In this week's BGA, I analyze Week 9 performances by Todd Bowles, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bryce Petty, Brandon Marshall, Ben Ijalana, Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, Jalin Marshall and the Wide Receivers, Leonard Willians, Julian Stanford and the Special Teams, among others...
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Bryce Petty...
Bent: In many ways, Ryan Fitzpatrick's performance encapsulates perfectly what ails this Jets team. Aside from the two terrible interceptions, his performance was mostly okay. However, those interceptions are all that will be remembered from this game, as should be the case because they were more than enough to cancel out any positives he had.
The team as a whole has taken on the personality of its so-called leader, making plenty of good plays, winning matchups on a consistent basis and having small stretches of dominant play, only to see this all undone by the occasional dumb and avoidable mistake. By gifting Miami points, possession or the chance to extend a drive over and over again, the Jets threw away the chance of a third straight win and killed off the momentum of their season.
The first interception was clearly on Fitzpatrick, who failed to identify the defensive tackle dropping into coverage. By contrast, it's likely the second interception wasn't Fitzpatrick's fault. Once again that sums up the Jets perfectly, because it emphasizes how the issues with this team extend further than just him. It looked like he was expecting Brandon Marshall to break to the back pylon on the throw.
The wasteful turnover, on third down in the red zone, was reminiscent of the season finale in Buffalo last year. Just as in that game, if the Jets settled for a field goal, they probably would have had a chance to win the game with another field goal later on. Did you say to yourself "I bet he throws an interception here" as the ball was being snapped? I know I did.
And yet Fitzpatrick bounced back from that to fire a go-ahead touchdown pass with five minutes to go, only for the special teams unit to immediately hand back the lead on the ensuing kickoff. But nobody's going to remember that a few weeks from now.
By the way, I accidentally typed "Sanchez" instead of "Fitzpatrick" while writing that last paragraph. That can't be a good sign.
We've picked (no pun intended) apart enough games like this from Fitzpatrick this season, but a third quarter knee injury provided some intrigue in the form of Bryce Petty's first NFL appearance.
Petty entered the game with the Jets trailing, completed all of his passes, posted a 106.2 quarterback rating and led a scoring drive. I'm sure this will provide adequate ammunition for Petty supporters to call for him to take over for Fitzpatrick -- assuming Fitzpatrick's MRI doesn't leave the team with any choice in the matter.
Let's put his performance into perspective, though. Petty threw a couple of quick drop, single-read dump-offs at the line of scrimmage and the drive stalled inside the red zone. If that's all the Jets trust him to do right now, then they'll struggle to move the ball over a longer sample size.
I'm not averse to the idea of giving Petty his shot, though, especially now that any slim chance of resurrecting the season seems to have permanently slipped from the team's grasp. He came in and handled his assignments efficiently, regardless of the degree of difficulty, and it is an important step to finally have managed to get his feet wet at this level.
I remain concerned that installing him into the starting lineup too early could do more harm than good in terms of his longer term future, though. But perhaps this offensive staff will do a better job of finding creative ways to gradually expand the playbook on the fly once he gets his shot. It seems increasingly likely his day will come soon.
Bent: When Ryan Clady wasn't included on the inactive list, it was assumed he must be healthy enough to start. However, Clady was obviously only kept active for emergency duties because Ben Ijalana started and played the whole game at left tackle. With Nick Mangold also out, it was apparent the Jets were going to be overmatched on the offensive line and that proved to be the case all day.
Early on, they tried double-teaming Ndamukong Suh, but that was largely ineffective. He simply walked a double-team from Brian Winters and Breno Giacomini into the backfield to blow up one early run. Later on, the Jets had some success by spreading the line out laterally to find some running lanes, which was the same approach they had success with against Miami last season. The Dolphins seemed to adjust well to this, though, and the running game grinded to a halt after halftime.
While there were a couple of well-blocked plays, the run blocking was extremely inconsistent across the board. Everyone made mistakes except from Dakota Dozier, whose excellent lane-opening block at the second level sprung Matt Forté for a first-half touchdown run on his only offensive snap. The starters also combined for four penalties, including two by Giacomini.
The Jets had more success through the air, but really struggled in pass protection. Early on, the plan seemed to be for one of the guards to help Wesley Johnson engage Suh cleanly, then peel off to try and help out one of the tackles. They both needed the help, as each was beaten several times off the edge. Giacomini's lateral footspeed was no match for Cameron Wake, who beat him easily around the outside for two strip sacks, while Ijalana got beaten for several pressures.
There was plenty of interior pressure too, though. James Carpenter gave up more pressure than he has all season because he was struggling to cope with bull rushes. Johnson got beaten for the hit that knocked Fitzpatrick out of the game and Suh burned Winters for a big sack to force the Jets to punt with four minutes to go. That proved to be their last chance.
