BGA is back…and this time it’s preseasonal (again)!
Coming up, part two of your breakdown of last night’s win over the Bengals with detailed analysis of the defensive performance, including an in-depth breakdown of what was going on in the secondary and a few notes on special teams.
Join me after the jump as I attempt to cover every angle.
This week, we're splitting the BGA into two. We covered the offense earlier today but now turn our attention to the defense and special teams.
Just like when the Jets met the Bengals last year, they struggled to generate much pressure. Again, it's difficult to be too critical though, since the Bengals either got rid of the ball quickly or left extra guys in to block. On the long touchdown pass, they left seven in to block against five pass rushers, so it's not surprising Dalton had plenty of time to get rid of the ball. Maybe with a healthier secondary they could have overcome this, but on the whole most of the best moments from the defensive linemen came once Dalton and Co. had departed. However, it's important to note that most of the starting offensive linemen played the entire first half other than Andrew Whitworth, who was replaced by Will Svitek early in the second quarter and the center who was replaced with less than two minutes to go, so they did make positive contributions against a solid group.
The Jets run defense looks to be in midseason form already. They gave up just 3.3 yards per carry and only two first downs in the first half. After Geno Smith's interception, the Jets did stop the Bengals' starters, forcing them to settle for a field goal after Damon Harrison burst into the backfield to tackle the runner on third down. On the previous drive, the Jets looked to have stuffed Cincinnati on third and goal, only for them to rugby-scrum their way over the line. Harrison also drew a hold on another play.
Muhammad Wilkerson was blocked out of a couple of plays early, but got some good penetration on a couple of plays and got into the backfield three times as a pass rusher to create some pressure. Sheldon Richardson had a better game this week, making an impact as a bullrusher, showing terrific athleticism and effort on a couple of plays in pursuit and stuffing one run. He could have had a sack on a play where Wilkerson flushed Matt Scott from the pocket, but Scott eluded his arm tackle. Yes, the impact from these two has perhaps been underwhelming so far, but stopping them for one quarter is one thing. Containing them for 60 minutes is another.
Leger Douzable did record a sack, although it came as Scott was trying to avoid pressure from elsewhere and ran into him. On other other play, Douzable was blocked out of the play, but it looked like he was held. Kenrick Ellis continues to be dominant off the bench, getting consistent penetration. He stuffed two runs, had a hit and a good bullrush as a pass rusher and drew a holding penalty. The Jets know they can rely on these two for consistent production.
TJ Barnes, Kerry Hyder and Tevita Finau, so impressive last week, had less of an impact this week, but all showed flashes. Barnes assisted on a tackle for a loss on a dump-off pass and got good penetration on one play. Hyder also got good penetration on one play and tackled the quarterback as he scrambled on another. Finau chased the quarterback from the pocket and out of bounds on one play and got into the backfield to create pressure on another.
Anthony Grady and Zach Thompson also saw action. Grady was driven back by a big double team but Thompson (who didn't play last week) had a big hit on the quarterback, dislodging his helmet and forcing the throw to fall well short of its target.
Jason Babin got some work with the first unit this week in place of Quinton Coples. I was concerned that Coples was hurt, but he did return later in the half. With Coples, they talked all summer about how he's taking on more of a linebacker role this year but we haven't really seen any signs of that yet, he's just been used like he was last year. I wonder if they're keeping some of the new things he's going to be doing under wraps. Coples did get penetration to redirect a runner on one running play and eventually collected a half-sack but only played 15 snaps. Something interesting that I was speculating on when the Jets added Babin was that Coples has started to incorporate the spin move (a Babin speciality, but not something Karl Dunbar actively promotes) into his pass rushing repertoire. On one play, he got in Dalton's face by spinning inside on the left tackle.
Babin was a handful in the pass rush, but only really beat his man cleanly once, to the inside. For the second straight week he got caught inside on a run that was bounced outside too. Calvin Pace had one pressure, stuffed a run and made a good open field tackle and Garrett McIntyre had a half-sack and a quarterback hit on a play where he was unblocked off the edge.
There were some good flashes from the young guys as Trevor Reilly nearly got to the quarterback a couple of times and assisted on a tackle in the backfield, IK Enemkpali had another strip sack and one other pressure and Troy Davis beat his man inside on one play and created pressure on another.
