New York Jets offense can come back to life against an exposable Seahawks defense
The Seattle Seahawks are an ideal opponent for the New York Jets as they attempt to revive their sputtering offense. Seattle is ranked 26th in defensive DVOA and 29th in scoring defense (25.3 PPG allowed).
Target Garrett Wilson against RCB Michael Jackson, then build off that with Corey Davis
Seattle has an impressive rookie cornerback in Tariq Woolen, who is probably the second-best rookie corner in the NFL behind Sauce Gardner. Woolen has allowed a passer rating of 74.6 on throws in his direction, ranking 13th-best out of 75 qualified cornerbacks.
Like Gardner with the Jets, Woolen strictly plays on the right side of Seattle’s defense. Seattle’s cornerbacks never switch sides – Woolen has not played a single snap at LCB this season.
On the left side, Seattle deploys fourth-year corner Michael Jackson.
That is who the Jets need to attack on the outside.
Jackson is allowing a passer rating of 99.1 on throws into his coverage this season, ranking 54th out of 75 qualified cornerbacks.
The Jets should exploit Seattle’s lack of side-switching by isolating their best receiver, Garrett Wilson, on Jackson as frequently as possible. If the Seahawks won’t move their corners around, you can dictate the matchups. Why not put your best weapon on their lesser defender?
Not only can putting Wilson on Jackson’s side create favorable opportunities for Wilson himself, but it could lead to great matchups for other players, too.
The Seahawks love to run Cover 6. They rank second in the NFL in Cover 6 usage as they run it on 27.0% of opposing passing plays. The league average is only 8.6%.
Cover 6 is a three-deep coverage in which one cornerback and two safeties man the deep parts of the field in a “quarter-quarter-half” fashion. On one side of the field, one cornerback and one safety each handle a quarter of the field. On the other side, one safety covers half of the field by himself, providing deep help over the top to a cornerback who stays home and plays underneath.
The half of the field with one high safety and the underneath cornerback is what Wilson will end up seeing if he starts toasting Jackson on a frequent basis. It is a way for Seattle to rotate help in the direction of the opponent’s best weapon.
If the Seahawks start to rotate help in Jackson’s direction to contain Wilson, it will open up an opportunity for New York to expose one of Seattle’s greatest defensive weaknesses: Stopping No. 2 wide receivers.
According to Football Outsiders, the Seahawks have yielded a league-worst DVOA of +31.6% to No. 2 wide receivers this season.
This means it could be a big day for Corey Davis.
While playing Cover 6 helps Seattle contain No. 1 receivers (the Seahawks are allowing the third-fewest receiving YPG to No. 1 wide receivers at 52.1), it leaves them vulnerable on the other side of the field. This is why No. 2 receivers have been scorching them this year.
Once Wilson starts demanding help on Jackson’s side, the Jets should start looking Davis’s way on Woolen’s side. For all of his success as a ballhawk (6 INTs), Woolen is still highly susceptible to allowing big plays. Woolen is yielding 14.8 yards per reception this season, which ranks seventh-highest among cornerbacks. Woolen is also tied for the fifth-most touchdowns allowed (5) and the third-most penalties (8) among cornerbacks.
As shown in this week’s Zach Wilson film review, Davis should have put up great numbers against the Jaguars last week. Davis was open for a bunch of big plays but was frequently missed. With Mike White at quarterback against a defense that has trouble stopping No. 2 receivers, Davis should be able to have an excellent game this week.
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Expose Seattle’s LB woes using the TEs and RBs
Seattle misses Bobby Wagner. In their first year without Wagner since 2011, the Seahawks have one of the worst linebacker units in the NFL – especially in coverage.
On the year, Seattle’s linebackers have combined to allow 1,070 yards over 900 snaps in coverage. That is an average of 1.19 yards per cover snap, ranking 31st out of 32 linebacker units. The league average for linebackers is 0.97.
Jordyn Brooks is the worst offender. Brooks has allowed the third-most yards of any linebacker in the league, coughing up 612 yards this season. Brooks is giving up the highest passer rating of any linebacker at 125.4. Fellow starting linebacker Cody Barton is also over the century mark as he is allowing a 101.8 passer rating (19th-worst among 57 qualified LB).
The Seahawks’ pass-coverage struggles at linebacker have caused them to be one of the worst defenses in the league at stopping tight ends and running backs. Seattle is allowing the third-most receiving yards per game to tight ends (65.2) and the third-most receiving yards per game to running backs (48.9). Combined, the Seahawks are allowing a league-high 114.1 receiving yards per game to tight ends and running backs.
New York needs to take advantage.
C.J. Uzomah is a player who deserves more opportunities in the passing game. Uzomah has rarely been targeted this season but seems to come through every time he gets the chance. Uzomah has caught 18 of his 20 targets (90%) for 208 yards, giving him career highs of 11.6 yards per reception and 10.4 yards per target. Many of Uzomah’s catches were difficult grabs, too.
