The Jets roared to a victory in Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns, and newcomer Ryan Fitzpatrick guided them to 31 points, a feat they accomplished once all of last year. While Fitzpatrick is not the savior, he can be a steady hand at QB, and the weapons around him are some of the best Jets’ fans have seen in years. The much lamented passing game of the Jets showed some life this week, and there were numerous reasons for it. Let’s take a look at some of the game film from Week 1 to dissect the play of Fitzpatrick as well as the passing game:
The Good Magic
This is an excellent play call and execution here on numerous fronts. First and foremost, this is a great blitz pickup by Bilal Powell, as he slides over from the left side to the right and takes out the blitzing LB. Sans the blitz pickup, there is a good chance the LB gets to Fitzpatrick before he can make a throw. Given the extra time, Fitzpatrick steps up in the pocket, and throws a dart to Decker as he’s breaking in, and is perfectly placed. This play also highlights the benefits of having 4 or more WRs out on the field, as Quincy Enunwa holds the safety with a deep post route, preventing the Brown’s play maker from jumping down into Decker. If this was a 3 WR set with a slower TE running out of the formation, the LB would’ve been better equipped the handle the receiver, and the free roaming safety would’ve been able to try and make a play on the ball earlier. Overall, this is an excellent set up by the coaching staff, and excellent execution.
The Jets started off the game somewhat conservatively, but decided to open up the deep passing game in the second quarter. This was the second of three consecutive deep passes, and one of the best completions of the game. In this instance, the Browns are only rushing 4, and drop everyone else into coverage. With Bilal Powell staying home for blitz protection, this is a bad matchup for the Jets in theory, but the design of this play is impeccable. Fitzpatrick is reading from his left to right, with Marshall on his left side. On first read, Marshall is covered well on the outside by the CB, a LB has dropped into the inside zone, and the free safety is shading towards him as well. So there are three Browns dedicated to limiting Marshall here, which negates the personnell advantage they gained by having the Jets keep an extra blitz protector. This is probably one of the biggest advantages of having a No. 1 WR even when it doesn’t show up in the box score. The rest of the receivers are under man coverage, with a lingering LB in the middle, but everyone avoids running into the middle. The second aspect of this play call is the options provided in read. Fitzpatrick’s second read is the safety that is shading towards Marshall. If the safety is slanted towards Marshall, then he has one on one matchup with Owusu and he can take a shot. However, if the safety is moving towards Owusu, then there are two out routes underneath which were both open as safety valves that opened up in time of his third read. Chris Owusu gets inside leverage on star CB Joe Haden, and gains a step on him down the field, and Fitzpatrick places a throw perfectly into his hands. The pass is also placed over the head of Owusu, preventing the CB from trying to jump the route. This is another example of great play calling mixed with excellent execution.
These are somewhat simple plays, but highlight a couple of things about Brandon Marshall that stand out. The first play is a simple roll out from Fitzpatrick, and he has two defenders on that side to deal with. There is one on one coverage with Marshall, and a safety creeping in. However, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey designed a TE roll out from the other side of the formation to lure in the safety, and Marshall makes a great cut. The read is simple, if the safety stays atop and plays Marshall, the Jets have a free 6 yard pass to the TE. If the safety runs up to the TE, then take advantage of the one on one matchup. The part of the play that is foreign to the Jets in recent years is that Marshall comes back to the ball, high points it, rather than waiting back, and risk having Haden knock it out as he tries to catch it. It’s a simple thing, but it helps out the QB immensely, rather than waiting back for the ball like so many ghosts of years past. The second play is actually an excellent defense by the Browns. They have man coverage, with a safety over the top, and they actually cover everyone on this play. There is no one that is really open on this play, and they have a blitzer coming right at Fitzpatrick with a free shot. The main read appears to be Decker in the middle, but the LB is there step for step with him, almost baiting a throw as he tries to gain inside leverage, with a safety over the top. Fitzpatrick improvises with a throw that is essentially out of bounds, one of those vaunted “only my man can catch it throws” that we often hear about in other team’s broadcasts, and Marshall makes a great play on the ball. For years, the Jets have lacked fundamentals when it comes to catching the ball, but Marshall shows a great example of how to catch a ball that is going out of bounds. Brandon is dragging his feet when the ball is a good 3 yards away, instead of catching the ball first and then hoping to land inbounds. In most years, this is a ball that falls incomplete for sure as we see the WR land with one foot on the chalk.
