How the NY Jets’ defense can limit Lions QB Jared Goff

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By: Rivka Boord

Goff is having a strong year but shows some vulnerabilities

Here comes the test for the New York Jets‘ defense.

As the Detroit Lions come to East Rutherford for a Week 15 showdown, the Jets’ slate of four consecutive must-win games begins. Each of those four games features a team with a top-10 pass offense DVOA.

The Lions feature the NFL’s ninth-rated passing attack by DVOA and seventh-rated total offense. They feature a deep stable of receivers, headlined by Amon-Ra St. Brown and the return of first-round pick Jameson Williams.

Jared Goff has been a top-10 passer in 2022 by most available metrics. Among 39 qualified quarterbacks (min. 125 dropbacks), Goff is seventh in passer rating (97.9), sixth in ESPN’s QBR metric (61.2), sixth in Expected Points Added (EPA), ninth in Sports Info Solutions’s Total Points (a stat similar to WAR), fourth in DVOA, and third in Defense-adjusted Yards Over Replacement (DYAR). Unsurprisingly, after a slow start, the Lions have won five of their last six on the back of their elite passing offense.

That being said, Goff has not suddenly evolved from the quarterback whom Sean McVay dumped in favor of Matthew Stafford. His strong statistics are supported by various other factors and are therefore vulnerable to sudden dips.

How can the Jets contain Goff and the Lions’ passing attack?

Jump his short throws

Much like Mike White, Goff has been known as a game manager throughout his career. Unlike White, he actually has been a game manager this season, just a really good one.

Goff has thrown the ball between 0-9 yards past the line of scrimmage on 47.7% of his attempts this season, the eighth-highest rate in the league. White, meanwhile, is 25th at 42.6%.

Goff’s numbers on those short throws are excellent. His 114.4 passer rating in that situation is second only to Patrick Mahomes, and his 32.3% DVOA ranks third.

However, knowing that Goff wants to let the ball go short means that the Jets should key on those throws. Don’t let him get away with dump-offs and YAC attempts to Amon-Ra St. Brown. St. Brown’s 898 receiving yards rank sixth in the NFL among 79 qualified receivers (min. 40 targets), but his average depth of target is just 6.8 yards, ranking 72nd out of those 79 receivers.

St. Brown plays in the slot 57.4% of the time, which means that he will likely draw a matchup with Michael Carter II. Carter II struggled mightily in the loss against Buffalo but has been strong overall on the year. It’s a tricky matchup for him, though, since his biggest strength is preventing big plays, and it appears that St. Brown’s strength is death by a thousand paper cuts. St. Brown’s 5.1 YAC per reception ranks 16th, and that’s something Carter II will need to limit, as well. Overall, St. Brown ranks fifth with 2.57 yards per route run, and he will need to be a focal point of the Jets’ defensive gameplan, especially in the short range.

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Pick him off

Like Josh Allen, Goff is putting the ball into harm’s way at a high rate this season and has been somewhat lucky to not be picked off more frequently. Despite having only seven picks, 3.15% of Goff’s throws have been charted as turnover-worthy throws that did not get intercepted (14 total), which is the sixth-highest rate among QBs. His 4.2% turnover-worthy play rate is tied for the seventh-highest, and his 21 turnover-worthy plays are third.

Although most of those turnover-worthy plays do not come in the short range (he’s only at 1.4% on throws from 0-9 yards, which is middle-of-the-pack), on the whole, a quarterback who throws deep just the 24th-most should not be putting the ball in harm’s way so often. The Jets must capitalize on Goff’s tendency to give them away.

Turnovers have been hard to come by for the Jets’ defense since the bye week, as they’ve had just one takeaway (C.J. Mosley‘s red zone pick vs. the Bears) in the four games since. There have been times this year that quarterbacks have given them golden opportunities to turn the game around, and they have failed to capitalize. That must change.

Get pressure with four

This is going to be a tough ask if Quinnen Williams does not play. Still, the Jets’ defensive philosophy is suited to Goff overall. He has been blitzed the seventh-most among QBs this season at 34.7% of his dropbacks, but he’s picked it apart, completing 66.4% of his passes (ninth) for 1,184 yards (first) and 10 TDs (T-2nd) against 4 picks. He has also kept the ball relatively safe in these situations, ranking middle-of-the-pack with a 2.9% turnover-worthy play rate. He has a 100.9 QB rating against the blitz.

That is not to say that Goff has been bad when he’s not blitzed. He ranks seventh with a 96.4 QB rating when facing four or fewer rushers. However, his turnover-worthy play rate skyrockets to 4.8%, tied for the 5th highest, when he’s not blitzed.

Ironically, although this is not something the Jets can control, Goff has had 20 balls dropped on throws without a blitz, a 9.6% rate that could be on either Goff himself or his receivers. (His 79% adjusted completion rate on such throws ranks sixth-best, but that may be because the metric counts drops against the receivers rather than the QB, which may not be entirely accurate.)

Still, Goff has been bad when he is pressured. His 59.4 QB rating in such situations ranks 30th. It’s just that he’s only been pressured the 26th-most, which means that he’s put in a situation to struggle at a less-than-average rate. Goff completes just 43.8% of his passes under pressure (31st), has 5.7 yards per attempt (22nd), and has a 4:4 TD:INT rate. His 15.9% drop rate (second-highest) under pressure also may be an underrated indicator that his accuracy suffers when he feels the heat.

Goff’s pressure-to-sack rate is one of the lowest in the league (fourth-lowest at 12.9%), so getting him to the turf may not be so easy for the Jets. But getting pressure will be very important, and doing so with their front four is paramount.

Detroit’s offensive line is very strong overall, without any glaring weaknesses. Of the five, though, right tackle Taylor Decker appears to be the most exploitable. His 5.3% pressure rate allowed is right about at the league average for tackles (5.5%). John Franklin-Myers, Jermaine Johnson, and Bryce Huff will need to take advantage of that.

If the Jets don’t have Quinnen Williams for this game, they may consider moving Franklin-Myers inside for this game to maximize their pass-rushing strength.

Stopping the red-hot Lions’ passing attack will be difficult. The Jets will need to tailor their gameplan to Goff’s strengths and weaknesses to neutralize a Detroit team vying for a playoff spot.

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