You should never read too much into one game in the early days of a season, but one imagines it’s hard not to be concerned if you’re a New York Jets fan.
The New York Jets have dropped two conference games to teams they will likely have to contend with for a wild card spot later this season, and they have done so in frustrating fashion.
They should have won against the Cincinnati Bengals and they should have at least shown up against the Kansas City Chiefs. Neither thing happened, and so the Jets find themselves in a tough spot early on.
Now they welcome the Seattle Seahawks to MetLife Stadium for a pretty important game, even though the Seahawks are not in the same conference. The Jets have to start righting the ship, because even though a rough go during the first six or so games was expected, losing because of sloppy play is unacceptable for a playoff-hopeful team.
How do the Jets fix this against Seattle?
Protect the Duke
As I wrote Sunday morning, turnover differential is not something winning teams can be cavalier about, but that’s what destroyed them against the Chiefs. One game has sent them to the bottom of the NFL in the category. It’s not the end of the world because a game like that is unlikely to happen again this season, but putting aside the Ryan Fitzpatrick implosion, two other fumbles happened when they shouldn’t have and both cost the Jets dearly.
A turnover arguably cost the Jets that Week 1 win against the Bengals as well, with Fitzpatrick throwing a terrible pass right into the arms of a defender.
Again, it’s not just Fitzpatrick. Jalin Marshall has fumbled the ball twice, as has Bilal Powell.
Even though Sunday’s debacle was likely an outlier, the Jets have made some mistakes with the ball prior to it. They have to do better.
It’s unlikely we’ll see Fitzpatrick pulled anytime soon (whether that says something about what the team really thinks of Geno Smith is a good question), so head coach Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey have to do more to protect him from himself.
There’s only so much you can do because Fitzpatrick is going to Fitzpatrick on occasion. The team can help him out, though.
They need to use Matt Forte a little more creatively, especially when the defense is bringing a lot of pressure. Forte was targeted just four times on Sunday and three times against Buffalo. He’s not out wide as often as he should be, and the last two games he hasn’t been used enough in space either.
The Jets should get back to the way they used him against the Bengals, when he was targeted seven times and caught five passes for 59 yards. If the high use of him in the first two games was a concern going into Kansas City, then they should use Powell more running the ball.
In fact, put them both in the backfield, or on the field, at the same time. At least against Kansas City, they used Powell in the passing game a lot more, with seven targets for six catches and 41 yards.
The point is, getting Forte involved more in the pass game, with bubble screens, out routes and other short patterns, will get Fitzpatrick to release the ball quicker in the face of the pass rush.
Short, tight patterns from Quincy Enunwa would do the trick as well, especially since the Jets don’t have a proven tight end option at this point.
Not only might both approaches pull the rush back a bit, it should loosen the defense up for Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.
Against the Seahawks
If the Jets protect the ball, and they are a bit more creative with the offense (which they have to be against a tough Seattle defense), they really do have a shot in this game. Keep the Seattle defense guessing and prevent them from keying on Fitzpatrick, Marshall or Decker (assuming the latter two are active), and they should be able to move the chains.
The biggest thing for the Jets is playing well defensively. Despite the score, the Jets defense played well against the Chiefs’ offense. Despite Fitzpatrick and the offense giving Kansas City the ball repeatedly, the defense only allowed 10 points, 72 yards on the ground and 237 yards through the air.
Now they face a bad Seattle offensive line, with a banged up Russell Wilson behind it. Wilson, if he does play (not guaranteed), will be more limited than usual when running, so if the Jets front seven can get through the line, they can disrupt this offense.
Of course, there are concerns in the secondary, but adjusting to cover for Darrelle Revis’ aging game is not all that complex and should be easily accomplished by Bowles. The Seahawks have a few solid receivers, but that’s a moot point—the secondary issues are as well—if the Jets defense gets to Wilson regularly.