While Josh McCown took the safe route for most of the game against the Bills, there were many instances where his errors cost his team. He was far from perfect, so let us examine some of the mistakes.
This is a 3rd and 6 play, where McCown has a completion, but it is off-target. The Jets have Stewart go in motion, with his defender following him, thus showing man coverage. Instead of stepping up in the pocket, McCown throws this pass from his back foot and it is off target. Stewart makes a good catch, but since his momentum is slowed down by having to reach back for the ball, he’s tackled immediately. If McCown steps up in the pocket, he’s going to have a wide open Matt Forte running down the middle of the field. Remember the break down from the first article this morning about how teams play the 4 wide defensive linemen against the Jets? The Bills did it again on this play, containing horizontal movement, and McCown played into their hands by making this pass without stepping up in the pocket. If the pass is on target, at least there is a chance for Stewart to attempt getting the first down. Horrible decision making and horrible throw on this play.
The Jets have essentially five receivers on this play, if you count the TE. Four of them are open at some point or another, yet McCown throws this ball away. He has Robby Anderson in the middle open for a first down, as well as ArDarius Stewart. He has a receiver open running the go route to the right side of the formation (Hard to tell which player) and another receiver running a quick out route open as well. Instead, McCown shows indecisiveness, and throws the ball away to secure a long field goal attempt. This is the epitome of game managerial football, where the QB refuses to take any shots once inside field goal range. Although McCown hasn’t shown much success in taking chances in the past, playing conservative doesn’t help the Jets score points (which may or may not be a good thing in the long run).
This screen pass is sponsored by the Christian Hackenberg school of accuracy. Instead of placing the ball on the outside shoulder of the receiver, McCown throws the ball to the inside, which forces the receiver to reach back and drop the ball. The Jets had set up a good screen as well with downfield blocking, so a significant gain is thwarted with this errant pass. It’s not a horrible pass, but the positioning of the ball ruins this play. McCown doesn’t throw down the field well, so he has to be accurate in these short throws to survive being a starter, and he fails on that end here.
This might be one of the biggest issues from lack of playing time in the pre-season, which has caused a lack of timing with his receivers. On this play, Stewart is open for a quick pass, but McCown wisely chooses to stay away because it’s 3rd and 9. However, McCown makes a horrible read by locking in on Jermaine Kearse from the start of this play, which causes him to miss Stewart bringing the safety from the middle over. McCown is staring down Kearse, misses the safety, and almost has the pass intercepted. Kearse is open on the play, but the timing of this play is off with McCown. Either, he has to pass the ball early when the safety won’t be in reach of the ball, or he has to make the next read in his progression, which would be a pass to either Stewart or Anderson. Another horrible read by McCown, and this pass could have easily been intercepted.
Do the Jets have a penchant of signing QBs that can’t go through progressions? Once again, McCown is staring at Anderson from the start of this play. It’s one of the few times he decided to take a risk, and it almost backfired. The main issue with this pass is the placement of the ball, which is to the inside, when it should be to the outside shoulder of the receiver. The corner back has help on the inside with a deep safety and linebackers underneath, hence why his back is turned to the sideline, so he can contain the receiver inside. Notice the route of Anderson, as he slants inside and then turns up field on a go route. The whole point of the slant inside is to get the defensive back to move inside with him, and then beat him to the outside before he can react. Unfortunately, Anderson makes his move too early (by design or by mistake) because the corner back has no reason to bite as hard with linebacker help underneath. If Anderson had reduced the distance a bit more between the defender and himself, the separation would have happened on the double move. The second aspect of the move is to get on the outside of the defender, away from the single high safety in the middle. Anderson accomplishes this aspect of the route (albeit with no separation) yet McCown makes a horrible throw to the inside, which again could have been intercepted.
Another play, another stare down of Kearse. This is quickly approaching Fitzpatrick-Marshall level of intimacy. McCown is staring down Kearse on this play, and the Bills have him played perfectly. While in the midst of looking at Kearse, McCown misses a cutting Anderson, who may have had room to turn up the field. Once, McCown realizes that Kearse is covered, he moves up in the pocket and misses a wide open ArDarius Stewart to make a safe pass to Robby Anderson, who is promptly tackled before he gets close to the first down marker.
