The Kansas City Chiefs defense would love to close out the first half of the season with a good performance on Sunday. Fortunately for the Chiefs, a depleted New York Jets offense awaits them. The Jets haven’t tallied a win this year, but are coming off of their best result of the season in an 18-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
With that in mind, let’s dig into the Jets’ personnel — and a concept we may see on Sunday. Then we’ll discuss how the Chiefs defense can try to slow them down — and try to win big as a heavy favorite over the Jets.
Sam Darnold will quarterback the Jets on Sunday, despite a right shoulder injury that limited him in practice this week. Darnold has struggled to throw the ball this season, averaging a paltry 182.4 passing yards per game. He’s thrown just three touchdowns to six interceptions and has taken 18 sacks — 12 of them in his last two starts.
After cutting ties with Le’veon Bell, the Jets are a two-headed rushing attack. Rookie La’Mical Perine out of Florida has received the majority of the snaps since Bell departed — particularly in pass-heavy scripts. But he hasn’t had quite the carries — or production — as the ageless wonder Frank Gore. Now is in his 16th year, Gore is still putting up 3.6 yards per carry.
The Jets wide receiver group is dealing with some injuries and will likely be without two of their top options: Breshad Perriman has already been ruled out with a concussion, and Jamison Crowder is doubtful with a groin injury. In addition, Chris Hogan is on injured reserve, leaving the group incredibly depleted. Of the remaining options, Braxton Berrios has the most yards and targets on the season and is tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns.
So after seeing his first game action last week against the Bills, Baylor rookie Denzel Mims will likely get plenty of playing time. He’s a speedy receiver with a huge catch radius who could be a true #1 threat. He had four catches for 42 yards against the Bills, and will hope to build on that against the Chiefs. In 11 personnel situations, Jeff Smith could be the third receiver.
Chris Herndon leads Jets tight ends in snaps — mostly as an in-line blocker. After not seeing a target during the last two weeks, he’ll likely be Darnold’s primary option. Since the team will need to implement more 12 personnel on account of the injuries at receiver, longtime vet Ryan Griffin could see a significant increase in his snap count. Finally, Trevon Wesco — more of a fullback/H-back type — could also see a bigger package of plays in the passing game.
The Jets offensive line will likely have their first-choice unit on the field, but they’re also dealing with a multitude of injuries. Rookie Mekhi Becton is a mammoth of a man at left tackle. He’s a mauling blocker (and a super athlete) who could be the league’s standard bearer if he puts it all together. But he’s still learning the ropes a bit; he can get caught with inside moves from savvy pass rushers.
Opposite Becton is former Seattle Seahawks tackle George Fant. During his first three years in the league, Fant was primarily utilized as a sixth offensive lineman — but for the Jets, he’s starting at right tackle. The interior of the Jets line is Alex Lewis, Greg Van Roten and Connor McGovern. Chiefs fans — along with defensive tackle Chris Jones — will be familiar with McGovern from his time in Denver.
The offensive concept: Scissors concept
Scissors concept from NYJ out of a stack on third and long with an underneath out stresses the 6 Buzz coverage. Apex defender hesitates with underneath route, and the post drags the CB inside. Fantastic anticipation on a great throw to the corner route makes the secondary pay. pic.twitter.com/jBFHQoNeAA— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) October 29, 2020
The Jets may have the worst passing offense in the league — but that doesn’t mean that they can’t find some success getting vertical. The scissors concept shown here was the Jets’ longest passing play against the Bills — one that they really needed on a third-and-20.
The scissors concept is primarily a split-safety beater — but here, the Jets leak an underneath out route to help against Buffalo’s Cover 6 buzz look. The concept is a vertical release from two players on either side of a deep zone defender. Once at depth — in this case, 15 yards down the field — the inside receiver runs a corner route with the outside receiver on a post route. This forces the deep zone defender to choose which route to top, leaving the other receiver open.
The three-deep look that Buffalo presents should give the defense an advantage. The boundary cornerback and the safety should communicate the switch, while the cornerback should be able to flip his hips and drive on the corner route — especially at the depth where the route is run. The apex defender underneath should be able to shrink the throwing window even further, making this a very difficult throw.
However, the out route underneath the apex defender opens up just enough space for Darnold to attempt to hit the hole in the zone. He makes an incredible early throw to space that his receiver tracks — and the Jets convert deep into Buffalo territory. Great touch, phenomenal timing and a good concept lead to an explosive play that allowed the Jets to stay competitive in this game.
The bottom line
The Jets offense was bad before injuries, so the version that the Chiefs will see on Sunday is potentially even worse. The Jets’ receivers were some of the worst in the league, and they’ve now lost their top options. Darnold will not only have to make sure he’s on the same page with these backup receivers, but also play behind a banged-up offensive line. Since it’s likely the Jets could be down multiple scores — resulting in a pass-heavy script — that’s very bad news.
For the Chiefs defense, it will be hard not to put the cart before the horse. This should be a game where the Chiefs can feast on mistakes, miscommunications and a lack of talent. While they’re rushing the passer, it should be a get-right game for the Chiefs’ defensive ends — and could be a confidence booster for the Chiefs’ linebacking corps. Meanwhile, the secondary has been taking the ball away well — and against a Jets offense with a propensity to throw interceptions, I don’t expect that to change.
The real challenge for the Chiefs defense might be to simply finish the job. While I’m sure that Steve Spagnuolo and his staff will have the players focused and ready to play on Sunday, the task of finishing may be the most challenging. This season, the Chiefs defense has played well for the majority of its snaps. They’ve already stepped up in big moments and — outside of the Las Vegas Raiders game — they’ve put the clamps on the opposition for most of the game.
However, they have still had moments where they haven’t finished off their opponent. The Chiefs have had some late-game drives with soft coverage that tightened up otherwise-comfortable leads. Almost weekly, Spagnuolo and safety Tyrann Mathieu discuss their frustration of these drives; it’s clearly a major focus in the Chiefs’ defensive meeting rooms.
Kansas City will likely have a lead against this Jets team — and it will likely happen early in the game. So the Chiefs defense will probably have a prime opportunity to “put the hammer down” and finish the job. We know the coaching staff has been preaching it throughout the year — and this matchup should be a good exercise in getting it done.