Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

09 Nov 2017

Film Room: New York Jets Offense

by Charles McDonald

Coming into the season, the New York Jets' offense had almost no expectations. They signed Josh McCown, who was coming off a down year in Cleveland; lost Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker in the offseason; and walked into the season with an offensive line that looked like the Island of Misfit Toys. They haven't been the NFL's most prolific unit or anything like that, but they have made considerable strides over last season. The Jets currently rank 23rd in offensive DVOA after finishing 31st a season ago. While McCown and company have certainly exceeded expectations, first year offensive coordinator John Morton also deserves credit for his masterful job conducting the Jets' attack.

Before coming to the Jets, Morton had spent two years as the New Orleans Saints' wide receiver coach, and it's very apparent that Sean Payton had a huge influence on Morton. New Orleans' passing attack is essentially an adaptation of the air raid and run 'n' shoot principles that Mike Leach, June Jones, and other coaches prolifically used at the collegiate level. The entire passing offense comes together as a nice blend of traditional NFL-style West Coast concepts with air raid and run 'n' shoot plays sprinkled in. Today, the focus will be placed on the collegiate side of the Jets offense.

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One of the core elements of the run 'n' shoot offense is the use of the switch concept. It's a two-man concept. Two receivers will switch their route stems at the snap of the ball. The inside receiver will go out and the outside receiver will go in. These plays have to be run out of 3x1 or 2x2 sets, because the offense needs at least two receivers on the same side to run the concept.

Here, the Jets use motion to send Jermaine Kearse across the formation, changing the formation from a 2x2 look to a 3x1 look. The motion caused the Browns to panic and change their rules right before the snap, and it looks like they had a bit of a miscommunication to start the play. Kearse hits the wheel route off the motion, Robby Anderson plays the bubble, and the receiver inside Kearse hits a vertical route after switching stems with Kearse.

All of this was enough to get Kearse wide open on the wheel route for a touchdown. Packaging bubble screens in with wheel routes to hold defenders and create windows is a staple of pass-heavy college offenses. Our fallen hero Deshaun Watson hit a "skinny post" on the same concept versus Alabama in the 2016 National Championship game.

What's really interesting about run 'n' shoot and air raid offenses is the way routes change on the fly according to the coverage they're facing. Eric Tomlinson's touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons was a prime example.

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Atlanta's base coverage on defense is Cover-3. Calling a simple four verticals concept to take advantage of the three secondary players playing deep is something that the average Madden fan understands. Cover-3 teams have fixed a lot of their issues with four vertical routes with the installation of pattern match coverages, but if the offense can expand the width on their route spacing they can add an extra level of stress to the defense.

The outside receiver on the playside of the formation dosen't sprint up the field into his vertical route; he expands towards the sideline a bit before heading up the field. This forces Keanu Neal (circled) to hold firm in his "curl/flat" zone just long enough to get Tomlinson the step he needs to run wide up for a touchdown. The initial outside stem by the outside receiver creates the split second confusion to spring Tomlinson free for a touchdown.

Notice the routes on the other side of the field. They expand towards their sideline as well to make efficient use of the entire field. This forces the free safety to hold deep; with the free safety and the curl/flat defender having to hold their position for just a second, a window is formed. Nice, easy throw for McCown.

Another air raid concept that the Jets typically use is the "sail" concept. This play is a killer versus Cover-4. Kyle Jones of Eleven Warriors had a succinct, digestible breakdown of the "sail" concept: "The sail concept is a simple idea that looks to overload one side of the defense with three receivers in the area defended by only two defenders. Unlike snag or stick above, the offense is simply looking to stretch a defense vertically, knowing that there are no zone defenses that have three levels of defenders."

John Morton pulled the sail concept out at the perfect time against the Miami Dolphins for a touchdown.

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The Dolphins are in Cover-4 on this play, a typical coverage called in the red zone. As the tight end breaks out on his corner route, one of the safeties playing a deep quarter matches down to him. That puts Anderson in one-on-one coverage against the corner. Anderson hits the post route to claim the area that the safety just vacated; the inside move leaves him wide open for a touchdown.

New York also employs mirrored concepts that are often found in air raid offenses. Now, mirrored concepts have become increasingly popular in the NFL (for example, the 2016 Atlanta Falcons' offense was littered with them), so this isn't exactly a new concept for the professional game.

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Mirrored concepts are self-explanatory; the route concepts on each side of the field will mirror each other. This particular play features a sevens concept. It derives from the smash family of football that features a high-low read on the outside corner. Instead of the hitch that comes with regular smash, sevens features a flat route to occupy the same space.

The Patriots are playing Cover-1. Anderson pulls a nasty head fake to spring himself free against Malcolm Butler on the outside for a big gain on the sideline. These are just a few ways that the Jets have been able to incorporate air raid and run 'n' shoot concepts into their passing offense.

Hopefully the success of the Chiefs, Eagles, and pre-Watson injury Texans, and the surprisingly competent play by the Jets, will end the negative connotation against "college" or "spread" offenses in the NFL. At the end of the day, football is football and the Jets look to be a few playmakers away from boasting a legitimately explosive offense. If John Morton can orchestrate a functional offense with Josh McCown at the helm, imagine what he'll be able to do with some added juice next season.

Posted by: Charles McDonald on 09 Nov 2017

5 comments, Last at 10 Nov 2017, 10:46am by dcl0

Comments

1
by Raiderfan :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 7:02pm

Great article. GIFs really show what you are talking about. And to think the Jets are doing this. I guess coaching matters.

4
by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 1:11am

sooner or later, jets wer enot gonna be crappy anymore. did say inn2015, Raiders, Jguars and Jets on rise and may be new king s of AFC now that Broncois, Clots, Ravens going itno toilet bowl. steelers and Pates sitll goopd. AFC for very logn time was mostly about five teams (pates, Ravens. cotls, Steelers, Broncs) with a random team popping up her eor there for a look like a whack-a-mole.

5
by dcl0 :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 10:46am

I agree about the diagrams before the videos. Makes it much easier to follow the description of the play and correlate with the live action.

2
by Catch22er :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 7:58pm

Great stuff. These are exactly the type of articles I want to read here. Keep up the good work.

Could you write an article on pattern matching? I've heard it mentioned often, and I've seen some of Saban's playbooks, but something in between those two extremes would be nice.

3
by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 10:16pm

No open game discussion for week 10?