This is probably the last person you expected me to kick off this section by talking about, but I was very interested to see how the Jets used Erin Henderson in this game.
Check out this nickel personnel package, from which the Jets rushed seven and Marcus Williams intercepted a rushed Johnny Manziel pass:
The Jets have three linebackers on the field with Demario Davis lined up on the edge and Henderson in the game. Leger Douzable, Leonard Williams and Lorenzo Mauldin are on the line with your basic five defensive back personnel group on the back end.
The Jets employed this a lot on third down and it's a personnel package Todd Bowles was unable to employ last year because he didn't have enough linebackers to do it, often opting to run one linebacker nickel and dime packages. While he ended up only playing seven snaps, this is a good way to get Henderson a role where he can make some contributions.
In terms of the starters, let's begin with Calvin Pace who was credited with just one downfield tackle and generated no pressure off the edge, but I have to give him credit for an outstanding job of setting the edge. This won't factor into his statistical production and probably not even into his run defense grades, but he did an excellent job of forcing his blocker upfield and preventing the runner from having an option to bounce the run outside. Pace did have one missed tackle, but this was again a positive outcome as he stretched the run out and slowed down the runner enough that a teammate was able to prevent him from getting to the edge.
Quinton Coples was quiet on the stat sheet, but quietly had one of his more impressive games as a pass rusher given the match-up. Lined up on the right over three quarters of the time, he mostly found himself matched up with pro bowler Joe Thomas and he did a consistent job of driving his man back in the pocket (even when it was Thomas) and causing the quarterback to be flushed from the pocket. He was officially credited with one quarterback hit, on a play where he overpowered the tight end, but he also generated pressure by beating Thomas on the outside on another play.
Coples did jump offside once and also was quiet in the running game, although he wasn't blocked out of many plays and the one tackle he did have was a stuff for no gain. He did drop into coverage three times, on one occasion preventing a throw by staying with a primary option in the flat on a similar play to the one he got burned on in preseason. On another play, he was in zone coverage on the right side and looked a little unsure about whether to vacate that zone and pursue the quarterback when he rolled out. I do like the fact that his role had him rushing the passer 55% of the time, as that's an increase on last year (46%).
As I mentioned in the previous article, Todd Bowles' system apparently requires the linemen to do less reading and reacting. That being the case, presumably that places more of an onus on the inside linebackers to do that. I was wondering how they would respond to that and it was interesting to compare.
David Harris had a productive game and wasn't blocked out of many plays, capping off his day with a sack as he blew up the running back. Davis, on the other hand, had less of an impact against the run and was blocked out of the middle on a couple of plays. Perhaps his biggest contribution was that, while it was not him that knocked the ball loose, Davis was the one whose helmet collided with Josh McCown and knocked him out of the game.
In Henderson's package work, he blitzed most of the time, generating one pressure on the play where Harris was out with an eye injury.
As with the defensive line, Bowles gave some playing time to Mauldin and Trevor Reilly and they each responded well. While he didn't get credit for it on the stat sheet, Mauldin did poke the ball loose from Manziel on the play where he got hurt. Obviously we are grateful to hear that's not as serious as it might have been. Mauldin also had a fumble recovery that was negated when Manziel was ruled down, but he was kicked out on one running play. Reilly had a strip sack on a play where he was initially blocked out of the play but kept coming and Manziel was flushed into him. In addition, he added one other pressure and held up pretty well setting the edge on one running play.
Next up...an icon returns and a new star rises, perhaps...