Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter
After the conservative nature of their offensive approach during their Week 3 loss in Cleveland, the Jets were under pressure to take more downfield shots in Week 4. They did exactly that, but without any real success. Sam Darnold ended up with 17 completions on 34 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. His only interception was negated by a flag but he was sacked three times.
Let's look at some specific examples before we draw conclusions:
1st quarter, 2:21. Jets trailing 3-0. 3rd-and-6 at the Jets' 13
The Jets run an empty set as Isaiah Crowell motions out wide. Darnold throws a quick pass to Crowell in the flat but he's unable to get to the marker and the Jets are forced to punt.
At first glance, this looks like a play that was doomed to failure because there were three defenders over to that side and only two receivers out there to block them. However, reviewing the film shows that Brian Winters and Spencer Long were leaking out to block down. Clearly this was supposed to be a tunnel screen, but Darnold's pass was out in front of Crowell, leading him towards the sideline rather than back to the middle of the field. With better ball placement, perhaps that could have worked. Early in the game, and deep in their own territory, you perhaps can't be too critical of the Jets taking a low-risk approach to this third down. However, it doesn't say much about the Jets' confidence in Darnold if they don't trust him to throw past the sticks.
2nd quarter, 1:07. Jets trailing 13-0. 4th-and-1 at the Jaguars' 49
The Jets -- having already taken a deep shot that was just off Bilal Powell's fingertips on 3rd-and-short -- went to the air again on fourth down. Again working out of an empty set, Darnold is able to step into his throw as the pocket holds up but Quincy Enunwa is unable to come down with the ball at the 15-yard line, having got a step on his man on a deep over route. This was a catchable pass, but it was made more difficult because Darnold didn't lead Enunwa with the pass and he had to contort his body to reach back for the ball.
Robby Anderson was actually open on a drag route, which would have been an easy first down, but Darnold opted to take the downfield shot. Ironically, he's previously been criticized for taking the easy play and eschewing downfield opportunities.
The aggressiveness from the Jets here is welcome, but perhaps misplaced. Failing to convert there gave the Jaguars great field position and enabled them to add to their lead. While his ball placement was off, at least Darnold saw the opportunity downfield and made an anticipatory throw. That was the case on the previous play as well. You need to be able to do that to have success downfield at this level. Now he just needs to improve his accuracy.
4th quarter, 14:30. Jets trailing 25-3. 1st-and-10 at the Jets' 41
Darnold's biggest completion was a 42-yarder to Enunwa, which saw the receiver break four tackles down the field. However, Enunwa's effort shouldn't overshadow the play that Darnold made.
With the Jets once again operating out of a five-wide set, the Jaguars sent a five-man rush. Darnold rolled to the right, keeping his eyes down the field. He anticipated Enunwa uncovering from his man underneath and hit him in stride with a throw on the move as he was fading backwards.
Having connected with Enunwa three times in four plays on the Jets' first drive of the second quarter, this was the only other time Darnold completed a pass to Enunwa, although there was one other that was negated by a penalty.
4th quarter, 11:22. Jaguars leading 25-6. 3rd-and-goal at the Jaguars' two-yard line
The Jets operate out of a two-tight end set this time, with both receivers on the right side. It's an easy play for Darnold because the Jaguars blow the coverage and leave Jordan Leggett wide open at the back of the end zone.
At the top of the screen, you can see that Chris Herndon was also open, but Myles Jack was poised and ready to jump the route if the throw had been late. If Leggett was covered, would Darnold have been able to find Herndon instead? We can only speculate on that.
The two-point attempt that followed was more interesting than the touchdown itself. Darnold initially looked at Anderson, who stopped and turned around just beyond the goal line and was open. However, by then, Darnold had looked him off. Herndon was tightly covered underneath but had the defender on his back and could have been an option. Instead, Darnold locked onto Enunwa, hoping he could get open at the back of the end zone. The Jaguars picked this up and after hesitating and pump-faking twice, Darnold's low pass fell harmlessly incomplete with Anderson showing visible sings of frustration at the end of the play.
Once again rattled by pressure, Darnold's ball placement was disappointing this week. Furthermore, while he made some good reads at times, his timing and decision making weren't always on point, as he could perhaps have done a better job of taking what the defense gave him.
At least the Jets took some downfield shots this week, but Darnold still doesn't quite have that chemistry with his receivers, especially on deep throws. He also seems to be relying on Enunwa a little too much. It would be nice to be able to point to some signs of progress but, realistically, these have been few and far between and Darnold still seems to be floundering with the game seemingly moving too fast for him.
The Jets return home for Week 5 but Darnold is still likely to have plenty of pressure to deal with, especially since Von Miller will be one of the pass rushers coming after him.