The New York Jets would save over $10 million by releasing Jamison Crowder, but Joe Douglas would be smart to keep the slot man around.
The stat sheet never reveals all
What I truly enjoy most about not only contributing to Jets X-Factor but also reading the material is that it’s different than any other New York Jets platform in the football universe. You’ll find analysis that stretches far beyond the stat sheet. There’s a sense of freedom to generate unique opinions on the value of certain players that can only come from breaking down what happens inside the white lines.
For all positions on the gridiron, there is an obvious fascination with stats. And I understand the importance of those statistics. Teams and fans alike want players that produce.
This is not meant to downplay that fact or the performances of those around the league that separate themselves by dominating on the field. Who doesn’t want the high-end talented players that have the ability to finish near the top of their position’s statistical categories?
All teams do. And for the fans? Well, for one, I know Jets fans will remember Brandon Marshall‘s stellar 2015 season for quite some time.
My point is this: If you look at the construction of a well-rounded football team, there are players that play specific roles. They excel in a particular area that provides value, benefits the team and complements their surrounding teammates. But that role may not always be reflected by a notable statistical season.
Nevertheless, that player brings a tremendous amount of value and is not any less worthy of recognition. It’s not until you turn on the film that you realize just what it is they provide.
It’s not until you take the time to break down the film that you discover Jamison Crowder‘s real worth.
Jamison Crowder as a cap casualty?
The Jets signed Jamison Crowder to a three-year, $28.5 million contract two offseasons ago. For what it’s worth, since then, Crowder has been the Jets’ most productive weapon.
However, the “most productive weapon” designation is highlighted without the following statistical milestones:
- 1,000 yards in a single season.
- 80 catches in a single season.
- Seven touchdowns in a single season.
I believe that outlines the beginning of what drove me to write this article. I began seeing Crowder’s name mentioned by some as a potential cap casualty. The reasoning seemed to be that the Jets could save over $10 million on the cap by releasing a slot wide receiver that hasn’t produced near the top end of the league’s pass-catchers.
In other words—and to tie this to the introduction section above—changes are inevitable, so why not consider adding to the nearly $80 million in cap space that will be used to help revamp the roster by releasing a receiver who has failed to break any of the above mentioned statistical markers throughout his six-year career?
He’s expendable and replaceable given the plethora of assets at the Jets’ disposal this offseason. Right?
Crowder’s value to the Jets cannot be measured, and if they choose to release him, he will not be easily replaced.
Listen, the Jets cannot afford to roll the dice by releasing the reliable veteran playmaker just to save some money in an offseason where they have plenty of it and depend on finding a replacement elsewhere.
In 2021, the Jets will either stroll out a fourth-year quarterback looking to vastly improve or an inexperienced rookie. Crowder’s role as a reliable on-field target will greatly benefit whoever is under center. But it’s more than that. It’s the traits he possesses and the ability he brings to that role that showcases his extreme value.
These words were littered throughout my notebook after watching the film:
In order to put those traits on display, I’ve broken down plays from Crowder’s 2020 season that flew under the radar. You might remember a couple of them, but these plays get straight to the point.
These reps bring Crowder’s value to the forefront. Something the stat-sheet can’t do.
These are plays in which Crowder uses his instincts and intelligence to get open for his quarterback after the play breaks down, separated by plays where Crowder uses his craft and quickness to get open off the line in the quick passing game.
Alright, enough chatter; let’s get to the film.
1. Turning Nothing Into Something
This stood out as the most underrated aspect of Crowder’s game. The play design is not always going to go as planned at the snap. Maybe the protection breaks down. Maybe the defense just has you blanketed in coverage.
So, when sh** hits the fan, how does the weapon react in that split-second moment to help get open for your quarterback? In each of these four plays, there’s one constant other than Crowder eventually getting open: When there was trouble, Sam Darnold‘s eyes went immediately to his reliable veteran, Jamison Crowder.
The above video is my favorite play from Crowder in 2020. Yes, I know it’s an 11-yard gain.
Crowder is the No. 2 to the field, but Darnold is going to look to the boundary for the slant-flat combo as the Raiders are playing Cover 1. Neither the slant nor the flat are open.
Sam does a good job of flipping his hips to progress in his read. Crowder is coming across the field on what I believe to initially be a drag route. However, the backer sitting in the middle zone causes Crowder to sit.
It’s what comes next that’s critical.
