On the first Sidearm Session under a non-negative record, the biggest takeaway might be that the New York Jets offense is finally taking its desired shape
The New York Jets‘ win against the Browns could mark the beginning of something special for this team. And there’s no hyperbole or wishful thinking in that sentence.
Saying that it could mark a new beginning for this team doesn’t mean that this win assures that Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas‘s plan will work, nor that this team is all of a sudden contending for a title. No way.
But failing to acknowledge the potential of this win for this football team would be a mistake.
The New York Football Jets are a talented football team. But talent is only a small part of the equation of a winning football program. It doesn’t matter if a team has talent if the competitive veins don’t flow in a way in which they can’t find ways to win.
Winning, in the end, is an assurance and a spark: In an established program, it assures you that whatever you are doing is working. In an unestablished program, on the other hand, winning can be the spark a team needs to turn the corner and realize that whatever you are doing can work. This could be the case with the New York Jets.
A football locker room is all about trust and belief. The players must trust each other, themselves, and the coaching staff; and by doing so they show that they believe in what has to be done.
That’s why winning moves the needle: When losing becomes the norm, players can start questioning what they are doing. And once this becomes the feeling of the majority of the locker room, there’s not much anyone can do.
Hence why rebuilding successfully is so hard (and only the “winning” franchises seem to be able to do it): most of the rebuilding squads simply can’t find the light at the end of the tunnel, which makes players start questioning the plan and they jump off the ship.
Had the Jets lost the first five games of the season, who knows what could’ve happened?
Fortunately, in Cleveland, the New York Jets finally are able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
That light shows that what they are doing has a meaning and a purpose. That Robert Saleh’s non-quitting, “All Gas no Brake” mentality can pay dividends.
And that they have something concrete to build upon.
Nonetheless, this all could be meaningless if the team starts losing again. That’s why the word “potential” is key here.
It’s up to the players to take this momentum and stack wins.
If it happens, who knows what’s next?
That’s the beauty of football, the ultimate team sport. When talented individuals understand that, collectively, they have some sort of power, anything can happen.
Jets defense vs. Browns
This game was an important reminder that Robert Saleh’s defense has some issues to fix. The main point will be a subject of a future article, but, as I’ve repeated constantly, this defensive scheme is too talent dependent.
Saleh is all about winning upfront, and that’s okay. But what happens when his front 4 has inferior talent when compared to the other team’s offensive line?
That was what happened in Cleveland this week. The Browns OL manhandled the Jets DL on the ground, especially in the second half; while the pass rush was mediocre.
On those occasions, Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich could help them out by doing some different things. Stunts and pass rush games would be a nice start.
To be honest, the Jets actually ran some unbalanced upfront looks on 3rd down, but the overall feeling remains: this team needs some schematic juice when they are outmatched.
Different schemes were invented for that reason: to help your players get an advantage over their opponents.
Saleh would be wise to implement a wrinkle or two.
Jets offense vs. Browns
Despite only scoring 17 points before the miracle, the Jets’ offense had a solid game.
Joe Flacco’s red zone fumble and a controversial call to cause an early 3-and-out messed up what would be a fair scoreboard. Still, the good signs are there.
Possibly, the biggest takeaway from this game might be that Mike LaFleur’s offense is starting to look like a finished product. Let me explain.
First, the ground dominance is getting there. The Jets didn’t maul the Cleveland Browns by any means (they ran for only 93 yards, but the most important stat is the 4.7 YPC), but the tape shows an offensive line that’s creating push on the ground.
And that’s extremely important.
The New York Jets don’t need to be a run-first team to run this scheme, they just need that actual threat to be there.
Against Cleveland, Breece Hall, Michael Carter, and Braxton Berrios all had successful rushing attempts. Be it via sweeps, wide-zone, or gap runs inside, the Jets showed the Browns they “could” run the ball. And that helped ease an attacking front four led by Myles Garrett.
Besides that, Mike LaFleur did an excellent job with the Jets’ pass protection, often using empty sets with RBs and TEs as “wings”, chipping Cleveland’s edges.
Also, LaFleur attacked the Browns’ tendencies through the air really well.
Considering their zone-heavy scheme, the Jets attacked the Browns with easy hi-lo concepts on early downs (think of Garrett Wilson on the corner for 31 yards on 2nd and 11), getting those yards that oftentimes fans feel like every team can conquer against the Jets.
All in all, the story of this game was Joe Flacco, who showed everyone he can still play.
Flacco is Flacco. I’ve said he’s still the same player who won the Super Bowl for the Ravens (with less mobility), for both good and bad.
On the downside, Flacco has always been an inconsistent player with decision-making issues. That hasn’t changed.
Nonetheless, Flacco’s got a very strong arm, can operate any offensive scheme, and has the experience card. Jets X-Factor’s Robby Sabo had a good insight regarding Flacco’s play style:
Joe Flacco is like Eli Manning in this regard: He's at his best when things are most chaotic in the football game, when the game breaks down and minds are going 100 mph. #Jets win 31-30. https://t.co/9En4HiAkA6
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) September 18, 2022
He’s got that Eli Manning style: no matter the situation, he remains the same player. In spots where everyone else is nervous, that approach makes all the difference. And it was the key to the Jets’ game-winning drive.
When Flacco plays in rhythm, he’s still really good. And LaFleur did a great job getting him in rhythm with easy hi-los on 1st and 2nd down. 13 personnel is no more.
Garrett Wilson, as will also be detailed in this week’s breakdown, also showed he can be special.
Today’s NFL asks for elite route running, and Wilson has the special traits that can make him one of the league’s best route runners. Not only do his physical traits pop off, but Wilson’s smarts are incredible for a rookie.
In the clip below, I break down my twelve (!) favorite plays of the Jets offense in this game. In honor of this team’s first September win since 2018, there will be no bad plays analyzed: just pure joy.