We are going to take a look at how the Jets are stacking up versus their opponents averages this season to put the performance of the team is some kind of context.
It has been a bumpy road for veteran QB Brett Favre who has continued to struggle to find his niche in the Jets offense this season.
Favre is leading the NFL in interceptions and many of these interceptions are either leading to touchdowns for the
opposition or are costing the Jets deep in the red zone. At times Favre seems to be trying to do too much and forcing the game action by
running around in the pocket and often throwing while backpeddling away from danger rather than stepping up into the pocket or throwing the football away. Favre might take the deepest drops of any QB in the NFL right now and some of that may be from unfamiliarity and distrust with his offensive linemen that have been spotty this year. Favreís reliance on throwing deep at all costs really seems to be his biggest weakness this season.
That is not to say it has all been bad for Favre. He has had two big comebacks for the team in Oakland and Kansas City, one of which led to a win. He set a personal record for touchdowns thrown in a 56 point explosion against Arizona. He efficiently led the team to a win in Buffalo to grab 1st place in the AFC East. He also seems to be a strong influence on the team in games where they are down as they dont give up, a trait that was not shown with Kellen Clemens, who has accounted for 1 team interception in 2008, as QB last season.
Favreís game may be hurt by the teams over-reliance on mainly two players each and every week in Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles.
Both have played extremely well and seem to have developed a good bond with Favre. There do seem to be some communication issues with
Favre and Cotchery when it comes to route adjustments, but more often than not he is putting up big numbers for Favre.
While neither guy is going to blow you away from a physical standpoint both are far more consistent than big name players like Braylon Edwards and Terrell Owens have been in 2008.
None of the secondary targets have really been able to step up and that has been a problem. Chansi Stuckey made a mark in a few games, but has also been a non factor in most others. Brad Smith looked to be part of the offense in Oakland, but quickly disappeared again. Dustin Keller has not adjusted as quickly as many would have hoped and neither Bubba Franks nor Chris Baker have amounted to anything in the offense. Right now the Jets third option on the team is RB Leon Washington who can do special things with the ball if he gets it past the line of scrimmage. The Jets are going to need one of those third targets to step up in the 2nd half of the year if the offense is ever to going to click.
The Jets have gotten a very inconsistent and shaky performance from their offensive line that is filled with high priced players and first round draft selections. At times the O-line looks great and at others they look lost. They have a terrible time dealing with blitz pickups and are often overwhelmed by aggressive attacks. Favre has had plays where he has been murdered in the backfield and you have to wonder how many more shots can a 39 year old take and still keep moving. Teams are seeing a weakness with the line and attacking it every week. Damien Woody has had a few horrendous plays where he is just completely whiffing and Alan Faneca has had some times where he has just been blown off the line and had to grab a hold to survive. DíBrickashaw Ferguson continues to be a solid player, but he is not overpowering and has too many plays where just seems to lose focus. Some of the sacks have been Favreís fault, but as a whole this group is underperforming this season.
When digging into the numbers the problems with the Jets passing game become apparent. The lack of a true third target is killing the team. Both Coles and Cotchery have trouble getting off the line in press coverage and the Jets can not go deep with those players if the safety is always in a position to double cover them. Despite the high completion percentage, the Jets are not gaining enough yards on most plays. Some of that is by design with the overused WR screen calls, but most of it is because the tight ends and other receivers do not do enough to force the defense to stop cheating towards Coles and Cotchery.
Despite the fact that the Jets are throwing the ball more than the typical gameplan would call for against their opponents (8.5% more attempts) and completing many more passes (16.7% more completions, 7.6% higher completion percentage) the Jets are way down in every yardage category there is. The team is 3.7% less yards per game and a whopping 17.5% less YPC and 11.2% less YPA compared to their opponents seasonal averages. Despite all of Favreís deep chances the Jets are hitting less big plays of 40 yards or more and the numbers are way down, -12.5%, on plays over 20 yards. This is from a combination of factors, but a majority of it is from the offense not having a good complement of players on the field to open up the 15-20 yard area beyond the line of scrimmage, forcing the offense into an all or nothing mode.
