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Film Study: Scouting the Giants-Jets matchup

The Giants take on the Jets on Sunday at 1 o’clock. The Jets are 1-7 with their only win coming in Week 6 at home against the Dallas Cowboys.

Here’s what I saw from the Jets on tape:

When The Jets Have The Ball

The Spotlight: Quarterback Sam Darnold

Darnold has three more interceptions than touchdowns (9 vs. 6) and is throwing for 215 yards per game. In spite of the numbers, he makes high-end plays that make him dangerous. Darnold throws with anticipation and accuracy. He is not afraid the throw the ball downfield into small areas and execute back-shoulder throws against man coverage.

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), on passes that travel 20 or more yards in the air, Darnold is 3 of 14 for 137 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

He is creative and mobile in the pocket and uses the same reverse spin move Tony Romo used to buy extra time. Darnold is unpredictable when plays break down.

According to PFF, when facing pressure this season, Darnold has completed 31 of 63 passes for 303 yards with four touchdowns and six interceptions. Jets quarterbacks have faced pressure on 34.2% of their dropbacks this season, the third highest rate in the league.

The Matchup: Running Back Le’Veon Bell vs. Giants Linebackers

Bell is one of the best all-purpose running backs in the league. This season, however, he is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and 52 yards per game. Bell is very patient and waits behind the line of scrimmage until the right hole opens before bursting through. Giants linebackers will have to be disciplined in playing their gaps and remain disciplined in their assignments to keep him contained. Bell can run with power and is capable of falling forward for extra yards after contact.

Bell is still an excellent receiver out of the backfield. He has 40 catches and averages 6.1 yards per reception. He catches screens, swing passes in the flat, and short check-downs over the middle. He is not used on routes down the field very often. Giants linebackers will have to stay plastered to him after plays break down.

Scheme and Tendencies

*The Jets played three of their eight games with Luke Falk, their third string quarterback, as their starter, so all their offensive numbers are skewed. They rank near the bottom in the league in most important offensive metrics, like 3rd down conversions (22.8%), completions of 20+ yards (16), pass yards per game (157.3), red zone drives (12) and points per game (12). Their offense with Darnold at quarterback is better than those numbers indicate.

*Adam Gase’s passing schemes get players open down the field. The Jets run a variety of route combinations, but their go-to plays are deep over routes from one side of the field to the other. Darnold is adept at hitting them. He is also good at getting the ball to his receivers outside the numbers in the cover-two hole.

*The Jets two primary weapons in the passing game are very different. Robby Anderson is their primary deep threat, averaging 14.9 yards per catch. He had a 92-yard catch-and-run touchdown against the Cowboys after beating Chidobe Awuzie on a double move. He does not have a drop this season, according to PFF.

*Jamison Crowder leads the Jets with 43 catches, for 405 yards. He plays out of the slot and is an excellent route runner in the short and intermediate areas of the field. His quickness allows him to gain separation. Crowder is a big third down target for Darnold.

*Demaryius Thomas has 19 catches in six games since being acquired in a trade with the Patriots. He is an intermediate target but does have three drops out of 35 targets this season. At 6-3, he is a big target for Darnold.

*Tight end Ryan Griffin has come on the last two weeks with 10 catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns. He had a touchdown catch against the Dolphins called back last week. At 6-6 and 255 pounds, the Jets will use him over the middle and down the seam.

*Behind Bell at running back are Bilal Powell and Ty Montgomery.

*Jets quarterbacks have been sacked 37 times this season, the second highest total in the league. According to PFF, they have allowed sacks on a higher percentage of dropbacks (12.5%) than any other team in the league. Injuries have forced the Jets to play eight different offensive linemen at least 100 snaps this season. Veteran guard Kelechi Osemele is out for the season. Veteran center Ryan Kalil missed last week with a knee injury. An ankle injury to left tackle Kelvin Beachum forced third round draft pick Chuma Edoga to play left tackle last week. Brandon Shell played right tackle. According to PFF, Shell and Edoga have combined to allow 8 sacks, 6 quarterback hits and 29 hurries on 466 pass blocking snaps. Brian Winters is the only lineman to start every game this season.

Keys For The Giants Offense

*Pressure Sam Darnold

*Take advantage of takeaway opportunities

*Slow down Le’Veon Bell on first and second down

When The Giants Have The Ball

The Spotlight: Safety Jamaal Adams

Adams is the Jets do-everything safety. He will play man to man coverage on tight ends and running backs but excels most running to the football in space. He is a big hitter, sure-tackler and playmaker who disrupts opposing offenses.

With Evan Engram out, it would not be surprising to see Adams used to slow down Saquon Barkley in the run and pass game. He will also be someone Daniel Jones will have to keep an eye on when he decides to scramble.

The Matchup: Cornerback Brian Poole vs. Golden Tate

The Jets have struggled with injuries and moving pieces in the secondary, but the constant presence at cornerback and their best cover corner has been Poole. He has had to play outside more recently due to injuries, but at 5-9, 213 pounds, he is used mostly in the slot where Tate often lines up.

If the Jets go with a blitz heavy scheme to try to disrupt Daniel Jones, they will put their cornerbacks in a lot of one on one situations. If Tate can make some third down catches and turn some of those into big plays with his run-after-catch ability, he can change the course of the game.

Scheme and Tendencies

*One tendency from Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams the last couple seasons has been to play a single high safety extremely deep, sometimes as much as 30 yards off the ball. He isn’t doing it quite as often with the Jets, but when he does, it is safety Marcus Maye. He has an interception this season and, according to PFF, he has allowed just two catches on nine targets.

*The Jets mix up their coverages, though cover-one is still their most frequent coverage, using it 38% of the time. The secondary does a nice job of disguising coverages y are in by moving their safeties around right around the snap. They will mix in cover-two and cover-three along with their man to man defenses.

*Veteran corner Trumaine Johnson is on injured reserve. Nate Hairston and Darryl Roberts are the starters, though Roberts missed practice time this week with a calf injury. If he can’t go, Arthur Maulet will likely be the second outside cornerback.

*Opponents have a 130.4 quarterback rating on passes that travel more than 20 yards in the air this season, which is the highest number in the NFL. No team has been worse defending third downs of more than six yards than the Jets, allowing opponents to convert 33% of their opportunities.

*The Jets’ 129 blitzes are the fifth most in the league. When they blitz, they hold opponents to an 81.4 quarterback rating. Despite their high blitz percentage, they only have 13 sacks, 4th worst in the NFL.

*The Jets are strong on the interior of their defensive line. Steve McLendon, Quinnen Williams and Folorunso Fatukasi are all good against the run. Williams is the best pass rusher of the group. The Jets are allowing only 3.13 yards per rushing play, the best number in the NFL. On first down, the Jets only allow 2.7 yards per run, which also leads the league. Sometimes the Jets stack too many players at the line, and if the running back can get past the first line of defense, there’s potential for big plays.

*Jordan Jenkins is their best rusher and he will primarily line up over the left tackle at right outside linebacker. According to PFF, he has 3 sacks, six quarterback hits and seven hurries.

Keys For The Giants Offense

*Make plays through the air on early downs

*Handle Jets blitz packages

*Identify Jets coverages and make good decisions

View rare photos from the local rivalry between the Giants and Jets

Giants vs. Jets Broadcast Info: TV channel, Radio Station and Live Stream.

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