There's worse news next week, as the Rams' defensive line is even better than Miami's. For all the talk over the quarterback position, if Clady and Mangold are both out again, whoever is at quarterback will be defying the odds if he lasts the whole game.
Bent: Forté had a solid statline with 92 rushing yards and a touchdown. However, 63 of those yards came on two runs where he broke into the open field untouched and he otherwise didn't have a run longer than six yards. He also didn't catch a pass.
While he showed good burst on his touchdown run and made a nice cut at the second level on his other long run, Forté and the running game carried no kind of threat into the second half. After carrying the ball twice on the first two plays of the third quarter, Forté carried the ball just three more times the rest of the way, for 10 yards.
With the Jets playing from behind and moving the ball with modest success through the air, Bilal Powell saw more of the workload and touches in the second half. His 10 touches accounted for 51 yards but just two first downs -- both on short passes. He also fielded a downfield lateral from Fitzpatrick on a fun play reminiscent of Vinny Testaverde and Curtis Martin on the game-winning drive in a memorable 2001 win over the Colts.
In his Jets debut, CJ Spiller saw some action on offense but did not get any touches. Interestingly, they only used him as a wide receiver.
Bent: Brandon Marshall zigged when Fitzpatrick expected him to zag on the second of his two interceptions. If Marshall ran the wrong route there, it's at least the third time this year that's happened, with an interception being the inevitable outcome each time.
Marshall led the Jets with six catches - including a spectacular one-handed snag -- and also drew three defensive penalties. However, he was shut out in the fourth quarter when the Jets needed him most.
Once again, the youngsters continue to show flashes, perhaps representing the main bright spot to be taken from this destined-to-be-lost season. This week, Jalin Marshall stepped into a bigger role from the start, leading the Jets in receiving yards and scoring what - for about 20 seconds - looked like it was going to be the winning touchdown. Marshall also made a nice falling grab, broke a couple of tackles on a nice catch-and-run and made a great block at the second level.
Charone Peake got the start, but saw his playing time and opportunities reduced this week after having been limited in practice during the week. He contributed one first down by drawing a hold on third down, though.
Robby Anderson still seems the closest of the three to becoming a breakout star. Only the slightest contact on his shoulder saw him ruled down by contact, denying him a 40-yard touchdown after a spectacular leaping grab on third down. He could have had another touchdown had Fitzpatrick not overthrown him deep when he had a step on his man. Anderson had one other first down catch and has four games in a row with at least three catches.
Disappointingly, Quincy Enunwa hasn't shown the same kind of consistent production over the last month. His 25-yard catch over the middle in the fourth quarter was his only reception of the game and actually the only time he was thrown to after halftime. In the first half he was shut out, although he drew one penalty flag and almost came up with one catch down the seam.
The Jets ran 12 plays inside the red zone before they finally scored a touchdown. There's no question they miss Eric Decker there more than anywhere, especially since it makes Marshall being the primary target all the more obvious. However, on two third down incompletions inside the 10, it looked like Austin Seferian-Jenkins was wide open.
While he might conceivably provide a decent red zone threat, Seferian-Jenkins had a really poor game as a run blocker. With the much-maligned Kellen Davis out, some fans were hopeful the running game wouldn't suffer too much. But the downgrade was immediately apparent. On 2nd-and-short at the five yard line on the opening drive, he was driven into the backfield and the run was blown up for a loss. He also had two bad whiffs at the second level, including one in another key short yardage situation.
Brandon Bostick made a good block on Forté's touchdown run, but allowed another run to be bottled up and wasn't targeted all day. In fact, the only pass to a tight end all day was Fitzpatrick's first interception.
Bent: I was immediately concerned when the Jets' starting defense took the field without Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson and continued to leave them on the bench throughout the first quarter. Richardson's previous off-field transgressions are well-publicized, but we shouldn't forget Wilkerson was suspended for the first quarter of the Giants game last year for missing a team meeting. I expect an explanation for their absence will present itself in due course, so I won't dwell on it too much for the time being. But it's a worrisome sign.
The Dolphins scored a touchdown on their only full drive of the first quarter, with the Jets' offense mitigating the potential damage by controlling most of the clock with two scoring drives of their own. The defensive line wasn't really to blame for any of the yardage on that drive anyway - and when Wilkerson and Richardson re-entered the game, the next drive also ended in a touchdown for the Dolphins.
You'd hope two things would've happened that would have led to these apparent team-imposed suspensions actually working out well for the team. First, once entering the game, you'd have expected each player to be particularly hungry and motivated to perform well to make up for the fact they let the team down. Second, you'd have expected them to play better down the stretch due to being fresher than usual. However, neither of these things happened.
