If the Jets receivers had a dime for every time they faced quarters pass coverage during training camp, they would be broke.
And it’s not just because Breshad Perriman, Denzel Mims and others missed valuable practice time building a rapport with Sam Darnold. It’s also because, with no preseason games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jets were limited to intrasquad snaps, and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ scheme looks very different than what the Buffalo Bills will utilize Sunday.
“One of the things we don’t do here is Coach Williams does not play quarters,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “It will be our first exposure to quarters. The clinic goes on in Buffalo. They play it as well as anyone.”
Quarters (also known as Cover 4) is a four-deep, three-under zone coverage with man-to-man principles. The Jets scout team defense this week is mimicking the looks gleaned off studying film, but there are no former All-Pro defensive backs in those matchups, and there are three — cornerbacks Tre’Davious White and Josh Norman and safety Micah Hyde — on the Bills.
Perriman is the wild card who could open things up.
“I feel like I’ve still been out there working with [Darnold] the whole time, and we didn’t miss a beat at all,” Perriman said after missing two weeks with a knee injury. “Sam is going to put the ball where he needs it. From what I can tell, that’s what he specializes at. I don’t think that’s going to be a problem at all.”
But just when coach Adam Gase was finally encouraged about the receiver corps, the rookie Mims took a step back Thursday, when he was limited with injuries to both hamstrings.
Even with Jeff Smith and Vyncint Smith on injured reserve, the situation with Perriman, Jamison Crowder, Chris Hogan and Braxton Berrios ready to go is an improvement over when depth dwindled to an alarming rate during camp.
“This is not going to happen overnight as far as making sure these guys are ready for a 70-play game,” Gase said. “Whoever we have available, every guy has got to be ready to play and we’ve got to make sure that we manage this right.
“This is a situation I look at as we can’t come out of this game, the next games, this first month of the season [with] somebody who has an injury because we were not smart with it. It’s always easier said than done because once it gets competitive, guys don’t want to come out of the game and you don’t want to bring guys out of the game, especially if they’re doing well.”
The optimistic view is the rash of injuries forced every receiver into a starter’s role at one point, and that will allow Darnold to spread the ball around and keep the defense honest for running back Le’Veon Bell.
“We’ve definitely got to find a way to be balanced on offense, running and passing,” Bell said. “I’m confident guys on the outside can make plays. Mims and [Perriman] understand the offense and know what to do. The guys behind them will be comfortable because they got all those reps, too.”
Perriman had the best five-game stretch of his four-year career — 25 catches for 506 yards and five touchdowns — at the end of last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Loggains compared Perriman’s mid-career breakthrough to that of tight end Delanie Walker with the Tennessee Titans.
“There are so many things that sometimes as players are out of your control,” Loggains said. “What he did a great job of the last half of the season is he maximized opportunities and really put some impressive tape together. He had to battle through a lot of things: Being a first-round pick and moving on, there is a lot of pressure and expectations.
Perriman could be locked into a one-on-one matchup with White, who used to shadow Robby Anderson in matchups with the Jets. But that doesn’t mean he can’t pick up where he left off before changing teams.
“That’s my expectation,” Perriman said. “I’m confident it’s going to happen.”