot of great players and coaches. By all (public) accounts Gase is something of a football wizard, just not as a head coach or on game day. But based on what I’ve watched his offense reminds me somewhat of the Manning era Colts. There’s little to no pre snap motion, plenty of intermediate to deep concepts and a complete lack of Peyton Manning.

The lack of motion pre-snap was pretty interesting to me given the era of football we’re in. Last week, before I started looking at this Jets offense I happened to read this take on pre-snap motion from Bill Belichick in this tweet from Steven Ruiz:

Ultimately what this tells us about Adam Gase’s offense is that by not using motion he wants Sam Darnold to scan the field before the snap to try to pick up on any subtle hints that the defense might give in relation to what coverage they’re in.

For a young quarterback like Sam Darnold this is going to be something other teams will look to manipulate and will lead to moments just like this one:

All a defensive coordinator needs to do is identify the way his own team naturally might tip the coverage before the snap and come up with ways to make Sam Darnold believe he’s seeing one thing before the snap, only to play a completely different coverage than what your defense “tipped”.

Sam Darnold, you weren’t seeing ghosts. Bill Belichick realized that in NFL quarterback terms, you’re just a baby. He made you believe you were seeing something that wasn’t there because ultimately he’s really good at that whole coaching thing.

In other instances, Darnold is going to see exactly what he thinks he sees and it will give him an advantage or allow him to make an adjustment that puts his offense in a more favorable position.

Either scenario is possible but as you might expect a 23 year old Sam Darnold is nowhere near the player that 28 year old Peyton Manning was. It’s likely Darnold will continue to struggle in this system.

Isolation Routes

The Jets offense will absolutely use rubs and picks to get receivers open but more often than not the receivers are left to run isolation routes designed to beat the defenses coverage. On this play the Jets keep seven in to block and run three routes against man coverage. The Jets receiver is able to separate (due to the corner falling down in his cut) and make a catch on this one.

I want to talk about the system

I want to talk about Gase’s system. What his goal is. I want to talk about the philosophy of his offense but I’ll be honest, I have no idea what it is. Plays like this are just mind boggling.

In the above clip, it’s 3rd and 3, on their own 39 yard line. They’re behind 21 to 3 with 11:14 to go in the third quarter. Everyone who has even a passing interest in the New York Jets has heard about their (spoiler alert) struggles along the offensive line.

On this play the Jets send both receivers to the right on deep routes to try to open up the underneath for the crossing route coming from the back side of the formation. They send Le’Veon Bell on an angle route, he promptly slips and falls in his cut. Meanwhile the Bills defenders, who were keenly aware it was 3rd and 3, smother the crossing route.

Had Bell not fallen down, could Sam Darnold have hit him with a pass? Maybe but I think it was already too late. This play took so long to develop, by the time the receiver running the crossing route was obviously not an option, Darnold was getting hit from behind.

The defense made a good play to be sure, but on 3rd and 3 the Jets chose to have two realistic options while using two receivers as deep decoys, instead of giving Darnold several short, quick hitting options who had potentially been schemed open, the Jets once again used slow developing isolation routes against man coverage and Darnold paid the price.

More 3rd down oddities

I believe this was where Sam Darnold was coached to go with this pass given the look the defense was giving, specifically the blitz and the three receiving options to his left.

It’s fine to give a quarterback, especially a young quarterback, quick throws based on his pre-snap reads. If a quarterback recognizes a blitz it’s good to give him a quick option to get the ball out fast and on target, but on 3rd and 9 why is this the hot route?

On 3rd and 9 you have to have a plan to realistically pick up the first down while possibly dealing with a blitz. Throwing to a smoke route and praying he breaks multiple tackles while picking up at least 9 yards isn’t a plan that’s going to win you any games. As a matter of fact, it isn’t a plan at all.

*Most of the time when I write these, by the end of my film work, note taking and writing of the report, I have usually collected enough information to feel like I have a handle on the opponents offense. Normally, there’s no singular moment where the light bulb comes on and it all just clicks, it’s a process. But this week it’s different. When I wrote that last paragraph, and I re-read the last sentence “As a matter of fact, it isn’t a plan at all” that’s when it clicked. I think I understand the Jets offense.

There is no plan

So this play does have a plan, all of them do in fact. It’s the system as a whole that doesn’t have a plan.

This play is designed to open the underneath for the outside receiver running the in breaking route. The receiver in the slot nearest the sideline, sits down at 15 yards while the slot receiver nearest the formation runs a vertical route, stretching the safety deep.

If the Buffalo Bills defenders peel off to cover the short in breaking route, the 15 yard curl might be open and if the safety disregarded the vertical route, then you probably have a really long touchdown pass. So the plan on this play was apparent, Most plays have an obvious purpose, even when the play is called by Adam Gase.

