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Zach Wilson doesn’t think the Jets offense has to change much to jump start their snail like start.
“I don’t think we have to do anything different,” Wilson said of his unit’s struggle the first five games of the season. “I think we got to get in a rhythm. I think one thing is we just haven’t had many plays. And I think that’s kind of been dawning on us a little bit.”
The Jets offense has got off to a slow roll to start the season, especially in the first quarter. Gang Green has amassed a total of 79 yards in the opening quarter with zero points. As stinky as that is, Wilson knows what they have to do to get better.
“I think one thing is we just got to keep focusing on execution,” he said.
The Jets have a tough task to get their offense, which has averaged only 13.4 points, going against a good Patriots defense that’s holding teams to 21 points, ninth best in the NFL.
When the Jets and Patriots faced off in Week 2 they held the Jets to six points while forcing Wilson to throw four interceptions.
But Wilson isn’t thinking about that nightmare performance and is “super excited” for another crack at the Patriots.
Here are three ways the Jets offense can get on track against the Patriots defense this time around.
FEED CD AND USE HIM AS A DECOY
Corey Davis is Wilson’s number one receiver and the Patriots know this. Plenty of focus was placed on Davis in their Week 2 matchup which limited him to eight yards on two catches.
Davis said he is “real eager” to make up for that disappointing performance, which fell short of his standards as a No. 1 receiver.
Wilson should still feed him, but he should make sure it’s outside the numbers. Wilson has targeted Davis on the outside 18 times and the production has been good — 11 catches for 173 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. And his passer rating when targeting Davis on the outside is 109.5, according to Next Gen Stats.
Wilson’s connection over the middle with Davis hasn’t been as good. His passer rating is 34 with three interceptions. That’s due to drops from Davis, inaccurate throws from Wilson, and defenses have made the windows tight by flooding the middle with coverage because they know that’s Wilson’s favorite target.
Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur knows the Patriots will use Cover 1 Robber and acknowledged the dilemma that it presents.
“They’re gonna have a lot of pluggers on the inside right there,” LaFleur said. “They know that, and that somewhat forces you to hold on to the ball a little bit longer.”
This doesn’t mean never target Davis over the middle, but the Jets should game plan for when the Patriots inevitably go man coverage and plug the middle, by using Davis as a decoy.
Davis will draw multiple defenders, which will create space for other receivers like Elijah Moore, Keelan Cole, Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims.
For example, on Wilson’ first interception against the Patriots, he threw to Davis, who was running a curl route over the middle of the field. Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson played underneath it because he knew safety Devin McCourty was over the top. Jackson could sit on any short route, so when Davis broke down, Jackson was right there. When the pass arrived, Jackson tipped it up before it landed back in his hands.
But look at the 1-on-1 matchup with Moore and cornerback Jalen Mills. There’s plenty of space for Moore to work with on a dig route. A slant, dig or even a post route could work in that spot. Yes, the offensive line has to be better in that spot to buy Wilson time, but you see the vision.
CREATE SPACE FOR THE PLAYMAKERS
As much as beating man coverage is about winning your 1-on-1 matchups, it’s still the responsibility of the offensive coordinator to create advantageous situations to aid his weapons.
“We got to put them in positions to be beat man coverage,” LaFleur said. “It’s really as simple as that.”
The Jets should take a page out of the Cowboys’ playbook for that. In Dallas’ game against the Patriots on Sunday for example, in the first quarter on 2nd and 11, the Cowboys called a flood concept. Dak Prescott ran a play action while Ceedee Lamb ran a go route on the outside, and Amari Cooper ran a 10-yard out route from the slot, and Ezekiel Elliott ran a flat route after executing the play fake.
Since Lamb ran a go route, it took Jackson out of the picture and with Elliott running a flat route, it occupied linebacker Kyle Van Noy. This created a more than enough space for Cooper to run his out route.
The Jets could run something similar for Moore, Crowder or even Braxton Berrios. It’s an easy read for Wilson, but would require his weapons to win.
The Jets did show signs of that against the Patriots in Week 2 on Moore’s 27 yard reception. They ran a pair of pick routes in a trips formation with a wheel from the former Ole Miss star to shake him free. So they’ll have to dig in the tool box to create space favorable situations against the Patriots defense.
REPLICATE THE RUNNING SUCCESS
In Week 2 the Jets were outstanding in the ground game with 152 total yards rushing. That’s what the Jets want the staple of the offense to be. It takes pressure off of Wilson and allows him to effectively run play action.
Play action is harder to run when the run game isn’t a threat. So for certain plays that create space off of play action to work, there needs to be the threat of the run game.
The Patriots run defense isn’t good either. They’re allowing 117 yards per game, but have four games this year in which they allowed 120 or more.
That should give the Jets confidence they can replicate the production from Week 2.