The Jets lost to the Los Angeles Rams, 9-6, Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Here is a position-by-position analysis of the game that dropped the Jets to 3-7 heading into a bye week.
Bent: Bryce Petty made his long-awaited first NFL start. It's been suggested there was concern Petty wouldn't be ready, but Chan Gailey certainly was, as he emptied out the safe, simple and conservative section of his playbook and gradually eased Petty into the game by not putting too much on his plate.
However, the well ran dry in the second half and the Jets were unable to build upon the quick drop passing attack that was effective in mitigating pressure from the Rams' front four earlier on.
Petty executed such passes pretty well all day, as the Jets spread the defense out and gave Petty a bunch of single-read quick throws reminiscent of those he'd have been required to throw all the time at Baylor.
When asked to do more, he made a couple of late reads and a couple more misreads, leading him to forcing throws into traffic or misfiring as he tried to overcompensate.
Petty avoided the major mistake until his final throw was intercepted to ice the win for the Rams. The only problem with that throw was that it was half a beat late, although it wasn't the first time he'd made that mistake -- a common one with inexperienced starters at the NFL level.
Of a greater concern were the plays when he didn't read a defender dropping off into a passing lane or primed to jump a route. This, more than anywhere, is where his abilities are not yet at an NFL-ready level. Until the Jets can develop him in that area, that's going to prevent them from running their offense effectively. For the time being -- assuming he gets another shot -- the Jets will need to pick their spots and otherwise find other, more creative, ways to enable him to be successful.
Yesterday, that involved leaning on the running game, throwing quick passes to backs out of the slot and plenty of safe conversions in the flat and on quick outs. They also converted on their only red zone trip with a beautifully-executed hook-and-ladder play.
What more could they have done -- and could they look to build into the gameplan as they gradually start to loosen the shackles? First off, they could look to go deep more often. Petty had a deep completion from his own end-zone to begin the 99-yard touchdown drive that led to the Jets' only points.
It might have been worth trying to do that more often, because it's not difficult to protect on a three or five-step drop with an immediate downfield throw if you leave extra blockers in. There's also no real need to read the coverage and, even if you throw an interception, at least that happens way down the field so it usually won't hurt you too much in terms of field position. On one other downfield throw, Petty overthrew a wide-open receiver on what could have been a 68-yard touchdown that might have been enough to win the game. Maybe a pump-and-go with the receiver making a double-move would have been effective in the second half as the Rams anticipated more of the same from the Jets.
The Jets also could have done more in terms of getting Petty on the move, just as a different way of mitigating any natural pressure. Having said that, he did a good job of avoiding a sack on one play but his throw on the move was one of his least accurate of the game.
On the whole, Petty handled himself fairly well and did some good things. An inauspicious start saw the team flagged for having 12-men in the huddle before Petty had thrown his first pass, forcing it into a third-and-long on which it came up short. The Jets then began their next drive on their own 1-yard line, so it wasn't exactly easy for him to develop any kind of an early rhythm.
Was Petty any more impressive than past backups like Brooks Bollinger, Kellen Clemens or Greg McElroy that earned a shot at starting for the Jets but never made it as a full-time starter? Not yet, at least. We need to see more -- and I hope we do.
The fact that the Jets still left Christian Hackenberg on the inactive list speaks volumes. Not only does is suggest the Jets have no desire to throw him into the fire yet, but it also gives the impression that Ryan Fitzpatrick must theoretically have been capable of starting if absolutely necessary. Had Petty been knocked out of the game, I doubt the reception that would have greeted Fitzpatrick would have been welcoming.
Bent: With Petty at quarterback, that piled the pressure on the Jets' running game to be successful, and it didn't fare too badly with Matt Forte and Bilal Powell combining for 198 yards from scrimmage. That included eight plays of 10 yards or more. In fact, the Jets only had nine such plays all game.
It wasn't like the Jets were gaining consistent yards on the ground though. Despite his solid stats overall (98 yards rushing and another 11 yards on two catches), Forte was stopped for two or fewer yards 11 times, including seven in the first half. That represented half of his total touches. Still, he showed good vision and made some nice cuts to break out to the second level, as well as fighting for extra yardage on a couple of plays.
