Jets vs. Bears: Week 8 offensive grades

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 28: Quarterback Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets looks to pass the football in the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on October 28, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 28: Quarterback Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets looks to pass the football in the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on October 28, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The New York Jets offense put together a lethargic performance in the team’s 24-10 loss to the Chicago Bears. Amid an abundance of injuries, how does the unit grade out?

The New York Jets offense predictably struggled against a stout Chicago Bears defense ultimately finishing the game with one of their worst performances of the season. But at the same time, it’s not like this wasn’t expected.

The Jets entered the game sans their top two wide receivers, their top running back, and their starting center. This doesn’t even account for the loss of the team’s starting tight end and top remaining receiver at a point in the middle of the game.

Special teamers and reserve players were given significant snaps on the road in windy conditions against a vigorous Bears defense. Anyone anticipating an admirable performance going into the game was surely setting themselves up for failure.

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But that’s not where the issue lies.

The talent gap was evident, but equally as evident was the coaching gap. The Jets were out-schemed and out-coached with an uncreative gameplan that failed to maximize the resources at the team’s disposal.

Yes, they were playing with an offense that saw Andre Roberts, Charone Peake, and Eric Tomlinson receive significant playing time. And yes the situation was less than ideal for an offense that had struggled at times even when healthy. But that should be no excuse for the lack of creativity that was displayed on Sunday.

As a coaching staff, it is imperative to gameplan and scheme around the playmakers on offense and utilizes the team to the best of their abilities. The Jets didn’t do that on Sunday and whether you want to blame offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates or head coach Todd Bowles, it’s something that must be fixed if the Jets are going to be a successful team going forwards.

Perhaps the most egregious fault continues to be the use, or lack thereof, of tight end Chris Herndon. Herndon was on the field for just 27 snaps, 50 percent of the team’s total offensive snaps, even with all of the injuries the team had suffered.

In fact, the only reason he even received that many is due to the fact that Neal Sterling went down with a concussion in the first half. Without that injury, it’s likely that the rookie sees anywhere from 30-40 percent of snaps which is ultimately unforgivable.

Jets receivers struggled to gain any sort of separation all day while the offensive line failed to open up any running lanes for Isaiah Crowell and company. Not only is Herndon the most polished route runner of the team’s tight ends, but he’s likely also the best blocker.

This is a situation where the Jets must get creative. Split Herndon out wide at receiver and have him run some routes, use him as an in-line blocker to help with run blocking, heck even line him up at H-back and have him do a combination of the two. Instead, Herndon saw just one catch, for a touchdown mind you, on two targets.

That can’t happen.

On his only catch, the Miami product ran an excellent deep out route and beat his man to the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Herndon needs more playing time, period. And in a game where the offense was severely shorthanded, it’s a mystery why this didn’t happen.

Elsewhere, it would have been nice to see the Jets use running back Trenton Cannon in more creative ways. Cannon is an explosive playmaker on an offense that lacks one with Robby Anderson on the shelf. This is why it’s so concerning to see the sheer lack of imagination when it comes to his use.

His speed and big-play potential should have seen Bates attempt to draw up some plays during the week of preparation designed to get him the ball in the open field. Outside of a failed wheel route which had already been run the prior week, the team used Cannon as they would any other running back, something that wasn’t going to work given the Bears advantage in the trenches.

And no outside zones and tosses don’t count as “drawing up plays.”

Coaching concerns aside, few players did much of anything to show promise in the game but one player who made the most of his opportunities was Deontay Burnett. The undrafted rookie hauled in four receptions for 61 yards pacing the team in both categories in just his second NFL game. His highlight reel play came on a jump ball thrown by USC teammate Sam Darnold in which Burnett skied over the defender to make a contested grab.

While Burnett by no means dominated on Sunday, he showed enough promise to hopefully be a regular fixture in the Jets offense going forwards even after Anderson and Quincy Enunwa return. He could project as a solid future slot receiver for the team and his chemistry with Darnold could go a long way towards helping him carve out a role with the team.

Speaking of Darnold, the rookie first-round pick had one of the most underappreciated starts of his short career thus far. The USC product did about as much as he could with the limited passing windows he was given and most importantly he was safe with the football.

Darnold didn’t turn the ball over once despite throwing almost exclusively to covered receivers for the duration of the game. This could be attributed to well-placed balls that gave the receivers about as good a shot as they were going to get to catch the ball while also not risking an interception.

On top of that, the Jets offensive line had one of their worst games in pass protection, to go along with a plethora of penalties, with Darnold being forced to scramble out and make plays with his feet. Despite this, Darnold was able to avoid any fumbles and not force any throws that could have been game-changing plays. Regardless of how the offense played, the lack of turnovers ultimately kept them in the game, at least partially.

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Overall, Sunday’s offensive performance somehow failed to live up to the rock-bottom expectations that had been set upon the team due to coaching complacency and poor execution. The solid play of Herndon, Burnett, and Darnold keep this from being a failing grade.

Final Grade: D-