Play it on back
NBA free agency starts tonight, so at least that’s something to keep some of us entertained. If you’re a Knicks fan like me, don’t forget to head on over and subscribe to the Knicks Film School substack, a great resource for NYK information.
It’s been very quiet around the Jets over the last couple of days, it’s definitely the quiet before the storm of camp, so today’s newsletter will be relatively short in comparison to some as we look at one area for Zach to focus on heading into 2022.
Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus outlined one trade or free-agent acquisition for each franchise ahead of the 2022 season that would make them better. His choice for the Jets is both logical and in some circles, expected. Kwon Alexander: “This is a bit of an obvious one since Alexander played on the San Francisco 49ers when Jets head coach Robert Saleh was defensive coordinator. The Jets ranked 26th in Seth Galina's linebacker unit rankings.”
PFF also ranked the most elusive running backs from the 2021 season with the Jets Micheal Carter coming in at #3 with 39 missed tackles forced, trailing only Kareem Hunt of the Browns and Javonte Williams of the Broncos. “The Jets’ ball-carrier saw 77.46% — the third-highest percentage — of his 639 total yards come after contact and forced 39 missed tackles in 2021. While he was lower down the list in first downs and touchdowns, he averaged 4.3 yards per attempt, which was more of a middle-of-the-pack figure.”
QUOTE - Garrett Wilson on learning the system: "I have a lot to learn," he said. "Getting into my routes is the main thing. I want to focus on my releases and knowing what the plan is. It all comes with time." He added: "With this game, every detail is important, the spacing and the timing are on another level. It's a big learning curve for me and I'm still trying to build on that. You keep playing ball and you learn over time, not all at once."
Judging Zach Wilson’s rookie season is always difficult for me. Statistically, he was one of the worst QBs in almost every category, he finished with just 10 big-time throws in 13 games and a 6.1 yards per attempt number which is pretty pedestrian. But, he also had to deal with an injury, a difficult system to learn, and a number of key injuries to his supporting cast members. He improved towards the end of the year and made some impressive throws, but that improvement also came with a level of conservatism, and while that’s understandable considering the early struggles and the supporting cast, he will need to open it up this year.
Zach’s returned to the facility in great shape, he’s bulked up and he looks strong, he’s also maintained that swagger, despite a difficult rookie year. He’s certainly impressed incoming rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson: "He's really special, through minicamp he was really slinging it the last few days -- deep balls, intermediate throws, sidearm, off-platform -- he's got a whole lot of talent. He's been great with me. It's been awesome for sure." - I’ve got a lot of faith in Zach that with a better understanding of the system, a better supporting cast, and a more NFL-ready physique we can see something special this year. But, while I was doing some research I spotted one trend that Zach will almost certainly have to reverse if he wants to have and then maintain success.
Of all the Quarterbacks in the NFL who took at least 400 dropbacks last season, Zach Wilson’s completion percentage differential between play-action passes and non-play-action passes was the worst. His completion percentage drops by -10.3% when working through play-action as opposed to not, and that was nearly 2% more than the next player on the list Davis Mills (-8.5%). His overall completion percentage of 47.8% was significantly lower than the next player Big Ben (59.5%). One thing to note is that Zach did experience a 17% drop rate by his receivers which was the highest mark in the league, but even accounting for his adjusted completion percentage which takes drops into consideration, he still had the lowest mark in the league (62.4%).
One element is that rookies learning a system aren’t as accurate once they have to turn their back to the play, but that only holds true for so long, Trevor Lawrence had the second-highest mark of +11.1% completion on play-action passes.
It’s not just the completion percentage, Zach threw the 5th fewest touchdowns on play-action passes (3) and the third-most interceptions (5). He also held onto the ball too much with his average time to throw on play-action passes leading the league at 3.63 seconds, much higher than the next player Taylor Heinicke (3.34). That average time to throw indicates to me that he didn’t always trust what he was seeing and it was the one area where we didn’t see a huge amount of improvement as the season went on. Even over the last 5 games, where he was improved he still had one of the worst marks in the league, interestingly the only player to have a worst adjusted completion percentage over the final 5 games was Tom Brady (min 100 dropbacks).
Why is this important? Well for one when you have a very strong run-game like many expect the Jets to have in 2022, utilizing play-action usually leads to big gains. Teams will bite harder if the Jets are running the ball all over them with Breece Hall and Michael Carter, and it’s important that when they do they get punished…because that sows the seeds of doubt in their mind.
All you have to do is look at the top 10 quarterbacks in terms of touchdowns thrown through play-action to see how important it is. Patrick Mahomes tossed 22 touchdowns from PA last season, Allen 20, Brady 14, Prescott 13 etc etc. With a better understanding of the system, Zach should be able to turn his back to the play more and still feel confident about where he’s going with the ball once he reaches his drop, if he can get PA down and improve just to league average, it’ll go a long way to helping him achieve success in 2022.
Michael Nania over at Jets X-Factor posted up a reminder about just how good Carl Lawson is, something some may have forgotten considering he missed the 2021 season: “In 2020, Lawson played a career-high 723 defensive snaps after never reaching the 500-snap mark in any of his first three seasons, and he recorded career-highs of 64 total pressures (per PFF), 36 tackles, 32 quarterback hits, and two forced fumbles to go with 5.5 sacks.”
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