Where the New York Jets need a tune-up going forward
Following their 24-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, here are five stats the New York Jets need to clean up as they move forward with the 2022 season.
Third-down conversion rate
The Jets went 2-for-14 on third down, a conversion rate of 14.2% that ranked as the worst mark in the NFL. They did not convert a third down until the fourth quarter.
Making this number worse is the fact that the Jets’ third-down situations weren’t even that difficult. They ranked 20th in the NFL with an average to-go distance of 6.6 yards on third down. Obviously, that mark can be improved, but all 12 teams with a longer to-go distance performed better, so the Jets have no excuse for their repugnant 14.2% mark.
Quarterback Joe Flacco needs to be better on third down; regardless of whether he’s pressured or not. Flacco performed poorly on third down both when he was pressured and when he was kept clean.
When pressured, Flacco ranked fifth-worst among all QBs with -1.44 passing EPA per dropback (Estimated Points Added). When kept clean, Flacco still ranked 11th-worst with -0.28 passing EPA per dropback.
Sure, Flacco’s clean-pocket production ranked a little bit better than his under-pressure output, but it is not ideal to be producing a negative EPA in favorable situations. In Week 1, the NFL average for passing EPA per dropback on third down was +0.30. Flacco was the mirror image of that.
Pressures allowed by the offensive line
The Jets’ offensive line was credited with allowing pressure on 20 plays out of 62 pass-blocking snaps. That’s a rate of 32.2%, which ranked 23rd in Week 1.
New York is expecting much better results from this unit. No NFL team is allocating more cap dollars to their offensive line this year than the Jets ($47.8M). This is not supposed to be a bottom-10 group in pass protection.
Improvement must start with the left side of the line, which combined for 12 pressures allowed in Week 1. Left guard Laken Tomlinson led all NFL guards with 8 pressures allowed while left tackle George Fant ranked second on the team with 4 pressures allowed.
Better protection from the offensive line will help the Jets improve this next statistic.
Air yards per pass attempt
Despite facing an aggressive man-coverage Ravens defense that presents opportunities to take shots down the field, the Jets’ passing attack was extremely conservative. New York’s average pass attempt traveled only 5.6 yards downfield, ranking 30th in Week 1.
As I mentioned above, the Jets will be in a better position to attack downfield if they get stronger protection from the offensive line. There were instances where Flacco had no chance to push the ball deep because of quick pressure in his face.
But that air yardage number is still unacceptable considering the weapons the Jets have at their disposal. On film, you can see that Elijah Moore, Garrett Wilson, and Corey Davis had one-on-one opportunities down the field that Flacco just didn’t seem confident in taking. The veteran quarterback looked hesitant and unwilling to attack tough windows.
I don’t expect this Jets offense to be launching bombs all year – this scheme is predicated on quick, short passing that generates great YAC opportunities – but they should much higher than 30th in air yards per attempt with the talent they have at wide receiver. Ranking somewhere from 16th to 20th makes sense to me. A good balance between deep and short passing is what will unlock this offense’s full potential.
Deep completions allowed
For the most part, the Jets’ defense enjoyed a successful afternoon against a dangerous quarterback and offense. It was really just three plays in which the Ravens did most of their damage.
Baltimore gained 46% of its passing yards (97 of 213) on Lamar Jackson’s three passing touchdowns: a 17-yarder to Devin Duvernay, a 25-yarder to Duvernay, and a 55-yarder to Rashod Bateman. All of these passes traveled over 20 yards in the air.
The Jets tied the Jaguars and the Raiders for the most completions of 20+ air yards allowed in Week 1, with three. They were the only team in the NFL to allow three touchdown passes of 20+ air yards.
In fact, the other 31 NFL teams outside of Baltimore combined for only 10 touchdowns that traveled at least 20 air yards. This means the Jets gave up 3 of the 13 deep touchdown passes in the entire league last week.
The Jets’ starting cornerback duo of Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed had nothing to do with any of these three plays. Strong safety Jordan Whitehead, backup cornerback Bryce Hall, and free safety Lamarcus Joyner were the culprits.
Gardner and Reed project to be an excellent duo on the outside, but their impact will be limited if opponents can just ignore them and find success by exploiting other players. The safeties – particularly Joyner – need to pick it up. Hall is less worrisome considering he only played 5 snaps and the touchdown he allowed was tightly covered anyway, requiring a stellar throw/catch.
New York did just about everything right defensively except limit the back-breaking plays over the top. If they can clean up this issue while maintaining all of the good things they did against Baltimore, their defense will be in tremendous shape.
Special teams DVOA
In Football Outsiders’ rankings, which are based on the DVOA metric (defense-adjusted value over average), the Jets had the NFL’s 31st-ranked special teams unit in Week 1.
The main reason for this ranking was Greg Zuerlein, who missed a 45-yard field goal and an extra point. New York ranked 32nd with an estimated total of 2.8 points lost via kicking. Zuerlein needs to be much better than that going forward. (Groundbreaking analysis, I know.)
The punting unit also contributed to the ranking. The Jets ranked 31st with an estimated total of 0.7 points lost via punting. Braden Mann had a rough day, prompting the Jets to add competition by signing Ty Long to the practice squad.
In the other phases of special teams, the Jets did a fine job. They just need more from their kicking tandem.