In this week's BGA, I analyze Week 16 performances by Bryce Petty, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall and Juston Burris among others...
Bent: Even after such a one-sided loss, I'm still tasked with at least trying to find some things to be positive about. However, when we're talking about the quarterbacks, Saturday provided nothing whatsoever.
We were skeptical about whether Bryce Petty would even be able to stay out there in front of an injury-ravaged line, but actually an inability to protect himself has been more of an issue than the inexperience of the guys in front of him.
Petty's shoulder injury came as he tried to recover a fumble. Nothing about that was his fault and he was instinctively trying to save possession for his team. Having already been banged up due to the hit last week, this has to raise doubts over how many conventional hits he would have been able to endure, anyway.
That's the downside of moxie; the competitiveness of the quarterback leads him to fight for every advantage, when sometimes the wise thing to do is to cut your losses and live to fight another day. Now there might not be another day for Petty, who will presumably be unable to suit up next week and a longshot to beat out whatever alternatives the Jets bring in next year.
For the short time that he lasted, Petty was poor, anyway. He was indecisive and inaccurate and the Patriots succeeded in confusing him with trap-style coverages. On one play he was probably going to be intercepted if he went to his first option so he hung onto the ball and ate a sack. That was pretty much the only positive thing he did all day. I'm sure he eventually would have settled down and done some good things, but if he didn't get hurt and continued to struggle that badly, the Jets might have been forced to replace him anyway.
So back came Ryan Fitzpatrick, a player I've taken to referring to as "The Bad Penny", which isn't directly referring to Chad Pennington, although that works too. Fitzpatrick should win this year's Comeback Player of the Year award based solely on volume rather than performance. I've lost count of the number of times we thought we'd seen the last of him only for him to be back again within a week or two.
Fitzpatrick now looks set to start the last game, which is as improbable as it was when Mark Sanchez ended up starting the season finale against the Bills in 2012, despite having lost his starting role to Greg McElroy the previous week. Sanchez lost that last game 28-9 which is the kind of outcome you'd expect next week. He also returned the following season and was atop the depth chart in preseason before getting hurt. I'm not expecting history to repeat itself in that regard with Fitzpatrick.
In terms of Fitzpatrick's performance, it barely matters but an 8-for-21 with two interceptions stat line speaks for itself. His receivers didn't help him out much but even if they bailed him out a few times that would have only elevated his stat-line from terrible to not very good.
Should Christian Hackenberg get a chance to play now? For me, the answer hasn't changed: No. As I said recently, I don't want him anywhere near this mess and the worst thing that could happen now is that he plays in a meaningless game, is similarly unable to protect himself and suffers an injury that eats into his development time next season. That's not going to be a popular decision though - and it could lead to a miserable atmosphere in the season finale.
Bent: Powell was having a nice first half as the Jets were gaining consistent yardage in the running game. However, durability has always been a concern with Powell and he lasted less than 2 1/2 games as the lead back before limping off the field with nine minutes left in the second quarter. Powell had gained 49 yards on nine carries to that point and was well on the way to his third big game in a row. However, after limping off, he carried just six more times for 11 yards.
Powell now has 973 yards from scrimmage on the season, which is a career high. If healthy, he should surpass 1,000 for the first time next week. He would need 98 rushing yards to surpass his career best total of 697 in 2013. That came on 176 carries though, whereas he has had just 109 so far this year, averaging 5.5 per carry. He showed more good burst and elusiveness early on Saturday.
Powell's 55 receptions on the year also represent a career high and he needs just 16 receiving yards to set another career mark. In this game he caught just two passes though and also gave up a sack in pass protection.
With Matt Forté out, Khiry Robinson's debut was set up to be one of the more interesting aspects of this game. In typical 2016 Jets fashion, his first touch saw him fumble the ball away, knocking Petty out of the game in the process.
Robinson was stuffed for a loss three times on his eight carries, but did flash some promise on a couple of plays. He ran over a defensive back on a first-down run to the outside, showed good burst on a pick-up of nine and displayed good effort to battle for positive yardage on another play.
The Jets apparently plan on keeping Robinson around next year because when they re-signed him, it was through 2017. You'll recall that he only signed a one-year deal first time around before waiving him due to a preseason injury. Maybe Robinson will get more touches in the final game to show what we can expect next season.
Finally, Brandon Wilds carried four times on the Jets' final drive, gaining 14 yards. He gained positive yardage on each of his carries but his longest gain was just six yards. The rookie should get more chances next week but will probably be regarded as a long shot to make next year's team.