Powell continues to provide a spark, scoring the Jets' only points on the first half gadget play and later rescuing an inaccurately-thrown lateral to spin away for a nice first down run. Should he have run out of bounds just before halftime, though? Powell opted to cut back inside with a couple of seconds left when perhaps the Jets could have attempted an extremely long field goal or a Hail Mary pass. In a game in which neither team had many chances to score, that was potentially a wasted opportunity.
The recently-signed C.J. Spiller gained four yards on his first carry as a Jet, but disappointingly dropped his only target on a short throw to the flat, killing the Jets' momentum on the drive after Los Angeles took a fourth-quarter lead. They had gained six, 10 and seven yards on the first three plays of the drive to move to midfield, but Spiller's drop was the first of three straight incompletions.
Bent: Some of the struggles with the running game could be attributed to the offensive line, which missed some key guys and seemed destined to be overmatched against the Rams' excellent front. In that regard, they deserve credit for managing to compete as well as they did.
It's worth asking if the Jets miscalculated by not trying to run more in the second half. While part of this was attributable to their inability to sustain drives due to their passing game stalling, the Jets carried the ball just eight times in the second half, after having carried 17 times for over 100 in the first half. The Rams did the opposite, as they kept trying to run even though the Jets held them to just three yards per carry -- with 24 of their 39 yards coming on one play -- before halftime. They ended up with 125 yards.
In terms of pass protection, the Jets didn't face much of a challenge early on because Petty was getting the ball out almost immediately on most of his throws. But later, when required to hold up in protection, the Jets had some issues. Petty was sacked just once and hit three other times officially, but he was under pressure at least 10 times, mostly in the second half.
Breno Giacomini's best contribution was probably when he drew a personal foul by getting involved in a shoving match after a short yardage conversion. While he got burned for the Rams' only sack, he made fewer mistakes than he has in either of his other appearances so far this season.
James Carpenter deserves some serious credit because he successfully dealt with the formidable Aaron Donald one-on-one on a number of occasions. Donald definitely got the better of him a number of times, particularly when bull rushing or penetrating at the point of attack. Donald was frustrated for much of the game, but started to dominate down the stretch with his most impressive move seeing him bull rushing Carpenter into the backfield and then smoothly transitioning into a rip move to get by Wesley Johnson when he came over to help.
Johnson had some issues in the running game, both at the point of attack and in space, but the unit continues to function somewhat efficiently with him in there for Nick Mangold. This is nowhere near the mess that was created when Colin Baxter filled in for Mangold back in 2011.
Now the full-time left tackle, Ben Ijalana was beaten a few times in pass protection and allowed his man to bat down a pass, something which has been a constant issue for him all season. In addition, he had a penalty that negated a first-down completion. He made some good blocks in the running game, but on one of the key moments of the game, he was badly beaten inside on a run that was blown up in the backfield early in the fourth quarter. That play was second-and-3 at the Rams' 39, and the Jets failed to convert the third down and ended up punting. That was as close as they got to field goal range after their first score.
Brian Winters continues to play much more consistently than he ever has in the past, making some nice run blocks and only getting beaten once in pass protection. It's a shame he couldn't have performed like this over his first three seasons when the rest of the line was often doing well and he was the weak link. Shouldn't the Jets start to worry about the fact that Winters, Johnson and Ijalana are all out of contract at the end of the year? Not that they'd break the bank for any of those guys, but losing all three is going to destroy their depth, especially with Ryan Clady, Giacomini and maybe even Mangold as potential cap casualties.
Bent: This was probably a frustrating game for the Jets' primary pass catchers. All in all, the Jets got just 22 yards on 12 targets to their top two receivers. Brandon Marshall caught four passes for 15 yards and Quincy Enunwa caught just one of his six targets for seven yards. Both made contributions as blockers, including on Powell's touchdown where Enunwa set the edge perfectly as Marshall made the pitch, but you'd expect more in terms of statistical production.
Robby Anderson is still finding ways to produce though, as he led the Jets with 69 yards on three catches. Most of that came on his 52-yard catch of a Petty bomb thrown from his own end zone. That was a tough catch with a defender draped all over him, which is an encouraging sign because his physicality at the point of the catch has been inconsistent so far.
Anderson's other two catches came up just short of the first-down marker, but he could have added a 68-yard touchdown on a play where the defense blew the coverage but Petty overthrew him. Anderson inexplicably seemed to slow down momentarily before breaking into the open field and perhaps would have been able to make the catch had he accelerated at full speed. He was also unable to get any separation on a crucial third down in the fourth quarter.
