In this week's BGA, Bent analyzes Week 12 performances by Todd Bowles, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Forté and Bilal Powell, Ben Ijalana and the offensive line, Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa, the team's struggles on defense, and the special teams, among others...
Bent: If nothing else, yesterday's game underlines how the Jets could actually have been competitive each week if only they had a semi-decent quarterback. Like it or not, that's what Ryan Fitzpatrick was in yesterday's game.
Does that mean I'm prepared to consider retaining Fitzpatrick as the starting quarterback into next season? Of course not. After all, the rest of this season shows that Fitzpatrick is not consistent enough to be a semi-decent quarterback on a regular basis.
In fact, semi-decent is probably Fitzpatrick's ceiling right now and the Jets only managed to get that from him by simplifying things for him with a conservative gameplan. His receivers bailed him out with some great catches on plays to extend drives that otherwise would have come to a premature end and he still couldn't avoid that back-breaking mistake to cost them the chance at a win, even if he did manage to delay that until his late fumble.
So, where does this leave the Jets? Everyone has concluded that Fitzpatrick won't be back next year and certainly won't command anywhere near the $12 million he is being paid this year, regardless of where he plays. However, as long as he remains in the line-up, he can perhaps restore some of his value and keep the Jets competitive over the last five games.
Do we want that though? Why give Fitzpatrick a chance to resurrect his career elsewhere by winning a few meaningless games with the Jets? Or would six games of semi-decent play be a large enough sample size to actually get the Jets considering bringing him back?
Running a conservative gameplan in an effort to disguise your quarterback's penchant for a costly turnover is probably not a viable long term plan. However, maybe it can enable you to restore your quarterback's confidence and establish some rhythm to give yourself a platform to gradually start taking more chances. Again, it's not like the Jets have much to gain from that, though.
I was actually okay with the decision to start Fitzpatrick, because Bill Belichick likely would have set some traps for the inexperienced Bryce Petty and if he struggled badly at home in a loss to the Patriots, any optimism for him to show what he's made of over the last five games would be severely dented.
Having said that, Jets quarterbacks have tended to have good success against Belichick's defenses over the past several years. This perhaps renders Fitzpatrick's performance somewhat less impressive. Fitzpatrick has had a quarterback rating of at least 97.7 in all three games against New England since becoming a Jet, Mark Sanchez had a quarterback rating of over 90 in six of nine games and even Geno Smith had two games out of four with a rating of over 80. All three have a career rating below 80.
Petty should get another chance soon and may even be in the line-up when the Jets face New England later in the season so that might be an interesting test for him. Don't be surprised if the Jets stick with Fitzpatrick for a game or two more while they ready him for that though.
Bent: After combining for almost 200 yards in the previous game, Matt Forté and Bilal Powell found the going much tougher yesterday. They combined for just 90 yards on 25 touches as neither managed a run of eight yards or longer.
Forté did not start, but still saw the bulk of the workload. He ended up with 27 yards on 13 carries and I'd mostly attribute that to a lack of running room. However, there did appear to be a couple of short yardage plays where he looked to have plenty of room to get to the marker but tried to make a cut to get a bigger gain and ended up getting stuffed.
His best contribution saw him gain 15 on a dump-off pass early in the fourth quarter. That helped set up the go-ahead touchdown.
Powell had more success in the running game, averaging 4.5 yards per carry, but was not productive in the passing game with just one short catch and a dropped pass. He had a couple of short yardage conversions and also three plays where he battled for tough yardage, coming up just short of the marker on two of them to set up first down conversions on the next play. His wildcat carry near the goal line was the first time a non-quarterback has taken a snap for the Jets all season.
CJ Spiller saw action on 10 snaps. Interesting, Powell was also in the game on each of those plays with Spiller only in the backfield on three of them. He almost made a big play on a deep throw, as he beat his man but then dropped the slightly underthrown pass. There should probably have been a pass interference call on the play, but you don't usually get that call against New England for some reason.
