Despite Zach Wilson’s injury, there are intriguing developments to watch on the New York Jets’ offense
With the New York Jets, it always can get worse. The team knows how to redefine the term “rock bottom.”
After a disappointing 1-4 start, New York had a much-needed bye week. The week off reinjected hope into the fanbase, which timidly believed the Jets could surprise the Patriots and snap a 10-year losing streak in Foxborough.
The result, though, couldn’t be predicted even by the most pessimistic Jets fan: a 54-13 blowout coupled with an injury to franchise quarterback Zach Wilson that will sideline him for multiple weeks.
Despite this very bleak picture, there are still reasons to watch this Jets offense. There are plenty of young players who will get more opportunities to shine. The young play-caller, also, is facing a challenging task.
White’s snaps against the Patriots indicated some trends that will be worth watching going forward.
A heavy dose of Michael Carter
After Wilson went out, Michael Carter established himself as the focal point of the Jets’ offense. He was the team’s leading rusher (11 carries, 37 yards) and receiver (8 catches, 67 yards).
The injury suffered by Wilson shouldn’t be the reason LaFleur made Carter the focal point of the offense. The fourth-round pick has been impressive thus far, showcasing great vision while refusing to go down on first contact.
With an offense predicated on the ground game, Carter should see even more touches with White under center, assuming LaFleur will want to play with a ball-control attack.
The rookie has proven to be a valuable check-down asset, creating extra yards after the catch.
Considering White’s lack of arm talent, it’s safe to say Carter will continue to be a major factor in the passing game – especially on play-action concepts.
Looking ahead, there’s a good chance the Bengals game will be Carter’s breakout performance.
Cincinnati’s defense ranks fifth with 2.7 sacks per game, so the Jets will need to find a way to neutralize the Bengals’ pass rush next Sunday.
Throwing a good amount of screen passes is a solid answer (see what the Patriots did against the Jets), and Carter should be on the receiving end on most of them.
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Manufactured touches for Elijah Moore
The lack of designed touches for Elijah Moore has been the most disappointing trend in the Jets’ offense thus far.
The Ole Miss product is dynamic with the ball in his hands and shows it every time he gets the chance.
Still, LaFleur hasn’t been able to get him going in the first six games.
Wilson connected with Moore early in the Patriots game on an RPO screen, but it was with Mike White under center that Moore finally got his first truly designed touch, which was an end-around that resulted in a 19-yard touchdown.
The Jets offense has bet on long-developing play-action passes to generate explosive plays, trusting Wilson’s arm to exploit deep windows. With Wilson now sidelined, LaFleur will have to find different ways to create big plays.
White, a more limited passer, will depend on play designs to generate the much-needed chunk plays.
With the Colts and Bengals defenses incoming, it’s safe to say Moore will have an increased role. Screens, sweeps, pure runs: just give No. 8 the ball and hope for the best.
Still, how infuriating would it be to see Moore get his touches only because Wilson got hurt?
Mike White showed he can execute the offense
Yes, Mike White showed he can execute the offense.
Saying this isn’t assuming that White will be Brady 2.0, but, instead, that he won’t be Luke Falk 2.0. White showed against New England that he will not hinder the development of the rest of the offense.
White is a smart quarterback who knows when to check the ball down and understands the offense’s rhythm.
As seen against the Patriots, it will be hard for him to play catch-up football, but if the Jets manage to keep games close, White can be a fine game manager.
If the Jets’ defense can go back to their form over the first four games, White might be able to keep New York in games – especially if the ground game works.
Watching Wilson play quarterback is a blast, as the BYU product is as talented as they come. But Wilson has missed some layups that, when the big picture comes into play, handicap the development of the entire offense.
Despite not being nearly as talented as Wilson, White can execute the routine throws of the offense. Those throws will inevitably put the Jets in good spots, allowing the offense to play in front of the sticks.
In NFL offenses, the drop-back/quick passing game is all about timing.
All things considered, Mike White could end up being the best of the Jets’ forgotten backup quarterbacks (Greg McElroy, Matt Simms, Bryce Petty, etc.).
Opportunity for improvement from Mike LaFleur
Yes, LaFleur has been bad.
But I can’t imagine how hard it is to be a first-year play-caller and have an overthinking rookie quarterback under center.
Wilson’s struggles have impacted LaFleur. The Jets’ OC has also entered an overthinking funk, which has led to hesitant play calling.
LaFleur is afraid to hurt Wilson with his play calls and just hasn’t allowed the game to flow naturally to him.
Mike LaFleur calling a better game for White bc he doesn't care.
Just like Wilson is overthinking on the field MLF is clearly overthinking as a play caller.
Doesn't want to out Wilson on a bad spot and thats hurting him.
— Vitor (@VitorPaivaM) October 24, 2021
With Mike White, there are no second thoughts. LaFleur doesn’t feel like every play call can impact the quarterback’s confidence, so he just goes about his business.
In White’s first few drives – before the game was virtually over – it was clear that LaFleur trusted him. He called quick-game plays, drop back from under-center plays, and PA concepts. LaFleur threw everything at White, who handled it just fine.
Honestly, maybe a couple of games with a quarterback not named Wilson can do wonders for LaFleur. LaFleur and Wilson’s relationship needed a break so each one could learn more about itself so they could get back on track later.
I, for one, will be following the Jets’ upcoming games closely.
These two weeks without Wilson will say a lot about this staff’s ability to get the team ready to play despite the negative circumstances.
Can Saleh inject confidence in his players when everything is trending down?
For LaFleur, especially, the non-Wilson stretch will be telling. When Adam Gase lost Sam Darnold, it felt like the former Jets’ head coach game planned not to lose.
LaFleur now has a chance to do the complete opposite: Kick out the overthinking stuff and roll the offense with confidence.
Why not? The Jets have absolutely nothing to lose.