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Once again the Jets gave a tough opponent all they could handle, but they also gave them a few gifts which proved to be the difference in another disheartening home loss. The Jets have now lost five of their last six games, with all five losses being in one-possession games.
Let's review the defensive performance from Sunday's loss:
The Panthers obviously struggled on offense on Sunday, especially in the passing game, although the defensive line didn't really play as much of a direct role in that as you'd expect. They did provide some general disruptiveness though.
Leonard Williams failed to register a tackle, but he hit Cam Newton a couple of times and drew a hold in the running game. However, he was driven off the line a couple of times, including on Christian McCaffrey's 40-yard run. By contrast, Muhammad Wilkerson made good contributions against the run as he was in on four stops but didn't generate any pressure. This may have been because he was tasked with containing the threat of a Newton scramble rather than trying to penetrate the pocket at times.
Steve McLendon got credit for a clean-up sack and helped blow up a goal line run, but he was injured in the third quarter and did not return. Mike Pennel replaced him and did a good job against the run but then damaged the Jets' comeback bit with a costly roughing the passer penalty on a third down incompletion with over two minutes to go.
Kony Ealy didn't have much of an impact this week. His season essentially seems to have fizzled out after he made such a fast start.
Xavier Cooper got some backup reps but not many because Wilkerson only missed five snaps (a season low) and Williams only missed six (tying a season low). He was in on a couple of stops but also blocked out of a few plays.
Outside linebacker Josh Martin made an impact with some good plays off the edge. He had five tackles, all close to the line of scrimmage, including two in the backfield. He also had two quarterback hits. However, he lsot contain on an end-around that went for 29 yards.
The linebackers helped contain the Panthers running game for the most part. Other than that end around and McCaffrey's long run, they held the Panthers to 76 yards on 31 carries.
Demario Davis was a big part of this success with 10 tackles and also added a sack and a quarterback hit as a pass rusher. However, he was exploited in coverage a few times and also got lucky on a couple of incompletions. He also had a roughing the passer penalty for going in low on Newton, although that seemed harsh because he may have tripped over as he burst into the backfield.
Darron Lee added six tackles and a sack and also set up another sack with pressure off the edge. He held up better than Davis in coverage, although he was beaten on a fourth down conversion. He was only blocked out of one play at the second level.
Reserve Bruce Carter saw some action on the goal line defense but bit on a play fake and let Newton beat him to the end zone for the opening touchdown.
Jordan Jenkins was in on a few run stuffs, including one where he knifed inside to beat his man for a tackle in the backfield, but he had a costly penalty with the Jets ahead 17-12 as he jumped offside to negate a turnover on downs. The Panthers went on to score a touchdown on the drive.
David Bass, active ahead of Freddie Bishop this week, saw some reps off the bench and pressured Newton once.
Morris Claiborne was able to go the distance this week as he seems to have shaken off those foot issues that caused him to miss most of the last two games. He performed well, breaking up a couple of passes and disrupting both of Carolina's two-point conversion attempts. The only catch he gave up was a third down play where he made the stop shy of the marker.
Buster Skrine also bounced back from some recent criticism with a good performance. Skrine broke up three passes including one in the end zone, although he also gave up two first downs. More encouragingly, he was penalty-free for the first time since week five, having had eight penalties in his last three games.
Darryl Roberts wasn't quite as effective, as he was badly beaten a few times by Devin Funchess for a couple of big plays and another deep chance that was underthrown and dropped. Roberts had one nice pass break-up and was in good position on one other target.
At safety, Jamal Adams had a few bad mistakes in this game, getting blocked out of his lane on McCaffrey's long run and caught inside on the end around that also went for a big gain. Adams was also dragged down to the goal line by McCaffrey on another play where he made a catch and had a missed tackle in the flat. He still made some positive contributions too, though. His pressure off the edge led to a sack and he jumped a route on the outside to force a wide throw.
Marcus Maye was also guilty of getting sucked inside on Jonathan Stewart's short touchdown run and it looked like he blew the coverage on McCaffrey for the catch that set up that score. He made a nice open field tackle on a third down stop though.
Terrence Brooks and Rontez Miles didn't get any defensive reps this week, as the Jets used just five defensive backs all day.