The NY Jets must do these three things to win their first game in Week 5.
The NY Jets are still winless, and Adam Gase is still their head coach. The more things don’t change, the more likely they stay the same. The fall is considered the season of change, but when it comes to the Jets 2020 season, each passing week follows the same script.
Same story, different week.
Key Jets players are injured heading into Sunday’s home game against the Arizona Cardinals. This time, it’s the team’s current franchise quarterback Sam Darnold.
To throw some extra salt in the gaping wounds, Jets stalwart offensive tackle Mekhi Becton appears likely to miss the contest as well.
To write about three keys for the Jets winning a game seems almost as difficult as the team doing it themselves. Being cynical is in the DNA of every single Jets fan. If you weren’t born with that trait, the Jets would make sure that you adopt it over time.
The evidence of this is last week’s game against the then winless Denver Broncos. Somehow, New York found a way to lose despite forcing multiple turnovers and committing none themselves. The result was the same.
In Week 2, the Jets had so much tilted in their favor at home against the 49ers. The MetLife Stadium turf injured all of San Francisco’s key players, yet the Jets still lost by a wide margin.
If the Jets were a normal team, you could argue that the Cardinals are ripe for an upset loss this coming weekend. Arizona is coming off two consecutive losses against the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers.
They are traveling east to face the Jets in the early game on Fox. Typically, the west coast teams that do so struggle to win in these spots. New York is well-rested, coming off a mini-bye, having played last Thursday.
On the flip side, the Cardinals are in a must-win situation against a team that looks like it can’t win. If the NY Jets hope to pull off the unlikely, here are the three keys to a victory on Sunday.
Next: 3. Exploit the Cardinals run defense
3. The NY Jets must exploit the Cardinals’ run defense
The Cardinals’ defense is ranked 19th in the league against the run, and they are coming off a loss against the Carolina Panthers, where they gave up over 170 yards on the ground. Opposing teams have averaged 124 yards rushing per game and 4.5 yards per run against Arizona.
It would help immensely if Le’Veon Bell returned this weekend and also if Mekhi Becton was playing, that’s for sure.
Recent reports suggest that Le’Veon Bell, who has been designated for return from injured reserve, is now practicing and trending towards playing this Sunday. Bell’s presence would be a huge boost to the Jets’ entire offense.
On the opposing side, the Cardinals were without their superstar safety Budda Baker last week. That and injuries to others on Arizona’s defense has left them vulnerable.
Regardless of who plays on either side, the Jets need to establish the run and stay committed to it. New York hasn’t been in very many close contests. In fact, last week was the first time that the Jets had a lead in any game all season.
The best thing you can do in what appears to be a lost season is to find out about what type of players you have on your roster. Even if Le’Veon Bell is ready to go by this weekend.
The backfield player that could be in the teams’ long-term plans is running back La’Mical Perine. It’s time to give him more playing time and a shot to show what he’s capable of.
When you are struggling on defense to stop opposing teams or, in the Jets case, beating themselves with poor tackling and a lack of discipline, the solution to hiding a bad defense is controlling the clock and running the football with success.
New York is facing an opponent on Sunday that’s vulnerable to the run, and it serves the Jets well to exploit that in their favor. Or at least try to.
Next: 2. Play to Joe Flacco's strengths
2. The NY Jets must play to Joe Flacco’s strengths
I can almost hear the criticism as I’m typing this. Suggesting that the recent version of Joe Flacco has strengths is wide open for ridicule. At his best, the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Flacco is an excellent play-faker and still has one of the strongest arms in the league.
A return of Flacco’s former teammate in Breshad Perriman could help aid the Jets downfield passing attack. However, that’s something that doesn’t appear in the cards right now for New York against Arizona.
Regardless, one of the Jets’ biggest weaknesses is their lack of big plays generated on offense. The Jets are ranked 32nd in the league in passing at 179.5 yards per game.
A big reason for that is the teams’ 5.8 yards per pass attempt. With Flacco under center, it makes perfect sense to try and change that.
Pass defense is another area where the Cardinals have struggled all season. Their pass defense in 2020 has allowed a 101.8 passer rating.
In order for the Jets to open up their ground attack and underneath passing game, they need to start challenging defenses down the field. The mere threat of doing so could open things up.
Last week, the Cardinals, because of injuries at safety, decided to guard against deep passes by Carolina. The idea was to prevent players like our old friend Robby Anderson from burning them deep. The result saw the Panthers utilize a quick underneath passing attack as a counter.
The Cardinals will have no such fear of the Jets’ deep passing game until New York proves that they are capable of doing so. It just so happens that the quarterback playing this week for the Jets is adept at challenging defenses down the field.
A tall order, but Adam Gase, needs to let Flacco show that he still has some bombs left in his cannon.
Next: 1. Limit big plays from Kyler Murray and the Cardinals offense
1. The NY Jets must limit big plays from Kyler Murray and the Cardinals’ offense
The Cardinals have the league’s No. 1 rushing attack, but almost none of that has anything to do with its offensive line or cast of running backs. The reason that they are No. 1 is because of the player that is wearing that number.
Kyler Murray is one of the league’s best running quarterbacks and is almost impossible to tackle in the open field. Murray is on pace to rush for over 1,000 yards.
He has four touchdowns and is sporting a healthy 8.3 yards per run. His production has overshadowed the slow start by running back Kenyan Drake, who is under four yards per carry on the season.
The Jets’ defense has struggled against mobile quarterbacks in the past under Gregg Williams. Look no further than Week 1 where Josh Allen extended several drives and broke multiple tackles. The Jets will have to contain Murray and limit the damage that he’s guaranteed to do on Sunday.
An area where the Cardinals have struggled this season is their passing attack. Like the Jets, Arizona has not been making big plays downfield.
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Last week, Kyler Murray completed 24 passes for only 133 yards. A 4.3 yards per attempt average. Superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has gobbled up 39 receptions to lead the league, but he’s only averaging 10 yards per catch.
The Jets defense has been prone to giving up big plays on the ground and through the air all season. So the argument can be made that they are the perfect “get-right” opponent for the Cardinals.
Arizona does have elite speed on the outside with Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella, but Murray’s tendency to leave the pocket immediately has hindered their ability to make plays downfield.
Murray only knows one speed. He plays with reckless urgency, either throwing quickly or taking off and leaving the pocket at the first sign of trouble.
One of the biggest disappointments thus far in the Jets season is how poorly the teams’ defense has played. Last season, the unit showed real promise, and Gregg Williams made the most of what he was working with. But 2020 has been exactly the opposite.
It takes good coaching and preparation to combat Kliff Kingsbury and his up-tempo offense. Coaching and preparation, a big reason why the Jets are winless and will remain that way until that improves.
We might not see that from Jets coaches until 2021.