The Flacc Attack is back for the Jets after Robert Saleh gave Joe Flacco the nod over Mike White to start against the Dolphins on Sunday.
The Jets feel better about Zach Wilson’s chances to start next week against the Houston Texans in Week 12, but he is still recovering from the knee sprain he suffered against the Patriots in Week 7.
And while White was the talk of the town the last month as some believed he could possibly become the long-term answer at quarterback, he tossed four interceptions last week in a blowout loss to the Bills.
That led the Jets to throw it back to Flacco, who they traded for on Oct. 25.
“You know Joe is just that veteran,” Saleh said. “One of the reasons we went and got Joe is for the experience part of it. Not only for the playing ability, but for the room, but also for situations like this.”
Saleh also cited Flacco’s experience against the Dolphins’ chaotic blitzing scheme as to why Gang Green is rolling with the former Super Bowl MVP on Sunday in this AFC East clash at MetLife Stadium.
“Joe’s kind of been there, done that, and just kind of a steadying experience that we thought would put us in the best position to win.”
As for Flacco, he just wants the chance.
“You can’t take this game for granted,” Flacco said. “I’m 14 years in now and I want to play now more than ever.”
White, with only three NFL starts on his resume, probably would have struggled against the amount of blitzing Miami does. In eight quarters of action, White has completed 40% of his passes against the blitz, with two interceptions and a passer rating of 37.6.
The Dolphins lead the NFL by blitzing on 39.7% of defensive snaps and have totaled the second-most quarterback pressures this season (123).
And recently the Dolphins defense has finally shown signs of being the unit that ranked in the Top 5 in 2020.
In their past three games, they’ve held their opponents to 15 points per game. They contained the mighty Bills offense until the last few minutes of the game in a Week 8 loss. Last week, they held the Ravens offense led by MVP candidate Lamar Jackson to 10 points on Thursday Night Football. Jackson finished with 266 yards of total yards with one touchdown, one interception and was sacked four times. And the Texans only scored nine points the week before
The defensive scheme hasn’t always worked this fall, though. In the six prior games, Miami allowed an average of 32 points. But recent signs are showing the unit is closer to the 2020 version. And they’re seventh in the NFL in takeaways with 15.
So it makes sense to start Flacco, who has experience against what the Dolphins will do. He faced that same scheme last year in his first stint with Gang Green, although it wasn’t a good outing as the Jets were blanked 24-0 in Miami on Oct. 18 to fall to 0-6.
The Dolphins blitzed Flacco on 49% of his dropbacks that day. He had a passer rating of 45 when he was faced with five or more rushers.
“It limits your offense to a certain extent,” Flacco said, “and it forces you to kind of make a guy miss or get the ball out of your hands quick and make sure you’re on top of everything, all the little details in your offense. I think it’s one of those things that in football, the positive plays usually go to the aggressor.”
However, that was under a different coaching staff with different players so Saleh doesn’t care about those results.
“Last year is irrelevant. Completely different O-line, different receivers, different coach, different coordinator, different everything,” Saleh said on Wednesday. “Joe’s proven in this league, he’s played in the AFC North and he knows exactly what he’s looking at. He’s trained for this his whole life. Again, he’s a very steadying force, player, in terms of just his experience and knowledge and being able to get the ball to his playmakers.”
Flacco isn’t athletic enough to evade the pressure with his feet. So it’ll have to be with his mental processing ability with help from the Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur to call plays to combat the blitz.
“Joe has got the ability to process and get the ball in-and-out of his hands as quickly as possible,” Saleh said on Friday. “I have a lot of faith in Mike LaFleur and his ability to game plan with his staff and put players in position where there’s space to be had. But, again, it goes back to Joe’s experience and recognizing coverages pre-snap and knowing exactly where the ball needs to get as quickly as possible to, one, avoid hits, but, two, get the ball where it needs to go in space.”
Flacco’s only been with the Jets for a cup of coffee this season — this coming after he served as Sam Darnold’s backup in 2020 before leaving to join the Eagles in the offseason — and he doesn’t have much chemistry with his weapons, but LaFleur isn’t worried about that because of his experience.
“He’s played so much ball that the cool part about him is when he steps out on the field, he’s seen it all,” LaFleur said. “Just little tweaks and stuff to the offense with cadences and all that kind of stuff or what he’s getting used to, but it’s cool. Joe, he’s been there before, so we expect some good stuff from him.”
The passing attack over the past three weeks has blossomed. It’s averaging 369 yards through the air over that stretch with contributions from Josh Johnson, White and Flacco. The only issue is Johnson and White have tossed a combined seven interceptions.
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The Jets can’t afford the turnovers, but the yard production must continue if they want to get their third win in Flacco’s first start of the year.