Football is not just “around the corner.” It’s so close we’re back to regular season content! So welcome back and let’s get to our first opponent preview of the year. The Buffalo Bills prepare for the New York Jets in the season/home opener. With nothing to go on except last year’s games, let’s look at the Jets’ defense to see what they did to stifle the Bills’ offense. Yes, I know Josh Allen improved throughout the year and the Week 17 game was “less serious” than normal. But let’s give some credit to the Jets who were respectable all year on defense.
A primary impetus for success for any defense is pressuring the quarterback. With most defenses generally rushing less than five players at a time, they need to rely on winning one-to-one contests or catching the other team off guard. To the Jets’ credit they were often more successful rushing three players instead of four. The Bills’ line hesitated in these scenarios or were beaten by stunts and misdirection. Here it got Josh Allen to scramble and limited the success of the play.
The Buffalo Bills didn’t have a very successful 2018 on offense. Teams gave them heavy doses of Cover-1 and all of the quarterbacks on the team struggled against it. Overall, Allen improved in this area in 2019 including in this game. The Bills seemed to do better against defensive play calls like this one. For this exact play, Allen appears to have lost sight of the safety or had too much faith in his arm getting the ball there in time. Either way, it was one of four turnovers from Allen.
The Jets rush four. The two on the edges ran straight ahead and were shut down. The stunt up the middle is effective though. This kind of misdirection was pretty successful all day. This play had two safeties deep, aka “Cover-2” that helped create the hole in the middle Allen ran toward. This was a positive play but overall Allen seemed to hesitate more playing against the Jets’ Cover-2 looks, and their defense saw more success using that scheme.
Another tactic the Jets liked to use was to slightly delay a rusher or two to the line. Devin Singletary manages to get his block, but the simultaneous movement of the two highlighted Jets gets Quinton Spain moving left, setting him up for the swim move.
The Jets didn’t overthink things against the Bills and this came up huge several times. A common lament is that Frank Gore telegraphed a run play. While this has some validity, there’s more to that story as alluded to here. Frank Gore wouldn’t have telegraphed the play in Week 1, but Frank Gore with a lead blocker and all but one Buffalo Bill scrunched together like this certainly does. The Jets play it for what it looked like and the result speaks for itself. The Jets earned a safety on a similar play and shut Allen down more than once on sneaks, which included a turnover.
Another play involving two problems for the Bills. The three-man rush is covered pretty well but this isn’t a perfect pocket by any means. Allen makes a really risky throw into traffic and the incomplete doesn’t look so bad compared to what could have happened.
The Jets’ tendency to delay and shift players’ assignments to confuse the offense also helped hide when they used a spy. It wasn’t a ton, but the Jets did manage to keep Allen under 4.0 yards per carry on 10 tries. A fair few of those tries were scrambles due to pressure.
NOTE: The GIFS all came from Week 1 against the starters, but the Jets used similar concepts effectively in Week 17.
Some of their success definitely can be chalked up to the Bills’ lack of cohesion early in the year and, yes, a Bills unit that didn’t really care all that much in Week 17. It can’t account for all of it though. The changing defensive fronts were effective in confusing the Bills’ line. And the Cover-2 looks were less friendly for Allen than the Cover-1. Will another year of growth for Allen and continuity on offense make it easier to negate the Jets’ defensive trickery? We won’t have long to wait to find out.