While it's apparent there are some areas where he needs to sharpen his skills, Anderson's production -- exactly 300 yards from scrimmage in the last eight games -- is encouraging, especially in light of some of the near misses that could have bolstered those numbers.
The other rookies, Jalin Marshall and Charone Peake, didn't produce much this week. Peake caught two short passes and had a third short catch negated by a penalty. Marshall wasn't targeted.
At tight end, Brandon Bostick had some really bad moments as a blocker. On one play, he was thrown into the end zone by his man, who blew up the run as the Jets tried to run their ball out from their own goal line. Bostick also had several other plays where he missed his block. However, he bounced back with a couple of good blocks late in the game, including a good lead block from the fullback position.
There were more encouraging signs from newly-signed Eric Tomlinson in his NFL debut. Tomlinson was in the starting lineup and sealed his man off effectively on the first snap. Later, he drove his man off the line and to the ground in dominating fashion. He was only in on a handful of snaps, but these flashes suggest he could be a serious asset to the running game. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, on the other hand, did not get any reps.
Bent: After a week when there were more revelations about Muhammad Wilkerson and his off-field behavior, you might have expected that he'd be motivated to put in a strong performance to remind everyone how good he is and re-establish himself as a leader. However, for the two and a half quarters, he provided them with absolutely nothing. No pressures, no tackles, no disruption.
Making matters worse, he was driven off the line several times again, just as he was down the stretch last week. This is something that simply never used to happen more than once or twice a game to Wilkerson.
Perhaps Wilkerson deserves a pass because it's been reported that he's still nowhere near 100 percent having come back from leg surgery at the end of last season. Even so, the idea Wilkerson's struggles are because he hasn't conducted himself with the same level of determination and professionalism as he was before he signed his extension is concerning.
Down the stretch, he at last made some contributions with a quarterback hit on a stunt and four run stuffs. Had he played like that all day, it could have been a classic Wilkerson performance. However, when that's his only production all day and he also has a series of negative plays, it's extremely disappointing, especially with the Jets having just invested so much into Wilkerson's future.
On the other hand, Sheldon Richardson was much more productive. His seven tackles included two in the backfield, and he had a quarterback hit and a couple of other pressures. Even this was somewhat disappointing though, as he didn't really make any of the kind of dominant plays we've become accustomed to over the years. He was also driven off the line on one play and missed a chance of a sack by overrunning Case Keenum in the pocket.
Leonard Williams blew up a few runs in the first half, but had a quieter second half and was handled at the point of attack on a few second-half runs. He had one pressure. Every now and again, Williams has a monster game like last week, suggesting he's about to break out fully. He so far hasn't been able to follow up with another big game, and that pattern continued.
Steve McLendon was credited with 1.5 sacks, as he was cleaning up pressure generated by other players. Amazingly, McLendon now has more sacks (a career-high 3.5) than either Richardson (1.5) or Wilkerson (2.5) so far this season. It's also more than Damon Harrison has in his entire career. Against the run, McLendon blew up one play but otherwise had a rough game and was routinely handled at the point of attack.
Surprisingly, Deon Simon was the defensive lineman with the most impressive highlight this week, throwing his blocker aside to blow up a run in the backfield. It's good to see a positive flash from Simon, who had underwhelmed and lost playing time in recent weeks following an encouraging start.
Anthony Johnson saw a couple of reps in his Jets debut and was in on the stop at the goal line where Benny Cunningham fumbled.
Bent: It was relieving to hear Darron Lee was back from injury because Julian Stanford had been totally overmatched alongside David Harris over the past few weeks. However, to my surprise, Stanford remained in the starting lineup and Lee only played sparingly in passing situations. Hopefully this is because they anticipated Lee would not be healthy enough to jump back into a starting role; if they felt he would be even less effective than Stanford has been, that's not a good sign.
In that rotational role, Lee had a couple of impressive moments, generating some pressure as a blitzer and breaking up an end zone throw on a wheel route to force the Rams to settle for a field goal. It will be interesting to see if the second half of his rookie season is as impressive as those of Harris and Jonathan Vilma, each of whom made a similarly slow start.