This is the two point conversion failure. The mistake made here isn’t as egregious as the others since the Bills had this play defended well. The issue here is the decision making with the positioning of this pass. Bilal Powell seems to be the primary target on this play, but he’s well covered. McCown realizes that he can’t make the pass to Powell, and thus passes it to Anderson. However, the positioning of the throw is absolutely horrible. When McCown moves on from Powell, Anderson has a defender right behind him with open space towards the sideline and no one in front of him. There are defenders running across the field since the whole play is slanted towards the right side of the formation. So why would McCown throw the ball behind Anderson? If he lobs the ball towards the sideline, Anderson has space to run after it, and while the defender is right behind him, at least there is no one directly in the path. Instead, McCown forces the ball back inside, where it’s promptly intercepted by a defender and the conversion fails. This is just a baffling throw, where it took a low percentage option out of the picture for a zero percentage option.
This play doesn’t count since there was a penalty on the Jets (albeit it was declined), but it again shows the lack of awareness. It’s 3rd and 3 play, and the Bills are showing single high safety. The defender on the outside receiver to the right side of the formation backs off, which should indicate that the short pass has a good chance to be completed. Instead, McCown locks in on Stewart with this play, and makes an errant throw. It’s probably a good thing the throw was to the outside of Stewart, because there was a defender waiting to pick off the ball to the inside. In his haste to make the throw, McCown misses a wide open tight end running down the field as well on the other side.
This is just a bad throw by McCown, and Anderson doesn’t help him out with a nice catch. The Bills have outside leverage on Anderson, and the safety to the inside is preoccupied with the tight end. Anderson gets a free release and is wide open for a pass. This is the type of pass a QB has to hit the receiver in stride so he can run with momentum in the open field. However, McCown throws this ball behind Anderson, who slows down to reach back and low for the ball, but can’t come up with the catch. This is an absolutely horrible throw, in a situation that should have gained a huge chunk of yards for the offense.
This is an interception thrown by McCown, but not all of the fault can be attributed to him. This is first and foremost, a horrible play by the offensive line. Remember the 4 wide defensive outlook the Bills have been showing all game? They showed the same look but the offensive line didn’t block two of those guys. In essence, five offensive lineman blocked two defenders on this play. Bryce Petty probably felt some phantom back pain while reviewing film on this play. With two free rushers coming towards McCown, this is a doomed play from the start. Robby Anderson is running open on this play, but McCown can’t put much behind the throw while taking the hit. It lands here in the bad passes article because of the negative outcome, but this play is ruined by the bad offensive line play.
This is the play preceding the 3rd and 20 screen pass to Forte. McCown has an opportunity to gain some yards back on a pass to ArDarius Stewart on this play, but he misses him completely. There is no excuse for this throw, it’s just a bad pass. The play is set up to get some easy yards with Anderson involved in the slot. Robby Anderson is running against the slot defender, right as Stewart is making his cut. If the slot defender stays with Anderson, then the defensive back on Stewart would stick to his receiver. This would create a mismatch between Anderson and the slot defender now trailing him. If the slot defender hands off Anderson to the outside defensive back (who also has safety help over the top) then Anderson running his route creates a natural pick, allowing enough time for the pass to be completed to Stewart. Unfortunately, McCown just flat out misses the throw.
The final interception, and once again McCown is staring down Jermaine Kearse. Similar to the last interception, this one also can be blamed on the offensive line. The Bills once again show 4 wide alignment, but pull a stunt, which absolutely confuses the offensive line. The defensive end goes around and attacks the A gap, instead of the C gap. The defensive tackle on the other side attacks the C gap instead of the A gap. In both instances, the offensive line absolutely loses them and doesn’t switch assignments. It’s one of the downsides of an inexperienced group playing together, and they just did not communicate well. It also speaks to a lack of quality coaching, because the Jets faced the same issue over and over again last year. The interception is bad, although at this point, you can’t blame McCown for just throwing up the ball since the game was all but over.
A horrible game for the Jets and Josh McCown. Aside from taking few risks, he failed to convert on the chances he was given. Legitimately, there could have been four interceptions in this game (Five if you count the intercepted two point conversion). McCown doesn’t throw the ball downfield very well and so far has indicated a penchant for locking into receivers. The offensive line also needs to be coached up because they struggle mightily against stunts. The stats may not indicate so, because teams are rushing four wide lineman and dropping people into coverage to suffocate the passing game. but the offensive line is a major problem for the team. It lacks the ability to adjust to blitzes, and doesn’t seem to be improving at any rate. The coaching is definitely a concern, and Josh McCown, barring a miraculous turn around isn’t long to be the starter.
A: It’s an egg or chicken conundrum: Has the lack of high picks or the lack of good coaching caused offensive line issues?
B: Besides former Jets QBs, who is your best comparison for McCown?
There will be a short “Team mistakes” article the next day.