Film Review: Good McCown – Week 1 (Bills)
The Jets suffered a loss to the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday, and the entire team looked inept. The offense was stagnant, consistently refusing to take chances, while trying to gain yards in small increments. Unfortunately, when the Jets did take chances, disaster struck more often than not. This is Josh McCown’s debut with the Jets, and it went about as expected, with a loss at the end. There are more “Good McCown” plays than “McFrown” plays (the article will be posted in the afternoon today), but please don’t mistake it for an argument supporting good QB play. Decent amount of plays are conservative decisions, and taking safe routes that didn’t lead anywhere. It helps the stats look better, but the Jets’ passing game was mediocre at best. The sooner Bryce Petty get healthy to start games, the better for the Jets. Let’s look at the “good” plays:
The very first pass of the season, and it’s a good and safe pass. The read on this play is the slot defender, so if the defender rushes towards the edge to cut off Robby Anderson, then the pass goes to Matt Forte. Since the defender didn’t immediately rush towards the edge, this is a safe pass. Anderson shows good route running ability and makes the catch. It’s also a testament to the respect that defenses have for his speed to have the defensive back play as far back as he’s playing. This is a safe pitch and catch throw with a simple read. Jermaine Kearse is open to the right of the formation, but it’s a late corner blitz, so McCown can’t be blamed for looking in the other direction with his first read.
A borderline play that ends up in the “good” section because of a positive result. It’s a short pass to Jermaine Kearse, and he makes a good catch. Unfortunately, there are a few things to note on this play. First, notice the defensive line alignment, with four wide linemen. You will see this a lot, until the running game improves, or the QB learns to run. Second, Matt Forte is lineup up on the outside to the right of the formation. Why is he out there? The defensive back shows no respect for his speed, as you can clearly see him shuffling his feet consistently to drive on any comeback or in route from Forte. The running back just isn’t fast enough anymore to have an effective go route, and the defense doesn’t respect it at all. You will see this a few times throughout this game, and it doesn’t benefit the Jets in any of those situations. Third, this is a Fitzpatrick level stare down from McCown to Kearse, as he’s just following him for the entire route. It ends in a good result with a good throw and catch, but everything else about this play was wrong.
A genuinely good play for the Jets and Eric Tomlinson. The Bills completely forget to cover Tomlinson (understandable, since he’s considered more of a blocker) and the Jets take advantage. The throw is a bit late as McCown resets his feet, but it’s a good throw to the TE. The play action works as expected as well in pulling the linebackers towards the line of scrimmage.
Screen plays don’t require much work from the QB, but on this play, McCown sells the fake well. The Jets have a misdirection screen set up, with the play designed to initially look like a screen going to the right of the formation. Notice the fake by McCown, and the reaction of the linebackers in the middle, slanting towards the right side. The QB turns around and makes a good screen pass to Forte, who is brought down by a good tackle by the defender. This is a good set up and execution by the offense.
A very good throw by McCown, although once again he’s staring down Kearse the whole way. It’s a 3rd and 12 play, so the Bills were looking to stop the longer passes, and allow the short pass. Notice ArDarius Stewart to the left of the formation get a large cushion to entice a short pass that would not reach the first down marker. Kearse runs a good route and McCown makes a good throw. Also note the wide four stance by the defensive line because this is almost a standard practice against the Jets now.
A safe pass, and good catch, nothing special. This play is only in the good section because of a positive result. However, the play wasn’t skipped for it’s insignificance because it allows to illustrate how the Bills play defense on a 3rd and long play. First of all, notice the four wide lineman once again. So why do teams do this? It forces the offensive line to circle the QB, taking away movements to the outside. The QB can step up in the pocket but can’t buy time horizontally. It’s also a numbers game as well. The two linebackers faking blitz occupy the attention of the linemen, therefore the four defensive linemen face one on one match ups until the center decides to help out if he can. This allows the defense to have an extra defender dropping back into coverage, but still assuring that the defensive line gets one on one match ups and having horizontal containment. The best way to defend this sort of defense is to have a good running game, a mobile QB, or a quick screen game with a fast running back. The Jets don’t have any of these, therefore it’s effective. The linebackers drop into coverage to take anything away in the middle, while the defensive backs play with outside leverage to take anything away on the sidelines. The only other way is to attack the defense deep, and attempting to get your play makers to make a play. The Jets went conservative here. However, this type of defense is extremely hard for the Jets to over come until they can get a deep passing or good running game going. Next week against the Raiders, if Khalil Mack gets these one on one match ups, the Jets are going to give up considerable sacks (which might be important to folks playing with IDP in fantasy).
It’s 3rd and 6 on this play, so the defense plays a bit more aggressively, which allows more space in the middle for this pass to be completed. It’s a nice throw and catch to Kearse. The main thing to notice here is the route set up by Kerase, because the Seahawks are excellent at teaching their receivers fundamentals. The defensive back has outside leverage on this play, thus he wants the receiver to run an inside route, where he has help. Notice how Kerase makes a step to the outside, which moves the feet of the defender. This slight move opened the window for the pass to happen. Too many times you will see young receivers try to stutter step off the line, which doesn’t put vertical pressure on the defender as much. The quick step to the outside forced the defender in this case to move his feet, creating separation to the inside, even though that’s exactly where the defender wanted him to go.