One of the most appealing traits of Uzomah’s game is his yards-after-catch ability. He is a bulldozer with the ball in his hands, combining an imposing frame with great speed for his size. This is a skill New York has not maximized often enough this season. But the Seahawks present a golden opportunity to change that before it’s too late.
Preventing YAC is Seattle’s primary weakness when it comes to covering tight ends. The Seahawks are allowing an NFL-high 8.1 YAC per reception to tight ends.
Getting the ball to Uzomah on YAC-facilitating plays should be a primary focus in the gameplan. Whether it’s a designed screen or a YAC-friendly in-breaking route like a crosser or a drag, Uzomah needs chances to make plays in the open field against this Seattle team.
Uzomah’s fellow tight end, Tyler Conklin, also has a chance to thrive.
While Conklin has received a high volume of receiving opportunities for the Jets – he’s seen 77 targets this season (5.1 per game) – I want to see the Jets give Conklin a more versatile diet of chances. Seattle is the perfect opponent to start doing it.
Many of Conklin’s targets are mere checkdowns. Conklin does not get enough opportunities to flash the route-running skill that made his Vikings film so intriguing. Against a Seahawks team that features terrible cover linebackers, Mike LaFleur must find ways to isolate Conklin in space against those linebackers. Let him run some routes one-on-one. Remember Conklin’s two slick routes for touchdowns against the Patriots in Week 8? It’s puzzling why we have not seen more of that in the red zone and less of Braxton Berrios.
The Seahawks have allowed the fifth-most touchdowns to tight ends (8). Conklin should be a featured option in the red zone this week.
The Jets also need to give their running backs chances to make plays after the catch. Seattle’s coverage issues against running backs simply have to do with making tackles in space. It’s not as if running backs are scorching them as route-runners.
Seattle has allowed a league-worst total of +11.7 passing EPA (Expected Points Added) on throws to running backs that were caught behind the line of scrimmage. That is embarrassingly bad – the Seahawks are one of only five teams who have allowed positive value on these throws. The league average total is -5.5. Forcing the opponent to throw a ball to a running back behind the line of scrimmage is supposed to be a win for the defense, but it has been a killer for Seattle.
Once again, YAC is the issue here. The Seahawks are allowing a league-worst 9.7 YAC per reception to running backs on throws caught behind the line of scrimmage.
We know Mike White will not hesitate to quickly get the ball out to one of his playmakers if they are open underneath. He needs to keep that up this week. White will have a chance to replicate what he did against the Bengals last year – just get the ball out to his running backs underneath and let them make plays. Zonovan Knight and Michael Carter need to have big days as receivers.
Give rush attempts to the WRs early, then use the outside threat to run inside
In the majority of their wins this season, the Jets ran the ball effectively. They need to get back to that.
After struggling mightily to run the ball in recent weeks, the Jets will have a chance to right the ship in Seattle. The Seahawks are 25th in rush defense DVOA and 25th in yards per rush attempt allowed (4.9). They are also allowing the second-most rushing yards per game (155.5).
One great way to beat the Seahawks’ run defense is to hand the ball off to your wide receivers. Seattle has had a rough time against WR runs this year.
The Seahawks have allowed 140 yards and 6 first downs on 16 rush attempts by opposing wide receivers. On these carries, they rank fourth-worst in yards per attempt allowed (8.8), third-worst in EPA per attempt allowed (0.49), and third-worst in defensive success rate (31.3%).
These runs place stress on one of Seattle’s greatest liabilities in the run game: Tariq Woolen.
Woolen is having a phenomenal rookie year in coverage but can improve against the run. Woolen has been credited with 9 missed tackles in the run game, second-most among cornerbacks.
LaFleur needs to dial up one or two run plays for his receivers, specifically toward the left side of the field (the defense’s right side). Get the ball to Garrett Wilson or Elijah Moore in space and make Woolen tackle.
Establishing the threat of WR runs against Woolen can facilitate success against him through the air. Woolen is a highly aggressive corner who likes to bait quarterbacks into testing him, as he trusts his 4.26 speed to recover. If the Jets get Woolen to respect that a WR motion could be handed off, and then follow up by frequently dialing up some eye candy to catch Woolen’s attention in the underneath parts of the field, they could get him to bite downhill a few times – potentially opening up some deep opportunities behind him.
I would like to see the Jets call their wide receiver runs early in the game. Establish that threat as soon as possible, because once you get the Seattle defense to respect the outside run game, you can start punishing them up the middle.
Despite the Seahawks’ issues against wide receiver runs, the inside run game has hurt them more than the outside run game on a down-to-down basis.
On RB carries directed inside of the tackle box, Seattle is allowing the fourth-most yards per attempt (5.0) and fifth-most EPA per attempt (0.00). Meanwhile, on RB carries directed outside of the tackle box, Seattle is middle-of-the-pack, allowing the 16th-most yards per attempt (4.4) and 14th-most EPA per attempt (-0.11).
Dial up one or two WR runs early in the first quarter and then consistently use the outside motion threat to move the linebackers and clear space to run up the middle. That would be my run-game approach if I were Mike LaFleur.
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