Bent: Once again, the offensive line really struggled in the running game. There were essentially zero running plays where the running back got cleanly out to the second level and several individual mistakes led to runs being stuffed at or behind the line.
They fared better in terms of limiting pressure, although most of that was attributable to Fitzpatrick getting the ball out quickly or New England dropping extra bodies into coverage to try and force him into a mistake. The dam burst completely on the final play though, as Ben Ijalana got burned for a game-clinching strip sack with the Jets trying to drive for the winning score.
Wesley Johnson has given a solid account of himself in relief of Nick Mangold, who seems close to returning. However, there's no question he's been a downgrade and this was easily his roughest game so far. Johnson missed several run blocks, was stood up at the point of attack regularly and was badly beaten on a play where Fitzpatrick was called for intentional grounding. He also committed a holding penalty after getting beaten again in pass protection.
Once Mangold returns, he's unlikely to be at 100% so it's difficult to say how much of an improvement there will be. Right now, it's not looking certain Mangold will be back next year with a $9 million cap number, but if the Jets plan to have Johnson starting in his place, their line will take a hit. There's also the small matter of Johnson's own contract, which expires at the end of the season. The last time the Jets replaced an established starter with a reserve based on a part-season of uninspiringly promising relief work, it was Wayne Hunter replacing Damien Woody and we all know how that went.
James Carpenter is pretty much the only starter who is more than likely to return, although back-ups Brent Qvale, Dakota Dozier and Brandon Shell will still be under contract. Qvale was the only one of the three to see action yesterday, on one snap. Carpenter held up well in pass protection but lost at the point of attack on a few running plays, including one where the run was blown up.
Breno Giacomini had his most efficient game since his return in pass protection, as he was beaten for a pressure just once, although he was driven back by a couple of bull rushes. It was also probably his least effective game as a run blocker, as he had a couple of bad missed blocks. Giacomini was also called for a hold in pass protection, as he had his man controlled but seemed to drag or shove him to the ground. That one seemed a bit harsh and probably wouldn't have been called the other way.
Other than giving up the sack at the end, Ijalana was beaten a few times in pass protection but he's arguably been no worse than Ryan Clady since taking over the left tackle job full time. Clearly the Jets need an upgrade here, although Ijalana has established himself as a useful back-up that will draw some interest in free agency next year. He made a couple of good contributions in the running game, but allowed penetration a couple of times.
Brian Winters was once again the least bad of a bad bunch. He didn't make many impact blocks in the running game, but didn't have many mistakes either. He's another one out of contract at the end of the year who it will be difficult to determine a price for.
Bent: Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa each had their best game for several weeks, although for Marshall that's a sign of how far he's fallen because six catches and 67 yards would have been one of his least productive statlines last year. He scored his first touchdown since week five, but could he have had another if he laid out for Fitzpatrick's end zone throw rather than trying to grab it with one outstretched hand?
Enunwa delivered with the first 100-yard game of his career, spectacularly bringing down a jump ball for the go-ahead touchdown and making a few nice diving catches downfield to extend drives. It was an excellent bounce-back game for Enunwa, who had just two catches for 32 yards - on nine targets - in the previous two games.
Fitzpatrick's 40-yard hook-up with Enunwa in the first half was the first time all season he's completed a pass thrown more than 30 yards down the field (although he did have one negated by a penalty in week two). He entered the game 0-for-7 on such throws having gone 3-for-22 last year.
Robby Anderson provided a reminder that he's still a rookie with a momentum-changing fumble near midfield. After doing well to get open going across the field, Anderson tried to make some extra yardage but Malcolm Butler was able to strip the ball away from him. He ended up with just two catches.
Let's be positive about Anderson for a moment though. His rookie campaign (24 catches so far) compares very favorably with every high profile rookie receiver in recent Jets history: Jeremy Kerley ended up with 29 catches as a rookie. Laveranues Coles had 22. Stephen Hill ended up with 21. Devin Smith, Santana Moss and Jerricho Cotchery had just 17 between them.