As noted, Miami marched down and scored on their first drive with the pair back in the game, although that was the last touchdown they'd score on offense all day. The defense certainly improved once Richardson and Wilkerson hit their stride, generating as much pressure as they have all year and stifling Miami's red-hot running game for most of the day with contributions from both.
Down the stretch, however, the pressures and run stuffs dried up and the Dolphins were able to ice the game. Wilkerson in particular found himself sealed off on the edge of the line three or four times down the stretch, although it happened to Richardson once too. That would usually never happen to either of them. Richardson was in on a lot of plays but let himself down with two costly penalties.
Leonard Williams has been relatively quiet over the last few weeks, but this might have been his best game of the year. Officially, he had two quarterback hits and two tackles for loss but that doesn't tell the whole story. Williams was disruptive all day as a pass rusher, generating pressure on several other plays. He also blew up several running plays with penetration and was in on a handful of run stuffs.
Steve McLendon and Jarvis Jenkins were in the starting lineup, but Jenkins didn't play much after the first quarter. McLendon was credited with a tackle for loss and a forced fumble on the first defensive snap of the game, but otherwise didn't contribute much.
Despite Wilkerson and Richardson being absent in the first quarter, Deon Simon saw action on just one short yardage snap.
Bent: With Darron Lee and Bruce Carter still out, Julian Stanford continues to be forced into a full time role. For the second straight week, the opposition was able to exploit him and he made a series of mistakes to extend drives.
If you watched the game, you'll be acutely aware of his four missed tackles and two penalties, many of which came on third down. However, just as costly were the plays where he was caught out of position. Twice in coverage, a receiver that would have been his responsibility was left wide open and twice in the running game, he seemed to vacate his lane, leading to a big run.
Stanford was on the practice squad until a couple of weeks ago, so he's being forced into a role which appears beyond him. When 10 defensive players do their job but one makes a mistake that leads to the play being successful anyway, that can be demoralizing for a defense.
Either Lee or Carter returning would make a difference, but with Lee being a rookie and Carter also being prone to missed assignments at times, that's unlikely to completely resolve matters. Until that time, teams are going to continue to look to isolate Stanford and take advantage of his inexperience.
David Harris had a quiet game, with none of his five tackles made within four yards of the line of scrimmage. That perhaps emphasizes how it was Stanford they were running at or targeting in coverage. Harris was blocked out at the second level on one big run, which looked like an obvious hold. Miami also seemed to get away with a series of holds at the point of attack during the game.
Harris was close to a major game-changing play when he recovered an apparent lateral pass and took it down inside the Miami five-yard line. It's probably correct that the play was too close to overturn but it looked like a lateral to me and perhaps wouldn't have been overturned if called that way on the field either, so the Dolphins caught a break. Timeouts are important, but perhaps a challenge was worth it there. As it turns out, the Jets got the ball back and scored anyway, so that decision didn't cost them the game.
Another positive is that Lorenzo Mauldin has emerged nicely over the past three weeks. The Jets are definitely better off since Richardson has moved back onto the line, freeing up reps for their outside linebackers. Mauldin was officially credited with half a sack and two other quarterback hits but also created pressure on a couple more plays. After having just seven total pressures in the first six games, Mauldin has 15 in the last three.
Even more encouraging than his ability to create pressure was that Mauldin made some nice plays against the run, shooting gaps to get in on a couple of run stuffs and driving his man upfield on the outside to force another run back inside, shedding the block to get in on the stop. However, the Jets used the same defensive scheme as last week on a couple of plays where Mauldin crashed inside and Stanford peeled outside to contain the edge. Miami anticipated this and had some success cutting back and running directly into the teeth of this stunt.
Mike Catapano and Jordan Jenkins were each exploited in coverage, with Catapano giving up a 20-yard gain on a wheel route and Jenkins beaten outside for a short touchdown pass. Jenkins had a chance to redeem himself but dropped an easy interception with Miami in the red zone, which easily could have been a pick six. He had a couple of pressures and was in on a couple of stops in the backfield, though.
Josh Martin was also credited with a half sack, making a good inside move. He and Catapano only played eight snaps combined.
Bent: Despite losing Marcus Williams early in the game, the secondary actually had one of their best games, holding Ryan Tannehill to less than 150 yards passing. In fact, over 100 of those yards came against the linebackers.
Despite his recent struggles, Darrelle Revis wasn't targeted all day. I wonder if Miami suspected that his comments during the week - where he essentially admitted he isn't very good anymore - were an effort to dupe them into challenging him. Then again, perhaps Revis anticipated this response and it was an audacious triple-bluff that prevented him from being isolated in coverage.