I can look at a million plays from Gase and I could analyze them all and I could probably get really close to telling you the logic behind the play design most of the time. The problem with Gase’s offense isn’t necessarily his play design, it’s not all about the lack of talent on the roster, it’s not that Gase is bad when he’s in a board room standing with a dry erase board behind him while he explains advanced concepts to people like Christopher Johnson. The problem with Gase’s offense is that he’s terrible with situational football, which is the vast majority of what the NFL game is.

As a playcaller, Gase is completely inept dealing with specific in game situations. In these moments there is no plan.


Quarterback:

I’ve already talked about Sam Darnold and some of the issues he’s going to have in this offensive system and we’ll talk about the other issues he faces when we talk about his backs, receivers and offensive line. They’re all a problem, and we’ll get to them.

For now I’m just going to show you some clips of Darnold and talk about some things I’ve noticed watching his game.

Wide Right

I noticed that Sam Darnold is often unable to step up in the pocket to make a throw. His footwork often leads to inaccurate passes to otherwise open receivers. His inability, or hesitancy to step up is obviously not his fault, but it’s a common issue for the USC product.

Throws on the move

Often Darnold has been flushed from the pocket, so often, that I believe he’s starting to develop a habit of leaving clean pockets. Also known as Battered Quarterback Syndrome.

Doing too much

Imagine you’re 23 years old, you’re the starting quarterback for the New York Jets, you’re playing a team from the other side of the same state and they’re completely destroying you. It’s 3rd down and you haven’t converted a 3rd down all day. Your team needs someone to step up and make a play, you have to get something going!

So you snap the ball and you get more pressure than you like so you roll out of the pocket to the left, you’re right handed so it’s not ideal but what can you do, you see an open receiver in the middle of the field, you know better than to throw it, you know it’s a bad idea but you’re desperate, someone has to make a play. You turn your body, you cock your arm, you know you’ve got to put some air under it to get it over that linebacker, you let it fly and... oh no.

Sam Darnold might never be a good quarterback. But as long as Adam Gase is calling his plays, we’ll never know what kind of player Sam Darnold really is. That’s a hill I’m willing to die on.


Running Back:

Frank Gore is 37 years old.

Frank Gore is the starting running back for the New York Jets.

Frank Gore needs 2 touchdowns to pass Edgerrin James for 20th all time on the all time rushing touchdowns list with 81.

Frank Gore needs 360 yards to pass both Tim Brown and Darren Sproles for 6th and 5th respectively on the all time all purpose yards list.

It’s 2020 and I’m still writing about Frank Gore.

Le’Veon Bell hurt his hamstring and is on the injured reserve list for now, so I’m just going to wax poetic about the only reason anyone has to watch the 2020 Jets play football; Frank Gore.

His detractors will say he’s only complied the stats he has because he’s played for so long and to those detractors I say: yeah, and?

NFL running backs historically hit their peak around 27 or 28 years old. In 2015 Darren McFadden, Chris Ivory and Devonta Freeman all rushed for 1000 yards. McFadden was 28, Ivory 27 and Freeman just 23. McFadden was out of football at 30. Ivory out of football at 27. Freeman currently out of football at 27.

DeMarco Murray led the league in rushing in 2014 with 1,845 yards. In 2016 he rushed for 1,287 yards and 9 touchdowns at 28 years old. Out of football before he turned 30.

In 2011 at the age of 29, Michael Turner rushed for 1,340 yards. He was out of football before he turned 31.

In 2014 Arian Foster rushed for 1,246 yards at 28 years old. He was out of football at 30.


I don’t care how long it’s taken Frank Gore to compile the numbers he has, the time it took is important but not in the way most people seem to think. Most players don’t have big retirement ceremonies on ESPN and NFL Network. Most players simply stop getting calls from teams. Most players stop being able to make rosters.

Frank Gore is 37 years old, he made an NFL roster and now because the guy in front of him on the depth chart went down, he’s the starting running back for the New York Jets and frankly that’s amazing.

I’ve come to hate saying that I’ll never see something in football ever again. I didn’t think Peyton’s single season touchdown record of 48 would be beaten, then Tom Brady broke it just three years later. I didn’t think I would live to see Marvin Harrison’s single season receptions record of 143 broken, but Michael Thomas caught 149 last season.

It’s only a matter of time before we see Manning’s single season yards record of 5,477 and the TD mark he regained as a member of the Denver Broncos with 55 smashed by the new generation of quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes or maybe even Russell Wilson this year if he keeps it up.

But I truly don’t believe I’ll ever see the Jets start another 37 year old running back as long as I live (don’t make me a liar, Adrian Peterson).

I’ve written about my love of Frank Gore and the admiration I have for the greatness that is his longevity, quite enough. Here’s a clip:

Frank Gore

Gore still has the vision that has made him so dangerous for so long. He’s agile and quick enough to get the job done but if he agreed to a footrace with Darius Leonard, I would bet all of my money apply for a large loan so I could bet it all on Leonard.

