The New York Jets came out flat in London and it’s not the first time that’s happened this season — or the second.
This theme has been constant in 2021, and with no obvious reason for the slow starts, it’s begun to frustrate everyone involved. Gang Green has been outscored 75-23 in the first half this season, outscoring opponents 54-36 in the second half. Clearly, this offense can succeed, so why has it been so pathetic in the early stages of games?
After the Week 5 loss, Robert Saleh and Zach Wilson both took full responsibility for the offensive struggles. “We got to start faster, and I’m putting that on me to figure this out over the next week,” stated Saleh.
Here were Wilson’s comments: “I really think it’s in the way we’re starting, I don’t know what it is [but] we got to figure that out over this bye week, how to fix that, [and] I got to play better as well.” Later he added, “I made the right reads but I just missed some throws, I can’t come out and just miss throws, and they’re not throws that are hard, coaches are putting us in a good position and we just got to get some momentum going.”
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Blame Should Fall on Everyone
I appreciate the candid remarks from the Jets head coach and quarterback, but the blame should fall on everyone and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur is at the top of the list.
A common word used in these postgame press conferences is execution, but that’s just another way of saying the playcalling wasn’t the issue. There were several times in the first half that the decisions from LaFleur could be described as questionable.
One example was the 2nd and 10 on drive number two, where the Jets OC called a shotgun hand-off rather than a power run that could get them half the distance. The end result was a three-yard loss and a 3rd and 13.
Of course, the execution was lacking as well, but it wasn’t just Wilson. More wide receiver drops in the early stages plagued this unit. Jamison Crowder had one on the first drive (compounded by an illegal shift) and Corey Davis had one on a catchable ball that was slightly behind him to begin drive two. Then on the third possession, the rookie QB threw the interception.
“It’s interesting, in the second half of every single game we’ve looked really good and we know what we’re capable of and we were able to show it there at the end but I think we just got to get a good rhythm going, some flow, something [and] starting three and out isn’t the way to do it,” Wilson told reporters.
The Jets offense was better in the second half once again, with two touchdown drives and a field goal. Unfortunately, they came up just short after the defense gave up a late touchdown drive that was capped by a Mike Davis run.
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What’s the Solution?
At this point, fans don’t really care what the problem is, they just want to figure out a solution. Coach Saleh shared his immediate plans to address the situation.
“I’m going to work my tail off over this bye week, see if there’s something we can come up with, study the tape, just look at all the decisions, see the execution, just try to figure out what the answer is over the next week and come up with something better because it’s got to be better,” Saleh said.
The Jets HC refused to throw his coordinator under the bus, however, voicing that LaFleur “called an aggressive game.” He continued: “There were some shots down the field but you have to take what the defense is giving you, which leads to check-downs, which leads to the intermediate stuff.”
Some have argued that the degree of difficulty in LaFleur’s playcalling has actually been too challenging on the BYU product, compared to a system like the New England Patriots that assists Mac Jones as much as possible. It’s not about being too boring or too aggressive, the winning combination comes when you find that middle ground.
“We can’t have stalled three-and-out drives and then put together a couple of really long ones,” Wilson concluded, “if we’re gonna have to punt the ball, let’s at least get a couple of first downs first, let’s change the field position… that’s what crushing us is going right back on the sideline and just sitting there again.”
The obvious follow-up question was whether or not the offense is pressing on the first few drives, to which the young signal-caller responded, “my mentality definitely isn’t how can I get a big play or anything here, it’s how can I get more efficient? How can I get completions? How can I help us be in third and manageable and help us move the sticks and just get first downs… so I wouldn’t say it’s a pressing issue, I just think it’s a confidence issue of us needing to be able to execute and hone in on our assignments, and I need to be able to make throws.”