The Jets go safe on this play as well, as McCown stares down Bilal Powell and takes the easy completion. Nothing spectacular about that aspect of this play. However, a couple of things to note. One, Matt Forte is once again on the outside to the right of the formation, and once again doesn’t have any shot at getting separation. The defender isn’t worried about Forte beating him deep, as he’s set to drive on any short pass. How is this beneficial to the Jets? Why is he running go routes that have no effects on the defense? The second thing to note is Chad Hansen on this play, as he’s running a crossing route. McCown has time in the pocket, and if he waits, Hansen is going to run free across the middle towards the sideline. The safety is running towards the middle and the outside defender is covering the go route to the left of the formation. Hansen will be wide open if McCown steps up in the pocket or throws the ball with some anticipation.
This is a safe play for 3rd and 1, and they convert the first down. You can’t blame McCown for getting the first down here and taking the safe play. There is a decent chance for ArDarius Stewart down the field, but with only one yard needed for a first down, McCown makes the right decision. The only other thing to notice on this play is Chad Hansen on the outside to the left of the formation. Notice how he shuffles his feet instead of making a step to the outside, similar to Jermaine Kearse? The shuffle doesn’t allow him any separation, and he’s blanketed on this play. It doesn’t matter on this play since McCown is under pressure and would not have been able to make a cross field throw, but it shows some of Hansen’s weakness. Young receivers have to learn to turn the hips or legs of defenders to create separation, instead of just shuffling their own feet.
Quite possibly the best throw by McCown in this game, on this 2nd and 2 play. He steps into the throw and makes a great pass to Robby Anderson.
Another nice throw from McCown to Kearse. While Kerase does the shuffle, notice him move his feet to the outside of the defender, which leaves the inside route open. Kearse essentially created a passing lane with one false step, and McCown found him for the pass. Another thing of note, there is Bilal Powell on the outside running a go route, and doesn’t get respect from the defense.
A good throw from McCown to Kearse once again, and he shows quick feet in stopping and turning around for the ball. There isn’t anything special with this play, it’s here because it coverts a first down. Another thing of note, Matt Forte once again running a go route without any success.
A few things to note on this play. One, it’s a nice throw by McCown and a good catch by Tye. The Bills aren’t expecting the Jets to be aggressive, therefore the safety comes too far down, opening up the deep slant route for Tye. McCown does a good job of placing the ball in a position for Tye to catch the ball. Two, once again notice the instant separation from Kearse with his feet. The Jets don’t have technically sound receivers, but if the Jets get anything out of the Sheldon Richardson trade, it should be having Kearse impart wisdom on the young receivers on creating separation off the line of scrimmage. The last thing to note is the speed of ArDarius Stewart on the outside, to the right of the formation. He eliminates the gap between him and the defender, and makes a nice move to run right past him. While the play doesn’t go towards him, the route running and speed are reminiscent of Robby Anderson from last year when he was ignored by Fitzpatrick, at least on this play.
The Jets are running a pick play with this pass, and it almost ends with a TD. Jermaine Kearse runs a pick play (He is somewhat criticized in Seattle for failing to properly run a pick route on the infamous Malcolm Butler interception in the Super Bowl) to free up ArDarius Stewart. McCown is a bit late with the pass, but Stewart catches the ball and makes a dive for the end zone. It’s ruled a touchdown at first, but later reversed.
Another quick, and safe pass to Kearse. Notice the defender on Stewart following McCown the entire time as he’s running down the field. The Bills know McCown will take the safe pass here and he’s not worried about Stewart beating him deep. With Fitzpatrick, defenses bet against his arm beating them deep. With McCown, defenses are betting against his mind beating them deep, showing a propensity to take short and easy passes.
Befuddling play choice here by the Jets. The Bills are allowing short yards to prevent the first down on 3rd and 20, and the Jets take a screen pass to make the distance shorter. In most instances, the offense takes the short yards here to have a more manageable 4th down. If the offense wasn’t going to go for it on fourth down, then why not take a shot deep with this pass. Both Hansen and Anderson (and probably Stewart) are running go routes, so why not take a deep shot? Does the 8 yards matter as much in punting, when you have to stop them within one series of downs as the best case scenario of defense? McCown is facing pressure on this play, but he needs to step up in the pocket and take a deep shot. If Todd Bowles didn’t plan on going for it on 4th down, then the third down play should at least reflect an attempt to convert the first down, rather than playing it safe. The Bills had 23 first downs in the game. Last year, only two offenses outdid that number on a per game basis (Saints and Falcons) with the Cardinals matching it. Even the Patriots with their high powered offenses didn’t match the number on a per game basis. Therefore the Jets put their game at the hands of a defense that was giving up first downs as if it was facing a top 3 offense, in hopes they don’t give up one more. The Bills of course got another first down, which effectively ended the game.
While McCown didn’t have a horrible game, the game plan and execution was overly conservative. McCown repeatedly took safe options, which meant the Jets weren’t driving down the field. He does make some throws, but overall looks like a back up caliber QB. The Jets are in tank mode, therefore he should suit their purposes for draft position. Jermaine Kearse impressed with his ability to get off the line of scrimmage, and both Chad Hansen and especially ArDarius Stewart showed glimmers of hope.
A) How would you compare Fitzpatrick to McCown?
B) What is your impression of Kearse/Stewart/Hansen?
Also, do people want the down and distance attached to the gif? It takes a bit of extra time to add them and make sure they correlate to each play. I’m trying to cut down on the time it takes to write these, so is it imperative? I excluded them from this article to see if people rely upon it. Please check back in later this afternoon for the “McFrown” article with bad plays.
NY Jets Phase 3 OTAs, Expectations and a Minor Calf Tweak with Greg Renoff