There’s a chance the Jets could give rookie La’Michael Perine or third year back Kalen Ballage some carries this week, but if they expect me to not tweet bad things about their coaching staff, they better give Frank Gore the ball 50 times*.

*That’s just my way of telling you I’m going to be critical of the Jets coaching staff on social media.


Pass Catchers:

What a group.

In week one Jamison Crowder caught 7 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. He missed week two with an injured hamstring and at the time of this writing it’s unknown if he will be able to suit up this Sunday. Chris Hogan left last weeks game with a rib injury but not before catching 6 balls for 75 yards, like Crowder, no one knows if the 33 year old receiver will play in week three. Breshad Perriman caught 2 passes for 12 yards in week two before leaving the game with an ankle injury. Like the other two, his status is completely unknown.

So who’s left?

2018 New England Patriots sixth round pick Braxton Berrios and Tight End Chris Herndon. Herndon had a promising rookie year in 2018 before landing on injured reserve in 2019. So far he’s caught 7 passes for 42 yards. Also healthy is receiver Josh Malone who is averaging 4 yards per catch on 4 receptions. Tight Ends Ryan Griffin and Trevon Wesco have no offensive stats this season but are also available to play, so they fit in the section.

Even with Crowder, Hogan and Perriman this group is lacking.

Reasonable expectation of performance

This is a run of the mill out route and catch by Braxton Berrios. Now the fact that it was mundane doesn’t stop Berrios from celebrating his first down, nor should it. I honestly think it’s pretty cool when a guy does something legitimately great and acts like it’s no big deal.

For a guy like Berrios, it may not get much better than this. Live it up, young man.

3rd and 3 again

This is a great playcall on 3rd and 3. Adam Gase got one right and then his receivers went out and did this. This is a designed rub, the outside receiver absolutely has to interfere with the slot corner. Instead he gets bullied by the outside corner which means that the Jets are punting when they should have had an easy first down against man coverage. He let his team down and he should feel bad about this effort.

Great catch, bruised ribs

Even though Chris Hogan is 33 and I want to make a joke about his injury being tied to his age, this throw would have gotten most receivers smoked. Darnold doesn’t step into his throw, leading to the ball coming out high, Hogan makes a great play on the ball and then is punished accordingly.

The Jets have multiple veteran receivers on their roster and none of them have ever been considered as a teams number one wide receiver. None of them have even flirted with a 1,000 yard season. Jamison Crowder caught 7 touchdown passes in 2016 and none of the other receivers have a season with more than 6.

Having said all of this, these guys are still NFL caliber receivers. If any of them are able to play this week it’s possible they come out and make multiple big plays. Although, that would be far removed from what they’ve historically been able to do.


Offensive Line:

From left to right: Mekhi Becton, Alex Lewis, Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten, George Fant

To say that this line has problems would be unfair to most teams in the NFL. This might be the worst offensive line in the league. There is one bright spot through two weeks and it’s the 6’7” 364 pound athletic freak of a rookie, Mekhi Becton.

Outside of him you could probably replace everyone on this line with a backup from other teams and at worst see no difference in performance. This could be a fun game for the Colts defensive line.

Who do you even blame

Alex Lewis loses his block but holds his man on the way to the ground, Connor McGovern double teams a defensive tackle with Greg Van Roten. McGovern ends up on his back thanks to Lewis’ effort and Van Roten stands there looking proud that the guy he blocked was the only 49ers rusher that didn’t touch Sam Darnold. Meanwhile George Fant appears to have never seen a rip move before and was completely unable to deal with it.

Mekhi Becton tried to run his defender wide past where Darnold should have been able to step up, but even still a false step kept him from clearly “winning” this rep.

This line is an absolute mess.

But Becton is going to be a star for a long time

Baldy Breakdown: Mekhi Becton Impresses In NFL Debut

Six minutes of Mekhi Becton tape breakdown? Yes please. (via NFL)

Posted by New York Jets on Thursday, September 17, 2020

Outside of Becton, there’s nothing here. Hopefully the Colts can capitalize on their opportunity to prop up their sack numbers this week.


Final Thoughts:

This Jets offense is bad. Their best player is 21 years old and he should never touch the ball. Their coach seems to struggle to call plays that make sense given the game situation and Sam Darnold’s development has been stunted by that same coach. Their receivers are all hurt, their offensive line is terrible and their starting running back is actually 37 years old.

At the end of the day these are all professional football players and most of them are capable of winning a down. The problem is it takes all 11 guys winning a down at the same time to effectively move the football. While it’s possible these Jets are able to string together a few plays where all 11 guys are in sync, I honestly don’t see any way they can do it for four quarters. It’s just not realistic given the evidence we have so far.