David Harris and Demario Davis didn't quite look as sharp as in the first game, combining for just six tackles. Harris had a good open field tackle and a run stuff, but did miss a tackle. Davis did stretch a run out to the sideline, dropped deep to break up a pass and came unblocked off the edge for a strip sack, but he was also blocked out of a play by a pulling lineman, called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and juked in the open field on a third down dump off to the flat.
AJ Edds recorded five tackles, but also missed a couple of tackles, including one on third down in the flat where he tried to break up the pass with a big hit when he easily could have wrapped up the receiver for a loss. He did make a couple of good tackles after short completions.
Nick Bellore moved back up to the second unit as Jeremiah George paid the price for last week's struggles. Bellore was in on four tackles near the line and had a forced fumble. He did miss a tackle in the hole on one play though. For his own part, George avoided any big mistakes when he got in the game this week.
Undrafted rookie Steele Divitto was active in his first appearance on defense. He had a tackle in the backfield, an unblocked pressure and an open field tackle to force a punt. He did give up a first down in coverage though.
Breaking down the breakdowns
The Jets patchwork secondary clearly didn't manage to slow down Andy Dalton, who led two touchdown drives completing all eight of his passes. As I'd anticipated, the Jets experimented with a few things here, trying to confuse Dalton with some trap coverages. Most of Dalton's completions were actually attributable to that rather than to individual weaknesses. Let's look at some examples.
Check out how they're matched up on this play. Ellis Lankster is playing so far off his man at the top of the screen he isn't even in the picture. However, the yellow lines indicate that Calvin Pace is going to drop into the flat to prevent a quick throw out there for easy yardage.
As the play develops, Pace does enough to dissuade the throw and Dalton checks down underneath to one of his tight ends instead. David Harris has backed off and can make the tackle for just a four yard gain, so this play was actually pretty successful for the Jets.
What's crucial here is an adjustment Pace made since last week. You may recall that I noted how one of the catches TY Hilton made against Dimitri Patterson may have been partly because Pace didn't get far enough into the flat and therefore the easy quick throw could still be made with Patterson playing off. What was different this time was that Pace made two lateral slide-steps instead of just one and that shut off the angle a lot more effectively. Even more interesting was that this is an adjustment they made during the week at practice with Lankster intercepting Tajh Boyd in the end zone on a play where Pace did the same thing.
Let's move onto the next one. Once again you can see how they match up. Harris and Davis are bluffing a blitz up the middle, while the three receivers on the near side are all matched up against. The yellow lines indicate how Kyle Wilson blitzes from the slot, Dawan Landry drops back and Harris is expected to get across to cover the slot.
As you can see from the next image, Antonio Allen is pressing on the outside receiver but Harris has a long way to come and some traffic to navigate with the inside slot receiver crossing his path.
This creates a soft spot in the zone and whether it's by design or a read-react play, Dalton and AJ Green are on the same page. And, of course, being AJ Green, he's able to pick up some good yardage after the catch, even though Landry has dropped off to prevent a big gain. Any hesitation here and maybe this trap has a chance to work, but if the offense anticipates it, it's not well-designed. Back to drawing board on that one, I think.
This next completion is also caused by a failed trap. Here we can see Lankster playing off-coverage with Kyle Wilson matched up with the slot receiver. The yellow lines show where the players will go in coverage.
At the snap, Wilson drops off to cover the outside receiver, Lankster drops back and Landry steps up to pick up Wilson's guy in the slot. The hope here is that the quarterback sees Lankster dropped off and throws a quick pass to the outside without anticipating Wilson being able to jump the route. Wilson doesn't get there in time and again Dalton doesn't hesitate so the completion is made before Wilson can get over there.
Finally, this isn't a blown trap, but it does show how this completion to Green was caused by a coverage breakdown rather than poor individual play. On this occasion the yellow lines indicate how the bunched receivers will criss-cross to cause confusion.
Allen makes contact with the outside receiver (Green) and then appears to pass him off to Wilson as he anticipates the slot receiver breaking outside.
Wilson fails to recognize this though and you can see he stays outside with Green left open down the seam.
As you can see, it's oversimplifying matters to say that the Jets' corners were overmatched. Now, maybe the use of some of these traps were because they anticipated that the corners would be overmatched but I really do think they just used this opportunity to try some things. The things they tried need a bit of tweaking, but might have worked against a less-established quarterback-receiver combination.