Another rookie, Jalin Marshall, had two short catches and the officials ignored obvious pass interference on him as he was unable to haul in a third down pass downfield. That was the play before the Jets attempted a long field goal that was blocked.
Charone Peake was an unfortunate casualty of Marshall's struggles in the return game, as the Jets had to activate another return man, which meant there was no room on the active list for Peake. That's disappointing because he's the kind of player who should be getting as many reps as possible at this stage of the season.
The Jets actually targeted their tight ends four times with Brandon Bostick and Austin Seferian-Jenkins combining for three short catches. Seferian-Jenkins also contributed a good short yardage block, although Bostick fared less well on a stretch zone play.
Eric Tomlinson continues to impress in limited action as a blocking tight end. I suspect he might be a keeper. The Jets don't seem to miss Kellen Davis.
Bent: There was a major change this week, as the Jets employed Leonard Williams primarily at defensive end and Muhammad Wilkerson at defensive tackle. It's something the team has gradually been shifting towards over the past few games.
Once again, Wilkerson had a depressingly unproductive game with just a couple of pressures and two run stops. He also jumped offside on third and short - although this was yet another example of the Patriots bending the rules and getting the benefit of a questionable call.
Something I kept noticing was the Wilkerson was constantly dropping off after an initial rush. Things like that are difficult to quantify but, by my count, he was in on 44 pass plays and he only penetrated more than two yards into the backfield on 23 of them. That means almost half the time he was effectively still a yard or two from the line of scrimmage when the pass was thrown.
There's obviously a strategic aspect to this, and most of the time it was a result of Wilkerson being double teamed at the line and dropping off to give everyone else room to work but it still raises questions.
Was that the gameplan or Wilkerson reacting to the fact he wasn't going to get how? If it was the gameplan, did the Jets decide to do this because they didn't feel Wilkerson would have much success getting into the backfield? Is he not getting to the quarterback because of his injuries so the Jets were scheming around that? If it was a reaction, is that smart on his part, or is it laziness? Are the Jets punishing him by forcing him to do more dirty work while others get a chance to post numbers? It would be interesting to know if Wilkerson would have been frustrated at having to drop off rather than getting the chance to "eat" or happy to follow a gameplan that seemed to work.
It's difficult not to question Wilkerson's effort and professionalism based on how the season has gone so far because he looks like a totally different player than the past few years, but let's not completely rule out the other factors that could be at play.
Williams produced well at defensive end with several pressures. He had just two tackles though, with one just short of the marker to force a punt on the first drive.
Sheldon Richardson seems more at home now that he's not playing the rush linebacker role, but his production is still falling short of what we'd have expected from him in the past. He had a couple of quarterback hits and a tackle for loss, but was also driven off the line on one running play. He created good penetration on a couple of plays.
Steve McLendon, Deon Simon and Anthony Johnson played a rotational role off the bench. Simon jumped into the neutral zone once and Johnson was driven off the line on one play.
Bent: Darron Lee returned to a starting role this week and produced an upgrade over the struggling Julian Stanford. However, he missed a chance to win the game when he was just a split second too late out into the flat on a fourth down pass to James White. That sums him up perfectly right now, as if he could have anticipate that play just a fraction of a second faster, it would have been a huge play and that's how close he is to making a consistent impact.
Lee made some good plays in coverage but was beaten for a couple of first downs and got caught inside a couple of times against the run. He also overpursued badly in space once.
David Harris made some solid plays and ended up tied with Lee as the team's leading tackler as he posted 11 tackles for the second week in a row. He made one bad mistake though, vacating his running lane and allowing the runner to cut back and into the open field for a big gain.
Lorenzo Mauldin had a couple of pressures and made some plays against the run but lost contain on an outside run and missed an open field tackle in space. He was also manhandled at the line and blocked to the ground on one running play.
Jordan Jenkins contributed four tackles and a hit, while Mike Catapano did not record a tackle, but pressured Tom Brady once.
In limited action off the bench, Josh Martin did well beating his man outside a few times to generate pressure. He's a player who Belichick praised during the week, albeit presumably based on his special teams contributions. Perhaps he deserves more time on defense.
