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The Jets' season got to an inauspicious start with a 21-12 loss on the road in Buffalo. Questionable coaching decisions, poor communication in the defensive backfield, an overly conservative offensive gameplan, and inconsistent tackling all contributed to the loss. However, the Jets still kept the game competitive into the fourth quarter.
Let's break down the performances on the defensive side of the ball:
The Jets got a good spark defensively from newcomer Kony Ealy. He not only impressed with his ability to generate pressure but also made some good plays in the running game, despite the coaching staff implying he'd be solely employed as a pass-rusher during the week. Ealy missed a tackle on a potential sack and was badly fooled on a Tyrod Taylor bootleg, but looks like he could be a useful contributor over the course of the season.
Star performers Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams had six tackles between them but failed to register a sack. Each was solid against the run and Williams had a couple of quarterback hits, including one where he drove his man back with a bull rush and then span off the block to get to the quarterback. Wilkerson had just one pressure, but did bat down a pass. They both played well, but the Jets will be expecting more from both players.
The run defense was a big problem, with the Bills racking up 190 yards. Each of the linemen, including Wilkerson and Williams, were blocked off the line at the point of attack a few times.
Nose tackles Steve McLendon and Mike Pennel each had a couple of run-stuffs, but McLendon was driven out of the middle on Mike Tolbert's long first quarter run and Pennel had a defensive penalty. Youngster Claude Pelon made his NFL debut off the bench and made a couple of positive plays, including some run-stuffs. However, he was driven off the line a few times and had a costly missed tackle in space on third down.
Statistically, Darron Lee and Demario Davis had a big impact, combining for 24 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a pass-defensed. However, this is really misleading, as both were involved in coverage breakdowns that left receivers open and made mistakes in terms of gap integrity in the running game. Lee made some good plays, but his mental errors were frustrating. Davis should probably take partial blame for that, since he's the one responsible for calling the defense.
Davis also lost McCoy in coverage to give up a big third down conversion, and Lee had a personal foul. Lee didn't play the whole game, as Julian Stanford rotated in for a few series. He was in on a couple of stops, but also missed a tackle on the outside.
Jordan Jenkins had a solid performance. Although he didn't make many impact plays, he was in on some good stops and didn't really have any negatives, other than a play where he had his hands on Taylor in the pocket but couldn't complete the sack. Josh Martin wasn't in the starting line-up but did play a major role, contributing half a sack and three tackles for loss, including one on a screen pass. He was mostly just cleaning up after other players had blown up plays with penetration though and he was blocked off on the edge on a couple of big runs.
Rookie Dylan Donahue saw some brief action in his first game, contributing a third down tackle to force a punt.
Morris Claiborne held up quite well in his first game as a Jet, as the Bills instead had success attacking gaps in the Jets' zone coverage schemes and exploiting mistakes in the defensive backfield. Claiborne only gave up one catch, on a play where it looked like he was expecting help from one of the inside linebackers who both ended up covering the same man. He was also flagged for pass interference on a downfield throw that didn't look like it was particularly catchable, but came up to make a good third down stop.
Buster Skrine gave up the biggest play of the day as he gambled at the marker and overran Jordan Matthews, allowing him to break free for a 47-yard gain. He was also fooled by a Taylor pump fake on a first down scramble.
Juston Burris played well off the bench, coming up big with a red zone interception and a big return on the first possession. That was potentially going to be a touchdown, but he collided with teammate Marcus Maye near the halfway line. Maye, in his first NFL game, had a rough performance. He was beaten for a short touchdown in man coverage and the announcers felt he was responsible for the receiver who leaked into the flat on Taylor's second touchdown pass. He also missed a couple of tackles and was involved in at least one other coverage mix-up.
Fellow rookie Jamal Adams fared better than Maye but still had his ups and downs, missing a tackle on a long run and giving up a third down conversion in coverage. He made some nice plays close to the line and broke up a couple of passes, though.
Recent addition Terrence Brooks saw some time as the deep safety in three-safety sets but didn't make much of an impact.