Stanford made fewer mistakes than last week, but still had a couple of bad missed tackles and was blocked out at the second level on a few late runs. There were also two running plays where he inexplicably ran away from the ball carrier in a situation where he might have been able to make a stop. It's difficult to work out what he was doing on this play, for example, as he engaged a blocker to his right rather than continuing to flow downhill to fill the obvious running lane to his left.
Harris had an active performance, leading the team with 11 tackles and adding a pass defensed and three pressures. He stuffed a couple of runs at the line and blew up a screen pass for a loss, but was blocked out of a handful of running plays. Harris and Lee were also each credited with a half-sack.
Lorenzo Mauldin had another disruptive game, although he was banged up and didn't play much compared to recent weeks. He was credited with 0.5 sacks and his pressure led to another sack. He was also in on a couple of run stuffs and almost intercepted another pass.
Jordan Jenkins was blocked off on a couple of running plays and also missed a tackle. He had two tackles, but didn't generate any pressure. It's been an underwhelming rookie season so far from Jenkins.
Mike Catapano did not make any significant contributions off the bench. Through nine weeks, he has just two tackles on the year.
Bent: Darrelle Revis really struggled early on. The Rams converted three third downs by targeting him; otherwise, their offense was basically non-existent. Later on, he was burned for a deep catch. Revis settled down in the second half, with good coverage on two incompletions and an important tackle short of the marker, but was also penalized on an illegal hands to the face call.
It's extremely disconcerting to see Revis as the weakest link on the defense, especially when Wilkerson is also struggling to make an impact. While both played better later on, that's scant consolation when the Jets have Revis, Wilkerson and Fitzpatrick over $50 million between them this season. If it takes Revis until after halftime to warm up these days, perhaps he is no longer fit to be a starter at the NFL level, let alone such a highly-paid one.
Buster Skrine gave up a couple of first downs, but held up well for the most part, making a good third-down tackle, blowing up a screen pass and disrupting a throw on a blitz from the slot. Skrine was on the right end of a couple of officiating decisions, as he drew a flag for offensive pass interference and then had a flag for defensive pass interference on a pass breakup in the end zone picked up.
Remember a few weeks ago when Skrine was penalized four times? He's only been flagged once in the three games since. In a season and a half with the Jets, that's the only time he's had more than one penalty in a game. As suspected at the time, it seems that had more to do with Jerome Boger and his crew than Skrine himself. He's otherwise been their most consistent defensive back.
Darryl Roberts was the only other cornerback to see action as three cornerback options -- or four if you include Antonio Allen -- played solely on special teams. Roberts blew up a screen, broke up a pass on the outside and made a play in run support in a decent performance. He gave up one first down in coverage.
Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor have been playing much more consistently at safety over the past few weeks. Gilchrist was credited with a tackle for loss on a play he made in the flat and also had a touchdown-saving tackle at the goal line in the first quarter when the Rams ended up settling for a field goal. Pryor forced a fumble on a stop at the goal line and made another good play in run support, but did give up two first downs in coverage.
Rontez Miles made a couple of contributions in brief action off the bench, making a stop in the flat and a third-down tackle to force a punt.
Bent: In a tight game, Nick Folk failed to score for the first time since the Jets were shut out 31-0 by the Chargers in 2014. Entering this year, Folk had never missed an extra point, but this was his second miss of the season. It didn't matter in the end, but it could have been crucial. Folk kicked off just twice, with one touchback.
Punter Lac Edwards is still struggling to hit his stride at the NFL level. It seems like most of his kicks either travel too far or he gets under the ball and lays it up too short. Three of his first four punts were returned more than 10 yards. Then, as he adjusted, his last four punts were all 35 yards or fewer with only one landing within the 20.
In a 9-6 game, when there's a difference of over 12 yards between the net averages of two punters who kicked 15 times between them, this has a major impact. Rams punter Johnny Hekker's performance called to mind Brandon Fields' similar performance when the Dolphins beat the 2010 Jets 10-6 in a similar game. That underlines how far away the Jets are from having a good punter, despite using a draft pick on Edwards.
Jalin Marshall continued to struggle, as he muffed yet another punt before being temporarily replaced by Nick Marshall. Spiller was also uninspiring in the return game and Brent Qvale had a bad missed block in space.
In kick coverage, Allen was credited with two tackles, including one where he saved a potentially longer return over by the sideline. He's been valuable on the second wave this year. The only time the first wave got to the return man was when Nick Marshall got downfield well to blow up a punt return.