Favreís gunslinger mentality has to be held in check. Even though some may point to the high TDs as a positive its really is not a very strong positive. While the Jets may average nearly 1.9 TDs a game through the air, their opponents are giving up nearly 1.5 per game when you take the Jets games out of their stats. Thatís only 27% higher than the norm and only 17.3% higher in terms of TDs/att. On the other hand the interceptions are 164.6% higher overall and 144% higher per attempt. When looked at in that context its not 15:12 anymore, but a much worse number. The Jets are turning teams that do not intercept the football into turnover machines.
The Jets have to rein their offense in a little bit at this point. They need to find a way to bring the mid-yardage passing game into focus to bring their yardage totals up and hopefully cut down on turnovers, many of which seem to be coming on long passes. While the Jets love to use different personnel packages they need to find a third target and commit to him if they want the passing game to really begin to click. Whether that is Stuckey, Keller, Baker, or someone else they need to get that person on the field every game. If they do not there will be more issues with the turnovers and lack of cohesive drives. The team also needs to begin to bring the playaction into the game to try to bring the safeties off the deep coverage to get 1 on 1 matchups with the defense.
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Despite all the battering that Thomas Jones takes as being a poor player, the Jets running attack has been relatively efficient when used. Jonesí biggest limitation is his lack of big play ability. He does not break away in the open field and either gets chased down by a linebacker or cut off by someone in the secondary. This was most glaring in the Oakland game where he had 2 or 3 chances to simply make 1 guy miss and he would walk into the endzone and he could not do it. The Jets only have one big run over 40, which was by Leon Washington, while their opponents have given up 10 plays over 40 this year. The team is better in the 20+yard runs, which have all come in the last three weeks, which hopefully is a sign that something is working for the squad and that the offensive line is doing a better job of springing Jones past the line. The Jets have toyed with the idea of using Washington more as a runner, but in straight running situations he has had very limited success.
The other major concern would be the lack of first downs on the ground, which is about 10% down from the average when adjusted per attempt, and total touchdowns. The Jets are either not getting the push needed for short yardage plays, arenít using the run enough in 3rd and short type situations or a combination of the two. Most likely itís a combination of the two. The teams TD/att is just below average yet their total TDs are way down which likely means the Jets just simply do not trust their running game when they are 4-7 yards away from the end zone or that they can not push the pile close in if they are running it, such as in the New England game in week 2.
In the 2nd half of the season the Jets need to show more faith in their running game to soften up the defense.
The Jets are way under the rush attempts they should be at right now considering the quality of teams they have played this year.
Had they run more they probably would have had a few more big gains as the Jets are doing well getting 20+
based in a limited number of attempts. They have athletic offensive lineman that should be able to get out in front of Jones and
Washington to get them 20-30 yard gains every now and then. Running into the line has not been a great strength for the Jets, yet they continue to run there when they should be attacking more off tackle and letting Faneca and company make players miss Jones. The Jets strength is not going up the gut of the defense and having Jones explode through a hole, if one forms.
The Jets more or less stack up as an average offense at the mid-way point of the season. The team runs an average amount of plays from scrimmage and holds the ball a more or less average amount of time. The team is slightly below average converting on 3rd downs. Where the team is doing very well is in protecting the football. While they have allowed the ball to hit the ground more than enough times, they are losing the ball nearly 41% times less than the norm for their opponents. That is excellent. The team takes a very aggressive approach to 4th downs and is excellent at converting on 4th down. Both of those are probably signs of good coaching during the week and good decision making on 4th down. The Jets need to use some of what works on 4th for the team and figure a way to make it work on 3rd down the remainder of the season.
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Click Here for the 2008 Defensive Breakdown