Passing Game Film Review – Good McCown – Week 3 (Dolphins)
We’re back with another weekly breakdown of the passing game, and this one comes after a rare win for the Jets. Josh McCown looked much better, and the offensive system looks improved as well. Let’s see the good plays from this past game:
This play is a good example of how play action, and a running game, helps the passing game. Notice the linebacker in the middle on the play, and how hard he bites on the play action. The corner back playing Anderson is taking outside leverage, which means he wants to filter Anderson towards the middle, and the line backer is tasked with taking the underneath route away, while the deep safety takes away the deep middle part of the field. The read on this play is simple, it’s the linebacker that bites on the play action. If the defender stays home, then it’s a longer developing play and you wait to see who the deep safety picks up, Anderson or Charone Peake from the slot. While Peake just got placed on injured reserve, you will see some of his route limitations here, because he telegraphs his route to the corner back. The defender is giving up inside leverage on this play, because that’s where he has help over the top with the safety, and linebackers designed to drop back. However, Peake gives away his route early because he turns inside, which allows the defender to turn his hips and move with him stride for stride. A better route would have been to attack the corner back vertically by going directly at him, which causes him to stay defensive since he can’t predict an inside or outside route, and then turning inside, which allows more time to create separation. In that scenario, you are even with the defender when he’s turning his hips, while you are still running vertically, which allows for natural separation. Overall, a very good route by Anderson and, good recognition and throw by McCown.
The Dolphins employ an unusual blitz in this scenario, where they bring a slot corner and safety from the same spot, which more than likely is a mis-communication, especially considering the distance between the QB and the defenders. In most instances, on a corner or safety blitz, the defender nearby would pick up the receiver to avoid a quick throw. For example, if the slot corner is rightfully blitzing on this play, the safety assumes the role of the slot corner. In this instance, the defense is in complete disarray as they leave one person wide open, which happens to be Robby Anderson. If this play develops longer, the outside receiver Jermaine Kearse is going to run by the safety to be open down field, while Anderson will be open underneath him as well. The actual play doesn’t deal with any of them, because the primary read on this play is Austin-Seferian Jenkins. McCown is reading the middle linebacker on this play again, with crossing tight end routes. Whomever is picked up by the middle linebacker is eliminated, and the pass goes to the other tight end. McCown picks correctly and they get a sizable gain from this pass. It’s refreshing to see the Jets utilize the tight ends more in this offense because it gives the defense another dimension to worry about when planning their course of action.
Staying with the middle linebacker reads, Josh McCown hits Kearse this time for a good chunk of yards. The read here is again the middle linebacker. If the linebacker sways towards Kearse, then Jenkins is cutting underneath for the open pass and room to run. If the linebacker stays in the middle, then Kearse is open for the easy pass, and McCown executes it well. As mentioned in the previous clip, the addition of frequent tight end routes limit the reaction time of linebackers because they have to account for tight ends running routes, unlike last year. Notice the route of Kerase here, and compare it to the route of Peake from the first clip. Kerase runs straight even though his defender is giving inside leverage, which causes the defender to pause, allowing for separation. There is a larger gap because the defender seems to be hesitant to follow Kearse to the middle, but it’s a good example of route running. He didn’t give away his route early, which limited the reaction time of the defender and helped him create separation. It’s a shame that Peake got hurt, because he could have learned a lot about route running from Kearse.
This play doesn’t count since Kearse got called for a penalty, but it needs to be a staple in the play book because numerous teams take advantage of it, especially the Patriots. It’s essentially a pick play, similar to a setting a screen in basketball where one offensive player blocks the path of the defender playing another offensive player. It’s illegal to set a screen, but the rules are lax if you can make it seem like you are trying to run around, and just happened to be in the way of the defender. Ironically, Kearse was blamed heavily for not setting an effective screen on the infamous interception at the goal line in the Super Bowl. We also saw a similar play in the college football national championship game last year, where the University of Clemson won in the last minute. It’s a nice throw by McCown, and good catch but it’s all for naught. Kearse goes out of his way to set the pick, thus it can’t be interpreted as part of his route, and he rightfully gets called for the penalty. This play is here because the Jets need to utilize this play more often, and it’s a good sign that they are incorporating it into their offensive plan.
ArDarius Stewart makes his presence known in this game with this wonderful catch. This is another feather in the cap for the offensive game plan, and comes on a 3rd and 13. The Jets are known to be conservative and this play is a big reason why they should take more chances down the field. First of all, look away from Stewart to the other side of the formation. The Jets have three receivers to the left side of the formation, but the defense has five defenders dedicated to the area. The Dolphins are in zone coverage, but it’s the deep route from the slot (looks like Kerley, hard to tell) that helps this play. The deep route keeps the single high safety planted in the middle. The second aspect of this pass is the running back out of the backfield, because he’s the one that occupies the underneath defender towards Stewart’s side. If the defender stays with Stewart, then throw to the running back in the open and hope he can make a guy miss in the open field. If the defender bites on the running back, a passing lane opens up for Stewart, and the opportunity for a first down. Josh McCown makes a great read on this play, but a mediocre throw. The ball is a bit ahead of Stewart, who make a diving catch to save the drive. Also notice the reactions of the defender because Stewart is running a straight route, as the defender can’t make up his mind if it’s an inside or out route. This hesitation causes the defender to slow down and speed up a couple of times during this route, and Stewart catches him at a critical point in the transition, which allows him more space when breaking down. It’s not an ideal route but better than the routes run by Peake, and shows a better knowledge of setting up defenders while in route.