Considering the mostly-manufactured conflab about his lack of effort on a few plays over the past few weeks, I was surprised to see Revis approaching a couple of tackle attempts tentatively and conservatively in the first half, but that's probably a good thing. When people started saying the same things about Kerry Rhodes, he started going for big hits and gambling for impact plays and it did not end well.
Buster Skrine returned to the lineup and did well in coverage. The only first down catch he gave up was negated by off-setting penalties. However, he did make a couple of mistakes in the open field.
Darryl Roberts stepped in for Williams and gave up a couple of first downs -- one on an easy quick slant where he was playing too far off and another as he badly missed an open field tackle in the flat. On another play, he made a good tackle in the flat and he also did well to force a run back inside on the edge. However, he got lucky on one overthrow where the receiver had a step on him deep.
Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor held up quite well at safety. Gilchrist broke up one pass, as all three targets thrown his way were incomplete. Pryor was also in good position on three third down incompletions, breaking up the last one with a hit on the receiver. Pryor also made a couple of plays in run support, including one where he knifed into the backfield to make a tackle for loss.
Rontez Miles and Antonio Allen saw brief action at safety, with Miles making a good open field tackle on one play in coverage. Juston Burris didn't play again, though, and his reps have dried up, as he's played just three snaps in the last four games.
While it was a solid performance overall by the secondary, it was infuriating early on when the Jets handed the Dolphins two first downs with personal fouls. I have some sympathy for Skrine because Jarvis Landry was clearly the instigator of the incident that led to his penalty, but you still can't afford to lose your cool like that. I have no sympathy whatsoever for Pryor, who cancelled out a nice play by dancing around unnecessarily and drawing a taunting flag.
You want the team to be fired up and playing with energy, but when they're struggling, the approach has to be more business-like, mature and disciplined. Act like you've done it before because incidents like that are pathetic, embarrassing, selfish and, frankly, can sometimes make you hard to root for.
Bent: For a change, special teams were a big story this week, with the Dolphins scoring the winning touchdown on a kickoff return, not long after they had a special teams blunder that almost gifted the game to the Jets. There was also a punt return touchdown negated by a penalty and a return game muff.
The Dolphins looked dangerous on kick returns all day so it was pretty risky to lay the ball up and play contain rather than trying to boot a touchback each time. However, after Allen was flagged for offside, Nick Folk had to kick from five yards deeper, leading to the long touchdown return.
That penalty - which was unequivocally a bad call - negated a kickoff that the Jets had managed to blow up inside the 20 yard line despite Jakeem Grant breaking six tackles. Would Miami have won the game if the original kickoff had stood? After the first two touchdown drives, only one of their seven drives covered more than 30 yards, so the above perhaps seems unlikely.
What happened to the coverage units that looked much better earlier in the year than those of last year? Personnel-wise, I believe Carter, Lee, Davis and Marcus Williams were the only core special teamers missing. That shouldn't make a massive difference, especially since Carter is the only one of those I'd regard as especially good on special teams. However, it was his replacement - Taiwan Jones - who got drawn slightly out of his lane and missed the key tackle. Behind him, Skrine - deputizing for Williams - picked the wrong lane to fill and was unable to make a saving tackle.
Part of the issue, which becomes particularly apparent when forced to introduce a couple of new players due to injury, is a lack of live game reps because returns are so rare these days. That's the case on the punt unit too, which means there's a downside to having a punter who specializes in getting good hangtime to limit the chance of a return.
When such a punter kicks it too far, the coverage units are less organized and perhaps less prepared to actually cover than they ideally would be. That's what happened on Lac Edwards' second quarter punt that was returned for a long touchdown by Grant. Ironically, that was negated by a penalty which Allen himself drew by being blocked in the back.
Overall, the Jets missed nine tackles on just five returns, with Catapano and Peake guilty on the negated punt return and Pryor managing to miss two on one kick return. More damage could have been done if not for good open field plays by Miles and Nick Marshall. Peake also had a penalty on special teams, as did Ijalana.
Edwards is really struggling right now. Perhaps nervous about kicking the ball too far, he had two other punts that were too high and short, netting just 35 and 33 yards. Compounding matters, long- snapper Tanner Purdum still seems to be firing bullseyes with a lot less accuracy than he has in the past.
Jalin Marshall continues to have his own issues in the return game, as he muffed an easy fair catch and was lucky to recover the ball deep in Jets territory. He made 10 yards on his only punt return of the day, but was replaced on kickoffs by Spiller, who looked pretty slow and didn't get past the 25 on either of his return attempts.
Spiller made one big play on special teams, blowing up the punter after his fumble to set the Jets up for the go-ahead score. Somehow it seems fitting that the special teams threw that lead away, though.