Welcome to BGA Extra, where I draw a line under the previous weekend's game by responding to your questions from BGA during the week which you can read here. After the jump, I respond to your questions about the game against the Cowboys.
Richard R. (via e-mail): I know that the Jets won the flip in OT against the Giants, but I swear they have lost every other coin flip this year, including 2 on Sunday! True or not?
No, it's not quite as bad as that, although it is pretty bad. They have won five of 17 coin flips this season, including the overtime game against the Giants that you cited. They actually won three in a row in Weeks 3, 4 and 6, but the Houston game is the only one in which they've won the opening coin flip since that time (a span of 10 games).
David from Haifa: The defense is great at stuffing the run but my stomach clenches every time I see a back get the ball out in the flat or leaking out from pass protection. In general, how can the jets cover shifty running backs in space? More specifically, besides RB LeSean McCoy (who might not play), are there any other shifty backs until the Super Bowl?
I think you could probably say that every team has a shifty running back who could be a pass catching threat out of the backfield, but few are on McCoy's level, even as he is starting to get over the hill. Even with McCoy out, they have an emerging big play threat in Mike Gillislee, although he hasn't done much as a pass catcher yet. In four games, Gillislee has averaged over 10 yards per carry and has broken touchdown runs of 19, 50 and 60 yards over the past three weeks. If the Jets get past the Bills, guys like Giovani Bernard, James White and Charcandrick West could all be dangerous.
In terms of stopping these plays, I think the Jets have actually handled them well for the most part and where they've really been burned is by backs making catches further down the field. The key is for the linebackers not to get sucked into the middle and then caught up in traffic, which is something which happened in the game where David Harris was out, but they improved in that area this week with him back.
David from Haifa: The offense had problems connecting on passes over the top. Bombs to Bilal Powell, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Quincy Enunwa all misfired. In your opinion is this a change in offensive philosophy or an attempt to take advantage of the Patriots backup safeties? Enunwa looked really fast on with his OT reception. Is there evidence (college or otherwise) that he can grow to fill this role to stretch out the D over the top?
Despite being pretty inefficient at it, the Jets have persevered with the deep shots over the course of the season, which is a good idea because just even the threat of a deep play can help stretch the field and thin out who stays in the box. I'm sure it was a definite tactic to look for that with the state of their opponent's secondary and it probably helped the rest of the offense work effectively.
Enunwa has definitely impressed me with his speed, specifically on special teams. The fact that this is now translating to offense is exciting because if he could emerge as a big play threat from now on, that gives the team an added dimension just as they enter the postseason. He did run a 4.45 at the scouting combine but I never really saw him as a natural downfield threat. However, if he continues to be matched up with linebackers and safeties, perhaps that changes.
Iamjones: You said there were 15 players on offense which means there were no subs or additional offensive linemen in the game then. You also mentioned that some defensive players were in for every snap. Has this been a building trend or a do you think it's a decision made for the final stretch? Also is this evidence that the staff has a better opinion of some of the lineman than we do?
All five offensive linemen playing every snap is pretty much the norm anyway. Other than late game mop-up duties or injury situations, Brent Qvale has played 15 short yardage snaps as a sixth lineman over six games and did not get any snaps at all in nine games.
As for defensive players, that does often happen towards the end of the season. For example, Wilkerson played all the snaps in week 16 and 17 in 2012. However, Harris always plays all the snaps unless he gets hurt and Demario Davis did too until he started losing playing time. Defensive backs often play every snap too. Marcus Gilchrist has done it 11 times this year, for example.
Bdarc 23: Can you expand on the positions for Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson? How are they being used and how does it seem to be evolving for potentially having all three in the future? Is there a danger that Richardson gets derailed by being played out of position like Coples was?
Wilkerson has played the majority of his snaps on the left side, typically outside the tackle on running downs and inside on passing downs. Until this week, Williams had played mostly as a defensive tackle, but this week he played a lot of reps as the left side defensive end with Wilkerson and Richardson inside. Richardson has also played a mixture of inside and out, primarily on the right side.
I don't think Quinton Coples was derailed by being played out of position anyway because the "position change" happened toward the end of 2012 and he produced well for a couple of years thereafter. It was this season, while his position remained the same as in the previous years, that his playing time and production fell off.
Hopefully, therefore, that won't happen to Richardson either. It was certainly interesting that Williams kicked outside this week.
Green_Bastard_: It's a big but not impossible "IF", but if we do see the Patriots again in Foxboro and they've got Edelman and/or Amendola back, do you think there's any chance we can contain their short across the middle game?
Maybe, but it won't be easy, as that is the weakness in this defense. However, even with a full complement of weapons, Tom Brady only has two 300-yard games in his last eight against the Jets. He did light them up with short passes earlier this season, but the Jets defense has improved since then. Adding more weapons also makes it less likely they'd go to Rob Gronkowski every time, so perhaps that's a good thing.