Bent: Darrelle Revis had another rough game. The Patriots ignored him for most of the game, but went after him a few times on third down and in the red zone. He was beaten for two touchdowns and a couple of first downs. He also showed a disappointing effort on one third down play where a running back caught the ball in the flat and he was in a position to get in on the tackle. Instead, he kind of half-heartedly waved a shoulder at the runner and left Harris to complete the tackle. The runner dragged Harris almost to the marker and the Patriots picked up the first down on 4th-and-short.
In the starting line-up with Marcus Williams still out, Darryl Roberts also struggled, giving up a couple of first downs including one on third down. Roberts' worst play saw him called for pass interference on a deep throw where the pass was disrupted and probably could have been intercepted if he just got his head turned around.
Compounding matters, later on there was a play where he looked back for the ball too early and the receiver got behind him in the end zone and probably should have made the diving catch for a touchdown. At least he was trying to make the adjustment - and to give credit where it's due, he did get his head turned on another end zone throw to break it up. Hopefully he will show better instincts as he continues to develop, but there's plenty of room for improvement.
Roberts almost had another offensive pass interference penalty on a deep throw to Rob Gronkowski, but the officials and announcers both ignored the fact that Gronkowski blatantly pushed him off to create the initial separation from which he was forced to grab Gronkowski's arm.
Buster Skrine gave up a few first downs, including one on third down, and had a missed tackle. He was in on one stop in the flat and had one pressure as a pass rusher. On the coverage breakdown that led to the long completion to set up the winning score, it's difficult to know who was at fault, but this looked very similar to some early season plays where Skrine stayed up to cover the flat and someone ended up wide open down the field.
At safety, Marcus Gilchrist was beaten a few times in coverage, twice for a first down and once on a deep ball that was overthrown. He made a potentially big play when he prevented the back from scoring on the two-point conversion though.
Calvin Pryor came up and made a couple of nice plays in run support and had a pass break-up in coverage. However, he overpursued and missed a tackle in the flat on one play and seemed to be late getting over or slightly out of position in zone coverage a few times.
Finally, Rontez Miles made a play against the run, a good play in coverage and a third down stop, but he was cut to the ground on the edge on the run that allowed the Patriots to run out the clock.
Bent: Once again, special teams let the Jets down as Nick Folk had a 54-yard field goal blocked just before half time. Folk had earlier made a 51-yarder, his longest of the season. The field goal was blocked because Tanner Purdum was driven back after the snap, with the officials once again ignoring the fact that the nearest guy to Purdum didn't appear to have his whole body outside the long snapper's shoulders as the ball was snapped. Qvale and Johnson were also flat-backed on the left side of the line, which didn't help.
With Jalin Marshall seemingly permanently out of a job as the return man, Jeremy Ross had an underwhelming performance in his place. He didn't get past the 25 on any of his kickoff returns and gained 10 yards on his only punt return. He made a great play to dive on the ball and rescue a possession after a punt deflected off Skrine deep in Jets' territory for a potentially costly muff, though.
Ross was involved in a controversial moment when the officials decided not to penalize the Patriots for the most blatant fair catch interference violation you could expect to see. Had they decided that Ross didn't indicate clearly enough that he was making a fair catch (he did) then they should have flagged the Jets for an invalid fair catch signal, so it's difficult to know what they saw there.
Punter Lac Edwards had another underwhelming game, averaging a 42 yards per punt net on his first three kicks. His last punt was a 27-yard net but the return was negated by a penalty so that at least meant the Patriots had to go 83 yards on the game-winning drive. Juston Burris drew that flag.
There was one illegal block in the back penalty called on the Jets but it wasn't clear whether it was Tomlinson or Miles who was flagged, as both seemed to be guilty on the same play and no number was announced.
Martin made another special teams tackle, but has dropped from first to sixth in the NFL in terms of special teams tackles over the past few weeks. Bostick also had an important stop in the open field.