Bent: Last week, Brandon Marshall was asked about his lack of production in last week's Miami game, when he caught just one pass despite being targeted 11 times. His response was that he judges his own performance based on how the other receivers produce as a result of him producing favorable matchups.
Okay. So, let's judge his performance yesterday based on that criteria…
When Marshall limped off with a hip problem late in the third quarter, the other wide receivers on the team had combined for zero catches. Even more damning; Devin Smith, Quincy Enunwa and Charone Peake each had a big downfield catch, totalling 77 yards, after Marshall's departure.
I'm not going to dwell too much on the rift between Marshall and defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, but it goes all the way back to Week 3 when the pair apparently had to be separated on the sideline during the fourth quarter of the loss to the Chiefs. With frustrations boiling over, it's difficult for Marshall to justify himself as a team leader when he lays another egg in a week where he was discussing the possibility of joining the Patriots next season with the media.
During the broadcast, CBS announcers Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts suggested that the Jets will be assessing Marshall's performance during the offseason and that perhaps he would be back if they feel his decreased production is mostly injured-related. However, there were already concerns over Marshall's durability during the offseason. If they think injuries have limited his production once again, then why bring him back and pay him a huge salary in a rebuilding year? Even if they think his leadership is valuable, it's obviously rubbing some people the wrong way and he's increasingly likely to get hurt again.
Quite frankly, I'm not sure why anyone would assume the Patriots would be interested either.
Funnily enough, even though I referred to him laying an egg, Marshall actually led the Jets in receiving, albeit with just two catches for 28 yards. What was really disappointing was that Robby Anderson was completely shut out. Anderson had been producing consistently since he started seeing regular playing time. Satrday, he was unable to come up with a deep ball down the field and, not for the first time, was outmuscled at the point of the catch on an interception.
In addition to his one catch, Enunwa also contributed a first down run as they handed it off to him on a fly sweep and added some good blocks. However, four other passes - all of them thrown too high - were off his hands, one of them being intercepted.
Peake had a big catch and run on fourth down but also juggled and dropped another downfield pass.
Smith looked sharp in making his first catch of the year down the middle, but there were shades of his rookie year on two other catchable targets that he was unable to bring in, including one in the end zone.
At tight end, Austin Seferian-Jenkins also dropped a Fitzpatrick pass in the end zone but had one catch on a low throw down the middle. He only actually played four snaps before leaving with an injury. Brandon Bostick dropped his only target, albeit on another inaccurate throw, and had a couple of bad missed blocks, including the one that led to Robinson's fumble. Eric Tomlinson had a handful of impact blocks in the running game although he failed to sustain his block a few times. If he can continue to work on his consistency, he could be a difference maker next year.
Bent: Having lost yet another starter, it was assumed the offensive line would fall apart, but that neglects the fact that the line was never particularly good to start with so each loss hasn't actually downgraded the unit that much.
Once again, the line held up quite well and, while the starting line-up will need to be overhauled next year, they actually seem to be building some encouraging depth.
Brandon Shell played the whole game at right tackle while Dakota Dozier and Brent Qvale platooned at right guard. All three are under contract next year and it's encouraging that the line held up with all three thrown into the mix.
Of the three, Qvale was the least effective, struggling to hold up at the point of attack a few times and allowing his man to shed his block to stuff a run once. However, he avoided any serious mistakes and didn't give up any pressure in pass protection. He has established himself as a player who can fill in at both guard and tackle.
Shell played well for the second week in a row, once again not surrendering any pressure in pass protection. He had plenty of help, though. In the running game, he made some impact blocks, displaying some power at the point of attack, but there were a couple of plays where his man got off his block to get in on a tackle. His biggest negative was a face-mask penalty following a turnover.
Dozier did a fine job in his first career start. He was beaten just once in pass protection and did a good job of blocking on the move and at the point of attack in the running game. After a bad start where he tried to make a pulling block and ended up getting in the running back's way, he settled down nicely and performed well. One thing that was apparent was that Dozier seems to have cleaned up his technique, as in preseason action he has had a tendency to be sloppy even on those plays where he was able to make an effective block.
Wesley Johnson had a mistake-free first half at center, other than one play where he got the snap count wrong leading to a false start penalty. In the second half he had a missed block on a short-yardage play and failed to sustain a couple of blocks at the second level. Overall, he did a good job of limiting penetration and didn't allow any pressure in pass protection.
James Carpenter had a quiet game, but made a couple of good blocks at the point of attack in the second half. He gave up a quarterback hit on a play where he clearly thought the interior rusher would be picked up by Johnson and was unable to react in time.