So, taking the above into account, let's move on to the individual player analysis for the secondary. In his first game as a cornerback, Allen didn't look altogether out of place. His performance compares favorably to that of Patterson last week, for example. Green did school him on one route down the sideline, but other than that any issues weren't altogether his fault. I still don't think full-time starting cornerback is his future vocation, but I like his press coverage and man cover skills and the Jets should make use of them wherever matchups dictate that it would be appropriate to. At one point, the Jets went to the big nickel package on third and long with Allen playing the slot and Lankster and Darrin Walls outside. That's something I'd like to see used a lot during the season.
Perhaps Allen's biggest mistake went largely unnoticed. On the Mohamed Sanu touchdown, where Kyle Wilson was burned, Rex Ryan said that Dawan Landry had blown the coverage. Landry didn't get over in time after Wilson was beaten at the line. However - bearing in mind that I don't have the benefit of all-22 footage during preseason - I think the fact Allen had also been beaten by Green played into that and might have drawn Landry away from the deep middle. As noted, Wilson was involved in a couple of those plays detailed above too.
Lankster was the one guy who totally held his own. He opened up on Green for the first play, but they put Allen on him for most of the time thereafter (with Rex saying in the postgame presser that this change was made right before the game). Lankster pitched a shut-out, although he was only targeted twice. He almost intercepted one of those but just failed to get his second foot down inbounds. He played more off-coverage than I expected, but never seemed to be out of position.
With Lankster having solidified himself as - at least - a viable emergency option, Walls made a case for himself with a late interception. That comes just a week or so after Ryan made reference to his bad hands in a press conference. He gave up a couple of short catches but was in a good position on three incompletions, including one over by the sideline that was originally ruled a catch but overturned by the replay booth.
Ras-I Dowling suffered a groin injury on special teams early on and therefore missed the chance to get any reps. The beneficiary was rookie Brandon Dixon who got some time with the second unit and impressed with a pass break-up on the outside. He did get lucky on a couple of plays - a deep pass where he lost track of the ball but the receiver did too and a 4th down pass that was dropped, but considering he didn't play on defense last week, this was a good start to his career.
The only other cornerback to see significant action on defense was Johnny Patrick, another player who did not play last week. Patrick struggled, giving up a couple of first downs, but he did make a good open field tackle on one short completion. LeQuan Lewis got into the game late.
At safety, Landry and Jaiquawn Jarrett got the start, but it was first round pick Calvin Pryor who impressed. He had a game high six tackles, including one for a loss and impressed in coverage, where he broke up a pass and as a blitzer where he batted a pass down, recorded one pressure and recovered a fumble.
In my article on the Allen experiment, I wondered whether the Jets would borrow from the Patriots playbook and have their corners pass off any downfield routes to Pryor. That's exactly what happened on the play where Pryor broke up the pass, as you can see here.
The one negative I had on Pryor was that he came up too fast on a running play and allowed the runner to cut back up the middle. I did also note that there were two plays where he closed to make the tackle after someone else had been beaten for a first down. Kerry Rhodes used to do this a lot and was unfairly blamed for giving up those catches, so that will be something to watch out for if Pryor gets criticized for his coverage play.
As noted, Landry was apparently at fault on the Sanu touchdown, but did make a couple of good plays against the run and in coverage. Jarrett wasn't exploited at all, although he did give up a first down on a play where he was draped all over the receiver downfield. He added a fumble recovery, but did miss a tackle in the flat.
Rontez Miles continues to flash, blowing up one play with an open field tackle in the flat and also hitting the quarterback unblocked off the edge to draw an intentional grounding penalty. It does seem like Josh Bush has fallen way behind. He didn't get into the game until late, although he did have a nice pass break-up.
Let's wrap up with some bullet point notes on the special teams:
- Ryan Quigley punted three times and Jacob Schum punted four times. Quigley's numbers were much better, albeit helped by a bad bounce that turned a Schum punt into a 27-yarder. A 47.3 net average for Quigley is nothing to be sniffed at though.
- Nick Folk made a field goal and an extra point, while Andrew Furney kicked one extra point. Quigley again kicked off twice, interestingly.
- Jacoby Ford had a couple of decent returns, but Jeremy Kerley made an awful decision to field a bouncing punt inside his 20 with seconds remaining in the first half
- Reilly had two tackles, including one with a forced fumble
- Hakim had a spectacular play as a gunner to tackle the punt returner, but missed a tackle as well
- Enemkpali's blocked punt for a safety was a good play, but he had a penalty on special teams for the second week in a row
- George got away with a face mask penalty on his special teams tackle
- Lankster didn't play as much on special teams because he was starting, but he lit someone up as the vice and that might have set up a decent return if the punt didn't veer out of bounds