This play is just a good throw by Fitzpatrick, as he reads from the left for Owusu on a go route, and then settles on Decker as the next read. The play design is fairly simple, as the only other option seems to be a cutting Enunwa, but in a zone defense that would’ve been a tough throw. The Browns make a mistake when the CB assumes he has help on the inside, thus hesitates when Decker cuts inside, and Fitzpatrick burns them for a TD. The throw is placed extremely well, towards the back of the end zone.
This fade is probably the best fade pass thrown by the Jets since Santonio Holmes’ catch in the playoffs against the Patriots. On this play, Joe Haden has perfect coverage, forcing a perfect throw and catch as the only viable option, and it was executed to perfection. Notice the subtle step inside by Marshall creating space between him and Haden, preventing Haden from being aggressive on the throw. Fitzpatrick also throws this pass to Marshall’s back shoulder, which alleviates some of the risk on this play. After the inside move by Marshall, Haden is in recovery mode, and his body is rotating to his left when the ball is in the air. For Haden to make a play on the ball, he either has to do a complete 360 degree turn to his left, or stop his momentum, turn back the other way before the ball arrives. In this case, that does not play a big part because the distance between them, and the location of the ball made that aspect mute. However, the secondary aspect of them taking advantage of his positioning is very interesting, and one of the subtle fundamentals that seem improved from years past. The throw is intentionally high, and Marshall uses his size and leaping ability to rip it out of the air for the TD.
Not everything went right for the Jets on offense in Week 1, and there were some instances where the limitations of Fitzpatrick showed up. The first such instance was this deep pass overthrow to Eric Decker down the sideline. Decker is facing man coverage with no safety in sight, gets a step on his man, and in NFL terms is open for the pass. The pass protection was decent, and Fitzpatrick steps to the side in the pocket to make the throw, but sails it over the intended receiver. The read progression on this throw is fine, as Marshall is in tight coverage, with safety help over the top, so both receivers to Fitzpatrick’s left are in single coverage. The underneath route to the TE is open in this instance as well, so going deep and overthrowing the pass is a missed opportunity in this case.
The pass is a 2011-2014 Jets QB throw. This was the third of three straight passes down the field, and the Browns were waiting for it. Browns safety Gibson baits Fitzpatrick to make the throw, and he places the ball well short of Marshall. This is where his lack of arm strength comes into play, and allows the safety to get back in the play, because Fitzpatrick can’t zip the pass from the far hash mark across the field without some loft on the ball. In theory, this ball needs to be placed about 4 yards further down the field where Marshall makes his cut or be thrown earlier so the safety can’t get back towards it. The progression read on the play is fine, Marshall has one on one coverage and beats his man with the late out route, but this interception is all on the QB’s arm. Marshall ofcourse makes a great play in grabbing the football from Gibson to save the day.
This was a disastrous play waiting to happen, that thankfully fell incomplete. This is the type of interception we’ve seen from Geno Smith over the last couple of years, where the undercutting LB jumps the route and runs the other way. The play is a disaster in all the forms, because the Browns have great coverage on the receivers, and no one is running open. However, the urgency in which Fitzpatrick throws the ball is baffling. The right side of the line has walled off the Browns, and the lone LB coming to his face is being taken on by the RB. He had more time than his internal clock told, and almost makes a grave mistake. This is quite possibly the worst throw by Fitzpatrick in the game, as it’s an easy pick 6 if the LB can hold onto the ball.
The play was a good call by offensive coordinator Gailey, and is a great read by Fitzpatrick. All the other WRs are well covered as the Browns only rushed three, and dropped everyone back into coverage near the red zone. If Fitzpatrick lobs the ball towards the end zone, this is an easy touchdown, but he tries to throw it on a line, and it gets tipped by draftnik favorite Barkevious Mingo near the end zone. The lack of arch on the ball is puzzling because there is no pressure around Fitzpatrick when the pass is thrown. This play also highlights the effects of having a QB that is mobile change the defensive play calling. Fitzpatrick has 4 lineman in front of him with only one Brown lineman staying in front of him. This is a play on 3rd and 5 where Geno Smith could have walked for the first down, but it also means that the Browns would’ve held back more people in the middle to prevent a run.
Overall, it was a good game offensively for the Jets with Fitzpatrick making some very good plays and some plays where he was lucky to get the ball back. I doubt any Jets fan thinks of Fitzpatrick as a savior, and most are resigned to the fact that he is a game manager that could have good games if a few things break right (as it did on Sunday) or a bad game if a few things break wrong. The debut was certainly a success, but not without some faults and concerns about arm strength. The biggest factor in the passing game has been the dominance and fundamental skills of Marshall just overpowering a very good CB in Haden and helping alleviate the impact of some mistakes.