Robert Saleh, NY Jets, Penalties
Robert Saleh, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets are doing well in some aspects of the penalty department but poor in others

Ah yes, penalties. The one thing that every football team’s fanbase loves to complain about. Either they chastise their team for being undisciplined and committing too many, or they chastise the refs for being clueless and/or having a bias in favor of the other team.

Despite how much frustration they cause on gamedays, penalties should be evaluated in a nuanced fashion. Every team is going to commit penalties. It’s just that some teams are much better than others at avoiding them – and there is a ton of value to be gained by thriving in this area.

Avoiding penalties is a crucial skill in this sport. So far in the 2022 season, the average NFL team is committing 5.9 penalties per game and losing 48.5 yards off of those. The best team at avoiding penalty yardage (Minnesota) is losing 23.8 yards per game from penalties while the worst team (New Orleans) is losing 79.8 yards per game. That’s a huge 56-yard disparity, exemplifying just how many yards a team can save by being good at keeping flags off the field.

That brings us to the New York Jets. How are they doing in the penalty department so far?

It’s a mixed bag. New York is doing a phenomenal job at avoiding some kinds of penalties, but improvement is needed in other areas.


Here’s where the Jets are the best in the NFL: pre-snap penalties.

The Jets have been called for an NFL-low total of four pre-snap penalties (three false starts, one illegal formation). The average NFL team has been called for 8.5 of those, meaning the Jets have committed less than half as many as the average team.

New York’s total of three false starts is tied for the fourth-fewest. This is a nice accomplishment for a team that has dealt with incessant reshuffling along the offensive line. The average team has committed 4.6 false starts, or 1.1 per game, making it the most common penalty in the NFL.

Additionally, the Jets are one of only four teams who have yet to be called for a delay of game penalty.

The Jets were actually quite good in this area last year, ranking eighth-best with 34 pre-snap penalties (2.0 per game). So far, it seems like they will climb even further up the ladder in 2022.

Another penalty the Jets are staying away from is defensive holding. The Jets are one of five teams that have not been flagged for defensive holding. The average NFL team has been called for 2.0 of those this season. This is a testament to the Jets’ cornerback unit, which remains the only one in the NFL that has not been called for any penalties this year.

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Despite their excellence at avoiding pre-snap penalties, the Jets still rank 11th-worst overall with 25 total penalties. They are also sixth-worst with 257 penalty yards.

Put two and two together: New York is struggling with post-snap penalties.

The Jets are tied for fifth-worst with 21 post-snap penalties. They are third-worst with 237 yards lost from post-snap penalties.

There are four particular post-snap penalties the Jets are getting flagged for too often.

First off, the Jets are tied with the Saints for the league lead with four unnecessary roughness penalties. The average NFL team has been called for just 1.3 of these. There are 10 teams that have not been called for any.

Another common offense is ineligible man downfield. The Jets are tied for the league lead with three of these whereas there have only been 27 called in the NFL this year. It’s a penalty that the league is calling more often this season, as teams are averaging 0.21 per game compared to 0.08 per game last year (163% increase). There were 46 calls in 18 weeks last season. We’re more than halfway to that total through four weeks. Clearly, the league is emphasizing this call, so the Jets need to adjust.

The Jets’ most common penalty this year is offensive holding, with six calls. That ties them for fourth-most in the league. The average team has committed 3.9 of these so far.

Finally, the Jets are tied for the NFL lead with two roughing the passer penalties. Only 16 have been called in the entire league this year, meaning the Jets have gotten two of them before half of the league got its first.

Head coach Robert Saleh must be sure to emphasize these four penalties to his team throughout the week. All of these penalties can be avoided. Roughing the passer and unnecessary roughness each come down to simply keeping your cool during the heat of the battle. Offensive holding is a matter of discipline. Ineligible man downfield can be fixed by emphasizing to the offensive linemen that they should wait another split-second before getting downfield on run-pass option plays.

If the Jets clean up these particular penalties, they are doing well enough in other areas to become one of the better penalty-minimizing teams in the league.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at] - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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Jim G
Jim G
1 year ago

Very good analysis of the Jets first 4 games from a penalty standpoint. This is a big improvement over the late Rex Ryan and Todd Bowles eras. The roughing the passer calls are killers, especially when you know they are valid. FWIW, I did think the Lawson roughing penalty was properly called and really hurt the team when it happened. It is also refreshing to see the younger players not committing costly penalties.

1 year ago

The poor decisions on the roughing calls needs to stop. I know Lawson’s call was close but if it’s close it’s not smart football.

I think the offensive holding has to do with talent levels. Offensive lineman who get beat, hold. This can improve with some consistency in OL groups.

The man down field things gets me going because to me that’s something a ref is “looking to call.” They had a call in Cleveland on a quick pass, not a screen and the ball was out. The man “down field” had nothing to do with the play and there was no advantage. I understand it’s emphasis but knock it off with calls that don’t matter.

The thing for me, is it seems every penalty they get either negates a big play or becomes a big play for the other team. This is going to sound odd but I wish that had less impactful penalties. If that makes sense?