Crowder realizes he’s not open and the pocket is closing in on Sam. So, he quickly turns his head to the left in order to peak for a vacancy. Crowder sees the vacancy, gives a look back to Sam and bolts.
You can tell that Sam wasn’t sure what Crowder would do, as he has to first pull the ball back and then flick it out. Crowder showed instincts to be quick on his feet to get open for his quarterback who was in need of help.
The above breakdown is from the Week 1 Buffalo game.
This time the defense is in zone coverage. Crowder is simply going to sit near the sticks on third down in between the hook defenders. However, Crowder notices Darnold is in trouble immediately.
As Sam rolls right, Crowder does a good job of staying in relationship with Sam but going vertical instead of horizontal. Crowder understands the defense is in zone coverage, so all eyes will be on the quarterback.
As Sam moves, the hook defenders flow to Sam and Crowder sneaks behind them and finds the vacancy in the zone for a big gain.
In the third video above, Crowder is the No. 1 to the field with a tight split. He’s going to run an over route against what seems to be Cover 6. This route concept seemed pretty common throughout the season for the Jets.
This time around, Sam miraculously has a ton of time in the pocket and does a great job of hanging tight. Crowder comes into Sam’s vision, but the boundary side safety takes away the over.
Instead of running himself into coverage, Crowder once again steps up with his instincts and intelligence leading the way. The safety is too shallow to cut off the over, so Crowder takes it vertically right behind him.
The ball is a bit under-thrown, which makes for a difficult catch for Crowder. But he plays big, goes up and gets it.
The last breakdown of this section puts Jamison’s intelligence on display.
First, props to Sam here for evading Aaron Donald. When Sam gets out of the pocket, it looks as though he would have a ton of space to run. So, Crowder initially goes horizontal and creates contact with the defender. At the perfect time, just as the defender commits to Sam, Crowder releases, sticks his foot in the ground and gets vertical for a gain of 24.
This is just one play after Crowder gained 16 on third down to extend the drive. Two plays, 40 yards and the Jets are set up with a first-and-goal from the 6-yard line.
Ultimately, this is an extremely important aspect of a wide receiver’s game. Whether it’s Sam or a rookie QB in 2021, plays are going to break down. Things are not always going to go as planned, but the quarterback’s comfort level is increased when they know they have a reliable intelligent target that can be instinctive to find the vacancy on the field.
Crowder does exactly that.
2. Releases and Route Running – Craft and Quickness
The second aspect that displays Crowder’s value is his ability to understand the defense, set up his defender on his release, and then use his crafty route running to create the necessary separation.
The first video here contains two routes from the Denver game. The first is a slant on third down, as the defender is in soft press-man coverage on Crowder.
Crowder’s release is going to be outside in order to get that defender into his man turn. Once the defender gets into his man turn, he cuts it inside for the slant.
The value here is obviously in the route, but it’s also shown by just looking at Sam, who is not going anywhere else with this football on third down. He knows who it’s going to be that gets open for him to convert.
The second route is a comeback from the slot, and the impressive part about that route is when Crowder decides to break it off to the sideline. This is another third-down conversion where Crowder uses his craft and quickness in his route-running to create separation for the conversion.
Listen, just enjoy the above video. Crowder is going to toy with his defender on the slant.
If not for Xavien Howard coming across, this is a huge play. Crowder’s defender needs a map here. He’s lost. Crowder is going to release off the line of scrimmage as though he’s setting up a wheel route. The defender reacts to prepare and Crowder cuts it off to the slant.
The intelligence to the craft to the quickness turns into a thing of beauty.
I did want to include at least one touchdown. This touchdown by Crowder fit the mold of this topic. Crowder is the No. 1 at the bottom of your screen with Denzel Mims. Man coverage.
Mims has the corner-route and Crowder has the flat to the front pylon. Crowder creates the separation right at the snap with his release.
Instead of darting straight to the pylon, where his defender would be able to immediately break, Crowder uses Mims as a shield by giving an inside release. The inside release forces Crowder’s defender to go over the top of Mims, and once the defender does that, he has no chance of beating Crowder to the flat. Touchdown.
Ultimately, I understand that saving an additional $10 million is tempting for a roster that needs a lot of work, but Crowder brings value to this team that is going to be desperately needed in 2021.
With the uncertainty at quarterback combined Jamison Crowder’s ability to play intelligently, to get open both when the play breaks down and in the quick passing game, his on-field value is worth more than the cap savings.
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