Jets HC Robert Saleh Explains Questionable Game Plan for Stefon Diggs

Brandin Echols, Stefon Diggs

Getty Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs burns New York Jets cornerback Brandin Echols on November 14, 2021.

Here we are on Sunday afternoon following another New York Jets blowout loss under head coach Robert Saleh in Week 10.

Most expected this to be an up and down season for this young and inexperienced roster but few thought the team would get embarrassed under Coach Saleh, whose entire mantra preaches 100% effort until that final whistle sounds.

Despite this, we’ve now seen at least four no-contest defeats, maybe five if you count the first matchup against the New England Patriots. For a team that’s played nine games, that’s just about half of the 2021 season.

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Saleh Addresses Odd Coverage of Jets Killer

The Buffalo Bills have an explosive offense and a plethora of weapons to choose from, but the best of the bunch is undoubtedly wide receiver Stefon Diggs. The superstar is coming off a 1,500-yard season in 2020, but only registered one 100-yard game this year entering Week 10.

Diggs can be shut down and a cornerback like Bryce Hall is the Jets’ number one candidate for the job. That’s why it came as a surprise to most supporters that Jeff Ulbrich and Saleh allowed Brandin Echols and Javelin Guidry to line up across from the Bills’ WR1 all afternoon.

When asked about this during his postgame press conference, the Jets HC explained the thought process behind the questionable defensive game plan. He replied:

Fair question, we’re not a team that matches, Diggs was lining up in certain spots and to start chasing a player when you don’t — when that’s not your style — there [are] a lot of different things that go into play when you start doing that and trying to travel and figure out where from an alignment standpoint. It sounds simple but we’re not just a man coverage team so if you’re trying to match only when you’re in man, you’re going to get caught up. If you’re trying to match all the time then your zones become an issue because you’re trying to figure out how to get aligned versus a motion and all the different things that they do so, it’s not something we do.

I get that a Cover-3 defense doesn’t typically “man-up” and shadow a receiver, but apparently sending Hall to Diggs’ side of the field wasn’t even an option for the Jets coaching staff. Whether it’s their style or not, Ulbrich and Saleh should have considered an audible at some point.

No disrespect to the rookie sixth-rounder (Echols) or the 2020 UDFA (Guidry), but neither was up to the talent level of Diggs and that was on full display on November 14. The Buffalo wide-out finished with his best stat line of the season; eight catches for 162 yards and a touchdown.

Quite frankly, he did whatever he wanted against the Jets and when you have a cornerback that has shut down receivers all season as an option, it almost seems negligent not to switch things up and try him.

Coach Saleh added that they were “trying to get safeties over [the] top of” whichever CB was guarding Diggs, but noted that Josh Allen and the Bills were prepared for that tactic whenever they did.

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Jets Defense Gets Walloped Again

According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, “the 2021 Jets are the 1st team to allow at least 45 points 3 times in a 4-game span since the 1966 Giants.”

This unit has had to deal with a ton of injuries but that’s still no excuse, especially when you hired a head coach that’s supposed to be a defensive mastermind. Saleh may not be calling the plays but this is still his system, and right now the system is flawed.

The Jets can’t stop the run and the pass-rush has been totally neutralized over the past few weeks. They’ve also been outsmarted and outcoached on several occasions, like today with Diggs.

When first-year coordinator Mike LaFleur wasn’t getting the job done, that was concerning but it also felt fixable. Now that the offense has seen improvement, the defense has become atrocious. That is extremely worrisome.

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