Green_Bastard_: Can you alter your "Beat the '13-'14 Jets" manifesto into a "Beat the '14-'15 Bills" and get it into the right hands? Do we let them beat themselves?
I'm not sure that's so guaranteed to work because it relies upon the quarterback. As Tyrod Taylor showed earlier this year against the Jets, maybe he's not as certain to throw the game away as some of the quarterbacks Rex Ryan has had in the past. One feature of the entire Ryan era was that the Jets hardly ever won a low-scoring game despite the fact they specifically game-planned to keep games low scoring and tight. However, the Bills have already had 14-13 and 16-6 wins so far this year.
Keith Carcaterra: What needs to happen for the Jets to play Houston in the Wild Card game?
It's almost certain that the Texans will win the AFC South and therefore will be the number four seed. The only way that doesn't happen is if the Colts win and five other results go their way. Those five results include a Jets loss and a Steelers win, which would obviously eliminate the Jets. So, if the Colts do make the playoffs the Jets will not.
Anyway, assuming Houston is the four seed, the Jets need to be the fifth seed to face them in the first round (although given how they beat us just over a month ago, I'm not sure that would be a good thing). To get that, they need to win and hope for either Denver or Kansas City to lose. (I am ignoring the possibility of a tie.)
Stata the Left: You generally have positive things to say about David Harris but PFF rates him as a 65 - backup level - and tied for 40th among LBs (with edge defenders separated out into a different category). Any guess at what the difference is? How do you think Harris is playing overall? How should we feel about him starting next season and one year older?
Harris is a good linebacker and while one of PFF's systems grades him out at a back-up level, their other one has him with basically a neutral grade and 14th among all inside linebackers, which makes him an above average starter. The problem is that he isn't paid to be above average since he has one of the highest salaries at his position in the league.
A grading system cannot take into account how important a player like Harris is to a team's system in terms of things like pre-snap reads and communication. As with D'Brickashaw Ferguson, I think Harris is a player who we might not realize how important he is until he's gone. The Jets did have some breakdowns when Harris was out, but who knows how they would cope with him missing extended time. I'm sure he'll be back in the same role next year, but if they could bring in an heir apparent (now its obvious Davis probably isn't that), that would be wise.
carlhungus: Was Coples ever asked to do Pace's job on the edge? If so how did he fare? And do you think he would be as successful as Lorenzo Maudlin seems to be doing if he was given same assignments?
Coples has always had edge setting responsibilities, but when he started playing outside, he was pretty much always on the weakside while Pace has been on the strong side. The Jets always had a good run defense when Coples was playing full-time so you can surmise that he did a good job on balance. He did seem to make more impactful stops when he played inside early in his career though.
Whenever Coples was given significant pass rush reps, he did produce at a good rate. However, the difference between them is that Mauldin does his damage on outside speed rushes, whereas Coples used to produce more on inside moves and bull rushing. Perhaps that makes him a better fit for this system and gives the Jets a dimension that might be more difficult to mitigate with a quick passing attack.
Stata the Left: Could you tell whether Decker was getting open at all on the plays where he wasn't targeted?
I didn't notice any obvious examples of him getting open, but Malcolm Butler plays a lot of press coverage so that meant he was usually close to him at the snap. Butler didn't cover him exclusively - one of his targets (the one he dropped) came as the safety covered him in the slot.
McGeorge: If the Jets let Jeremy Kerley go, who will they use as a slot receiver? And who will "fair catch" punts?
Marshall, Decker and Enunwa mostly - pretty much the same as it is now. I think Kerley's ability to fair catch punts is the only reason he's still on the team.
Stata the Left: Over the last couple of games have you noticed whether the Jets are more likely to lose outside contain when Richardson (who is large for a 3-4 OLB) is standing up?
I don't think it makes a difference whether he's standing or has his hands in the dirt. In fact, I'd have thought he might be more likely to get blocked to the inside if he wasn't standing. He did lose contain on one play where he was standing up on Sunday though.
TK: Is this the best year of Fitzpatrick's career? Has to be...
Statistically, it's not quite. He had a slightly better quarterback rating last year, although that was somewhat skewed by his six-touchdown game. He also had more yards in 2011, although he should surpass that on Sunday. Interestingly, his PFF grade was much higher last year and it was also higher when he was with the Titans in 2013.
In terms of win-loss record, which is all that really counts, it's easily his best year though. His previous best was six wins.
MikeFrancesser: Was I the only one that noticed the obvious missed hands to the face non call on the conversion to Gronkowski late in the game?
Mauldin wasn't in the game on that play, but there was an obvious hands-to-the-face on him on the White touchdown shortly afterwards. You definitely weren't the only person to notice it though, because at least three other people referenced it in the comments.
And finally: The GIF of the week starring Ryan Fitzpatrick.