There are offensive systems that focus on individual match-ups and then there are systems that help the QB make quick reads at various levels of the field. Most systems intermingle between the two to keep defenses honest. Therefore, on certain plays, it’s up to the receivers to win their match ups to be open on the play, while in certain situations, it depends on spacing. This one would fall under the latter. The play is designed to give McCown options while on the run, and it works perfectly here and you can see it unfold. While it’s a simple play, the set up on this is very complex. First of all, the play action leaning towards the left side of the formation, the biggest intent of this is to freeze the linebackers on the right side of the formation instead of driving backwards. The lack of movement from the defenders robs them of momentum, while the offensive players are running full speed, therefore it creates drastic differences in velocity between the offensive and defensive player. All the players involved in the play are then running towards the right side of the formation at varying times, which creates different levels for the QB to pick. If the linebackers drop too far, then there is the quick route to Jenkins available as the safe option. If the linebackers come up, there is Charone Peake cutting across the field at the intermediate option. If the linebackers slow down a bit, Kerley has the angle to the sideline. If the deep safety sees Peake open and goes towards him, there is an offensive player running deep behind him for a TD. The options vary and the defense picks it’s poison, rather than the offensive players winning individual battles. Josh McCown probably picked the second best option, as Peake seemed to be the safer throw with opportunity to run down the field. The pass to Kerley is a bit towards the sideline, and the receiver makes a good catch as he goes out of bounds.
This play occurs on 3rd and 22, and even the best offensive systems can’t draw up plays that are consistently successful in these situations. It’s actually a bad route by Kearse as he gives away his route and sticks to the inside defender, instead of gaining more separation first. The Dolphins decide to put the pressure on the Jets by having just a single high safety and leaving the middle of the field open for the pre-snap read. If Kearse does a better job of creating separation from the inside defender, he would have had an opportunity to run for yards after the catch. Nevertheless, this is a great throw by McCown, who puts it exactly where Kerase could catch the ball and gain 18 yards. It’s not enough for a first down, but made the field goal attempt much easier.
It’s likely you missed this touchdown live, because most two minute drills for the team involve kneel downs and check downs. The Jets decided to take some shots this time, and got rewarded with a touchdown. The breakdown on this play is fairly simple, read the deep safety who has two deep routes coming towards him from opposite sides of the field. Pick the side that appears to be safer. McCown does a good job of picking the right side, and then making a great throw. This is probably one of the best throws of McCown’s short stay with the Jets. Notice the route by Anderson, and the slight movement to the outside when he gets off the line. This small movement creates just a tad more separation with the defender because he has to take half a step to make sure Anderson is going to the inside. Afterwards, the receiver just turns on the afterburners and runs by the defender. Jenkins does his best Warriors impression by celebrating even before the catch is made.
Remember the play from earlier about tiers on a roll out? The Jets try this again, and the Dolphins are better prepared for it. The offense tries the same play fake to one side, roll out to the other with receivers running in tiers, but it’s defended better on this play. What makes the play for the Dolphins is the middle linebacker turning around to locate Robby Anderson and close the gap as soon as possible, limiting the choices for McCown. He does well to take the safe option to Jenkins, although if he had more time, there is an option open down the field for a come back route. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough time for that route to develop. This is one of the advantages of having tiered routes because it allows for built in hot reads (Jenkins), intermediate reads, and deep reads, depending on how much penetration is allowed by the offensive line.
Almost a TD on this simple play. Why is it here? This is a 3rd and 1 play with the Jets looking like they are going to run. Instead, they decide to pass, and almost get a TD out of the play. Remember the failed play by Kearse, where he got called for interference? Well guess who is back running a pick play in a crucial moment and succeeding. Kerase does a better job of hiding his intentions here, and even tries to get out of the way once the defender has slowed down. The whole point of the pick play here is to allow a clean catch, and just enough yards to get the first down. Since it’s a short yardage situation, most likely the defense is in a run stopping package, which means any outside passes will be defended one on one. Therefore, by running the pick, Kearse is impeding the momentum of the defender and ensuring a clean opportunity for a catch. There is also a nice block down the field that helps springs Lawrence Thomas down the field. Thomas was a former running back at Michigan State University, who converted to the defensive line in college, so it’s definitely a surprise to see him run down the field.
This is simply just a good throw by McCown where he put it in a place where only Kearse could catch the pass. It looks like there is sufficient evidence to call pass interference against either player, and Kearse does a good job of separating himself and catching the pass.
Back to reading middle linebackers for Josh McCown. This is a 3rd and 6 play and the Dolphins are confused once again, and leave multiple players open. The read here is the middle linebacker for the QB. If the linebacker runs towards Kerley, then Jenkins is open for the pass in the middle. If the defender stays in the middle, Kerley is open on the slant route, which is what McCown chooses. The third read seems to be Charone Peake, who is also wide open on the play. McCown makes a good choice to get the first down and the drive continues.
The Jets looked much better on offense in this game, than in the past two games. The offensive system seems to be generating more success, and the team isn’t as passive. Josh McCown took some shots down the field and got rewarded, which opened up the field for the Jets. The Dolphins did not have a good game plan for the Jets in this game, and their secondary play was suspect at best. Please check in tomorrow for out “McFrown” article to see the bad plays.
A) With Peake hurt, who do you think steps up? Hansen/Stewart?