Finally, Ben Ijalana was beaten for a sack but only had a few other plays where he was beaten in pass protection. He contributed one good downhill block in the running game. The assumption is that left tackle is more difficult to play than right tackle, so it's difficult to know how he would have fared if he'd been able to stay on the right. Maybe being able to limit any struggles on the left side is a sign he could be a much more consistent player once he moves back to right tackle. Ijalana was the only lineman from yesterday who is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
As mentioned, I'm not planning to dwell too much on the Richardson/Marshall spat, but it is worth noting that Richardson seemed to display more explosiveness and effort in this game than he has most of the time this year. He was in on a handful of run stuffs, including one for a loss, and had a hit on Tom Brady.
On one play, he mowed over the left guard in pass protection and on another he shot a gap so quickly that he almost disrupted the handoff. I don't think we've seen that kind of play from him since last year.
After the Snapchat fiasco last week, there was some suggestion that Richardson might again be benched for the first quarter. However, he was out there from the start. What nobody seems to have noticed, though, is that he was essentially benched for the fourth quarter instead. They did send him out there for one goal-line play and once on special teams, but he was removed from the main rotation and I am pretty sure that's connected with last week's indiscretion.
One positive this week was that Muhammad Wilkerson busted into the backfield for a strip-sack, which was the first impact play he's made in a while. Wilkerson had a couple more pressures and was in a few plays in the running game including a tackle for loss but continues to have mixed results at the point of attack.
Last week, a story in the New York Post suggested Wilkerson's struggles are mainly related to injuries and Jets fans will be hoping that's the case because a healthy Wilkerson getting back to his best next year would automatically provide a bigger upgrade than any personnel move they could hope to make. He was generating almost three times as much pressure last season, for example. The Post also described Saturday's performance as his "best game of the season", but I don't really agree with that because he was holding up at the point of attack with much better consistency earlier on in the year.
Leonard Williams was also in on multiple run stuffs, although he was handled at the point of attack a few times. Other than one play early in the game, he didn't get close to Brady in the pass rush. Once again, they moved him around and gave him plenty of reps coming off the edge. Shouldn't we be worried about that, considering the effect playing on the edge seems to have had on the effectiveness of Richardson, Wilkerson and Quinton Coples in recent years?
An interesting statistical anomaly this week saw Williams, Richardson and Wilkerson combining for an impressive 22 tackles, but only four solo tackles. For context, the three entered this game with 155 combined tackles (11 per game), 64 percent of which were solo tackles. With so many assisted tackles, that suggests they were rallying to the ball but not necessarily stuffing runs themselves.
It's difficult to know what to read into that but it seemed to work because LaGarrette Blount was held to 50 yards on 20 carries and the Patriots averaged less than three yards per carry as a team. Maybe it's something to do with the Patriots' scheme or just something to do with the official scorer.
Deon Simon had been doing well in an increased role due to Steve McLendon's injury, but he was well-handled at the point of attack in this game, including on a short yardage touchdown. He was able to draw a flag on a good bull rush though. Later on in the game he stuffed a run and bottled up another run, but it was a less impressive performance that we'd seen over the past few weeks from the youngster.
Finally, Anthony Johnson was in for a few plays and almost had a sack, but allowed Brady to escape and complete a throw downfield.
Bent: The Jets did less rotation in the linebacking corps than they have all season with only four players seeing action. On the outside, Freddie Bishop and Jordan Jenkins got the start and were employed basically in a full-time role. However, they disappointingly recorded just one pressure each.
Jenkins at least got close a handful of times as he was able to turn the corner around the edge but the pass was thrown too quickly. He was in on a few plays against the run and in coverage, but was also cut to the ground leading to a first-down run.
Bishop got blocked out of a few running plays on the edge, missed a tackle and was involved in a blown coverage that led to a big gain.
Darron Lee had one of his better games so far as he was in on four plays close to the line of scrimmage, including one for a loss. He wasn't perfect, though, as he was blocked out of too many plays at the second level and missed a couple of tackles. He also gave up a first down in coverage, but was impressive in pursuit and when closing to the football.
David Harris was also blocked out of some plays at the second level and got beaten over the top for a touchdown in coverage. He was in on a few stops near the line and had a sack wiped out because of a penalty.
Bent: One of the positive things to take from this display was the performance of rookie cornerback Juston Burris. There were several plays where he was targeted but managed to break up the pass or otherwise disrupt the play, leading to an incompletion. Despite these successes, Burris was called for a hold and burned deep on a play that led to the safety getting flagged. He was also beaten for a touchdown, although he was remonstrating with teammates after the play, so that might not have been his fault.
