1. Mac Jones’s passing from a clean pocket
Mac Jones has looked like a veteran pocket passer early in his NFL career. When given a clean pocket to operate from, he can be dangerous. The New York Jets cannot let that happen.
In Week 1, Jones posted an adjusted completion percentage (which accounts for drops, throwaways, batted passes, etc.) of 91.7% when throwing from a clean pocket, ranking second-best in the NFL among qualified quarterbacks behind only Russell Wilson.
On clean-pocket pass attempts, Jones went 21 for 26 with 207 yards and 10 first downs. One of those incompletions was dropped and two others were deflected at the line, putting his true accuracy line at 22-for-24.
The Jets will pay the price if they allow Jones to be a statue in the pocket who gets the space and time to comfortably hang tight and spread the ball around from a stationary position. They must force him to move off of his set point and improvise.
2. Michael Onwenu’s run-blocking
When defending the run against Carolina, the Jets did a good job of tackling at the second level, helping them to prevent big plays, but they struggled to defend the first level. Christian McCaffrey was consistently able to get past the defensive line and pick up productive chunks of yardage.
Patriots left guard Michael Onwenu is a dominant run-blocker who will cause problems for the Jets defense in the first-level run game. In Week 1, Onwenu’s 78.4 run-blocking grade at Pro Football Focus ranked eight-best among all guards (one spot ahead of the Jets’ Alijah Vera-Tucker). In 2020, Onwenu posted a tremendous 88.5 run-blocking grade across three games where he started and finished at guard.
Quinnen Williams, who primarily plays right defensive tackle for the Jets, will see a lot of Onwenu this week. He will have to bring his best when it comes to holding his ground at the point of attack and clogging up gaps in the run game.
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3. Devin McCourty and Adrian Phillips’s coverage
New England’s safety duo gave the Miami Dolphins offense absolutely nothing through the air in Week 1. Free safety Devin McCourty and strong safety Adrian Phillips combined to allow one catch on four targets for negative-2 yards across a combined 49 snaps in coverage.
The Jets actually did a fairly good job of mustering up big plays through the air against the Panthers. Zach Wilson completed five passes for gains of 20+ yards (5th in the NFL). He completed another one to Elijah Moore that was called back due to a penalty and also put the ball on-target to Moore on a deep bomb that was unfortunately dropped by the fellow rookie.
Bill Belichick’s defense is likely going to bring the house on Wilson and force him to make throws into man-to-man coverage windows while under duress against the blitz. That style of defense puts a lot of pressure on the safeties and cornerbacks.
From the safeties’ perspective, they have to keep everything in front of them and ensure that if a cornerback gets beat one-on-one, the damage of their loss can be kept to a minimum. With limited back-end reinforcements, the potential cost of a mistake by a safety is even greater in a blitz-heavy defense.
If New England’s safeties are going to cover as effectively as they did against Miami in Week 1, Wilson could have a tough time taking the top off of Belichick’s defense.
But if the Jets can draw up concepts that fool the Patriots’ safeties and open up windows for Wilson to take favorable deep shots against one-on-one coverage with limited-to-no safety help, the potential will be there for Wilson to punish Belichick for attacking him so aggressively.
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