Zach Wilson and Mike LaFleur’s aggressiveness shines in Week 4 film review
No other team wins like the New York Jets.
Robert Saleh is new around here, but he’ll soon realize what the diehard fans already know …
Nothing is ever boring in the Jets’ world, in ways labeled both good and bad. Sunday’s game reassured him of that very notion.
The first win of the Zach Wilson/Robert Saleh era came in typical Jets fashion: dangerous for those with cardiac issues.
Talking about Wilson, his earliest career win was marked by the rookie’s first glimpses of his identity as a quarterback.
After a gun-shy performance in Denver, Wilson’s showing against the Tennessee Titans reminded the world of what Saturdays used to look like at Brigham Young. With rookie quarterbacks, the best course when thinking long-term is to let them be who they are.
Zach Wilson is a gunslinger. He takes shots. He’s aggressive. And if the Jets allow him to develop his skills under those premises, there’s no doubt in the world that Wilson will become the top-flight quarterback he’s supposed to be.
Mike LaFleur seems to understand that. And he has tried to feed that characteristic since Week 1 (sometimes even to a fault).
Despite no major offensive changes, it was obvious that Wilson played with a different mentality as compared to the Denver game when the young quarterback was probably still hungover from throwing four interceptions against New England.
Simply based on the change in Wilson’s mindset, one could bet that Zach playing aggressive and being himself was a point of emphasis in the Jets quarterback and LaFleur’s conversations during this week of preparation.
Zach’s different outlook led to a few chunk plays against the Titans, especially two that happened on scramble drills and were game-changing moments: the 50-plus-yard completions to Keelan Cole and Corey Davis.
Both happened on the move with Wilson scrambling and keeping his eyes down the field. When confident, the Jets quarterback has an impressive ability to read defensive movement on the fly.
The touchdown to Davis, which will be broken down below, is worthy of an early highlight. It features No. 2 connecting his pre-snap read to his post-snap execution.
Wilson knew the Titans were in Cover 2 inverted (Cover 2 zone, but with each outside corner being responsible for half of the deep portion of the field), and that the safety was a “cut player” that would cover Jamison Crowder (probably his first read on the play in normal 2-high situations).
As soon as the Jets signal-caller sees the field cornerback matching up with Cole down the right sideline, he realizes there is a one-on-one opportunity down the field with Davis.
And a quarterback just can’t deny those in today’s NFL. Wilson did not.
Check out what Wilson himself had to say about this play:
“Yeah, we ran our naked/keeper to the right, Corey was actually not part of the read there, he did a good job showing up across the field,” Wilson said after the game. “They gave us their 2-inverted look, the corner had played Keelan over there on the sideline and essentially their deep post-safety ends up being kind of a cut player, so he’s running on Corey’s butt and across the field… and there’s no one deep.
“So, right there, I kind of just said, ‘Hey, if the corner wants to play soft and take away Keelan on our out, if I can just push Corey down the field, I thought we had a chance for a big play there.’ I feel like that’s part of my game, as far as just reacting, and definitely needing that in situations like that.”
This week’s Sidearm Session includes breakdowns of Wilson’s key throws on the Jets’ three scoring drives, plus the FG drive in overtime.
Wilson’s decision-making and LaFleur’s play-calling were on point for the most part, but, ultimately, the Jets offensive coordinator rode the Wilson roller coaster and enjoyed the ride.
Touchdown drive No. 1: Zach Wilson shows fantastic mental processing
The first touchdown drive by the Jets was a relief for everybody. With each successful play, confidence grew among players. From a critical third-down conversion to Corey Davis to a smart “can” by quarterback Zach Wilson, the Jets drove the ball down the field on their own terms for the first time this season.
Wilson’s mental processing was on full display on this drive, converting two critical third downs and checking out of a run play. LaFleur, finally, could be two steps ahead of the opposing team’s defensive staff.
Touchdown drive No. 2: Zach Wilson’s physical talent is on full display
If the first drive was an indication of what Zach Wilson can do mentally, the second drive showcased what the rookie quarterback can do with his plus-physical skills.
From a deep bomb to Corey Davis that resulted in a pass interference, to recovering a fumble and completing a deep crosser down the field to Jamison Crowder, Wilson was electric on the Jets second scoring possession, capped off by a Crowder touchdown on a sprint-out call (a play where Wilson’s arm strength was on full display).
Touchdown drives Nos. 1 and 2 were archetypal, in a sense that they demonstrated what a smart yet physically talented quarterback can do to an offense. Wilson can drive the Jets down the field by making good decisions, yes, but his above-average physical skills can give the Jets a bump when things go south.
Touchdown drive No. 3: A one-play drive: Davis explosion
Confidence is the name of the game.
It allows the player to react and not overthink. This fantastic play only happened because the first two touchdown drives did. They were important in building momentum and giving Wilson the confidence to pull this off.
Overtime field goal drive: Jets miss multiple opportunities to put the game away
Despite winning the game in the end, the Jets should’ve put it away when they had the ball. Wilson missed a wide-open Ryan Griffin on a designed shallow, and the 3rd-and-goal play calling was beyond cute.
Nonetheless, there were some clear-cut positives to take away.
LaFleur was two steps ahead of the Titans’ defense, exploring their lack of communication with stack and bunch alignments. Wilson’s throw to Keelan Cole on third down was as impressive as you will see. And the Jets’ offensive line did a more-than-solid job in pass protection.
Atlanta Falcons next: What to expect
The Jets are traveling to London to face the Atlanta Falcons for their Week 5 matchup. The Falcons defense is coordinated by Dean Pees, who once was the defensive coordinator for the Patriots (2006-2009) and for the Ravens (2012-2017).
Pees is a historic coach who will likely be in the Hall of Fame one day. His defenses are exotic and he will try his best to confuse Wilson.
The film is clear: Wilson had multiple turnover-worthy plays against the Titans. His aggressiveness paid off this time, but he needs to learn the proper moment to push his aggressive mentality button. Pees will see Wilson’s turnover-worthy plays on tape and try to scheme his defense around creating turnovers.
Even though Pees is fantastic, the reality is this year’s Falcons defense doesn’t scare anyone. They are bottom-10 in the league in total defense and made a pedestrian Washington Football Team passing attack look like the “Greatest Show on Turf” in Week 4, giving up 412 yards and 34 points.
So, even for the most down-to-earth Jets fan there is, it’s fair to expect another good performance from the Jets offense in Week 5.
There will be big-play opportunities on the table once again for Wilson, especially with Pees trying to force Wilson into mistakes with his pressure looks.
If the Jets are able to pull off the win against Atlanta across the pond, Robert Saleh’s squad will be heading into the bye at 2-3 – with a confident Wilson having two weeks to prepare for Bill Belichick’s Patriots.