While the performance was encouraging, Burris was extremely physical and arguably could have been flagged a few more times, especially considering it was a match-up with New England. A less-forgiving officiating crew would have flagged him at least three times and the performance would be viewed in a completely different light. If Jerome Boger's crew was working the game, he might have ended up with five or six penalties.
Calvin Pryor played hard, coming up fast to slow up the runner in the backfield four times, although he was unable to make the play himself on any of those occasions. He was in on a couple of run stops and contributed some pressure as an unblocked blitzer.
Rontez Miles had a productive day, with a team-leading 12 tackles, but he seemed to be involved in a few miscommunications that led to blown coverages. One of those was on the touchdown Burris allowed, which saw him trying to communicate with Pryor before the snap which left no safety in the middle of the field with Burris playing outside leverage. Miles was beaten for one touchdown in man coverage and got lucky on two other plays where he was beaten but there was an overthrow and a drop. He also missed a tackle.
Darrelle Revis didn't have much to do, but still had a missed tackle, a hold to negate a sack and a blown coverage that should have led to an easy touchdown. He also gave up an easy conversion on third-and-short because he was playing too far off. He made one good play in run support. On the other side, Buster Skrine fared better. While he gave up three first downs, he was in good position on four incompletions, including one that he broke up with a hit. He also made a good play in run support.
Doug Middleton continues to get some valuable experience off the bench, but gave up a couple of first downs in zone coverage and was flagged for pass interference on a throw over the top.
Bent: Nick Folk provided the Jets with their only points with his 29-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, but should the Jets have been kicking a field goal when down by 41? While I understand the desire not to be shut out, I can guarantee than most Jets fans would have preferred another shot at the end zone with the ball down at the 11-yard line. Bowles does himself no favors with such moves.
If it's early in the second half and you're being blown out and want something positive to give yourself something to build on, then perhaps you kick a field goal in that situation, but so late in the game it just comes across as waving the white flag and trying to save face in unsatisfactory fashion. "At least we didn't get shut out" is arguably a weaker statement that "At least we didn't stop trying to score."
Folk had already missed a chip shot, his sixth missed field goal against the Patriots in his career, more than he's had against any other team.
Rookie punter Lac Edwards was again unimpressive, especially on one early low drive, but at least he managed to have his first 45-yard net punt in a long time. He can thank the coverage for that. Punt coverage was pretty solid, with the likes of Smith, Miles and Peake making contributions.
Nick Marshall didn't have much success in the return game this week and then, when he finally got out past the 25 on one runback, the Jets opted to accept a penalty and force a re-kick, which he promptly dropped and ended up getting stuffed inside his own 15-yard line. He also didn't do much on punt returns, albeit mostly due to poor execution from those in the vice role.
Enunwa was back for one kickoff which he also dropped, forcing him to take a knee in the end zone. He's returned one kick in his career, for 54 yards earlier this year.
On the whole, the Jets looked to upgrade their special teams personnel with more experienced core special teamers during the offseason but it hasn't worked. While injuries have been a factor, the inability of this unit to be an upgrade over Bobby April's sorry 2016 outfit is disappointing. Perhaps the issue is that they don't place enough importance on this aspect during practice?
Bent: It's difficult to find many bright spots after a performance like this, even though the likes of Shell, Burris and Dozier might have helped their case for a larger role next season. However, there is one major positive and that's the fact that this awful season is nearly over.
It's been a rough year; one where everything that could go wrong has done so. Yesterday's loss was a new low, with the only silver lining being that the rest of America has long since lost interest in the Jets so didn't notice or care.
In many ways, a humiliating loss like this can be a healthy thing, because it means there's little chance the powers-that-be will overlook any deficiencies within the team and try to paper over any cracks with a temporary solution.
Looking back, there's four games this year where the Jets probably should have won and blew it. Ironically, fans should now be thankful they lost those four, for two reasons. First of all, if the Jets had been 8-6 entering yesterday's game - which was theoretically possible, as improbable as it sounds - then yesterday's loss would have been a lot more damaging and painful.
Secondly, while I'm not of the mind that I want the team to lose each week for draft positioning, I don't mind looking back on those losses and being glad they happened in hindsight because a 7-9 or 8-8 record would be a lot less likely to produce the kind of difference maker this roster desperately needs in next year's draft.
Next week's game could be ugly because the fans have little desire to see any more of Fitzpatrick at quarterback and will be likely to express their displeasure at some of the other underachieving veterans this season. That's if they bother to show up…