EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The NFL’s weekly statistics package that is released to the media lists team rankings for 12 offensive categories. The Jets are ranked 29th or worst in 11 of them – the exception is fourth-down conversion percentage – including eight in which they are 32nd and last (total and passing yards and third down success among them).
But Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher, whose unit will face that offense tomorrow in MetLife Stadium, cares not at all about rankings. He looks at schemes, coaches and players and what he has seen in the Jets this week is formidable opponent.
“Absolutely a talented group,” Bettcher said. “An elite running back (Le’Veon Bell). A quarterback (Sam Darnold) who we’ve all seen has had some spurts where he’s played really, really well. Fast, a couple of really fast receivers. Just like anything, they’re working to get through whatever they have to get through. Adam (Gase) is a really good coach, so he’s going to have a plan for us.”
Darnold missed three games with mononucleosis and has struggled at times behind a line that has started four different combinations because of injury. But he threw for 338 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a victory against Dallas, a team that twice defeated the Giants. Darnold was the third overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft.
“A guy who can make all the throws,” Bettcher said. “A guy who can lead their offense, and a guy who does not shy away from competition. You can see that he’s a competitor, and we’ll be looking forward to the challenge.”
“He has phenomenal arm talent,” safety Jabrill Peppers said. “When things are going right, they’re going right. When it’s not, it’s not. But he’s a guy you’ve got to respect back there. He can change the game, and he has guys around him that can change the game as well.”
In his first season with the Jets, Bell leads the team with 415 rushing yards and a touchdown and is second with 40 catches for 242 yards and another score.
Bell’s trademark move is to take a handoff and then survey the scene before choosing where to run.
“He has excellent vision,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “He has a very patient style as a runner. We’ve seen that. He’s kind of patented that move. As he gets to the line of scrimmage, he… They do a good job if they can get good separation, he can be real patient and then find the crease. It’s unique in some ways to his running style. He catches the ball well, and he’s obviously a very good blocker in pass protection. He’s a three-down back that has the ability to make guys miss and score touchdowns.”
“I think his ability to explode and hit creases makes him unique,” Bettcher said. “Obviously, we all know he’s a super patient runner. But when he decides to put it in gear and go, his zero to 60 is pretty dang fast.”
So is that of Robby Anderson, the primary deep threat among the Jets’ wide receivers. He scored on a 92-yard catch-and-run against the Cowboys. Demaryius Thomas is a big, strong wideout and Jamison Crowder ‘s exceptional quickness enables him to flourish on underneath routes. Crowder leads the Jets with 43 catches. And tight end Chris Herndon is expected to make his season debut after missing the first eight games with a hamstring injury. He caught 39 passes and scored four touchdowns last year.
“I assume when they put it together, they look for complementary players,” Bettcher said. “They had a chance to acquire Demaryius, a guy who has strong hands, he’s going to try to big boy guys on routes. Anderson runs good routes. I give him respect for that. But he can run. Crowder, who we’ve gone against in Washington, we know him. He’s a shifty slot receiver who they’re going to move around a little bit and try to find ways to get him the ball. He’s a core target guy for them. We know that and we have to be aware of where he’s at.”
Bettcher has closely studied the history of first-year head coach Adam Gates, who calls the Jets’ plays. Gase was previously the coach in Miami and the offensive coordinator in Chicago and before that Denver. He has also paid particular attention to the success the Jets had against Dallas.
“You watch every bit of every game,” Bettcher said. “I watch multiple years of games. You go back and watch all of the tape from Miami, you watch a bunch of tape there. We played them when I was in Arizona and Adam was the coordinator in Chicago. I watched that. We played him when he was in Miami. This is like 2015 and 2016, you go back and do all of the research you can so you have your T’s crossed and I’s dotted.”
That is true even against an offense that has struggled for most of the season.
We’re going to have to go execute ours and compete our butts off,” Bettcher said.
*Defensive tackle Leonard Williams was drafted sixth overall in 2015 by the Jets, for whom he played 71 games before being traded to the Giants on Oct. 29. His second game for his new team will be against his former teammates.
“I don’t think it’ll be strange,” Williams said. “I’ve went to college with people, I’ve grown up and went to high school with people, I’ve played in All-America games with people all my life that I’ve lined up against that I’m friends with off the field. But on the field and in between those lines, we are still going against each other. I don’t think it will be totally strange. It might be a little strange just to think that we played together for so long. But at the same time, I’m seeing a different color than what I’m wearing. I think any football player has that mentality that after a while you see a different color and you go at it.”
What will be different for Williams is that if he gets a shot to sack Darnold, he can for it with all he’s got. When he and Darnold were teammates, he couldn’t hit the quarterback in practice.
“That’s funny because I randomly thought in my head, ‘What if I beat somebody and go to tackle Sam and I let up because I can’t hit him (laughter)?’” Williams said. “That won’t happen, though. I’ll finally get to tackle him, that’s going to be fun. It’s going to be great.”
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