BGA is back...and this time it’s preseasonal (again)!
Coming up, part one of your breakdown of Saturday night's 28-18 win over the Giants with detailed analysis of the defense and special teams including the Revis-Beckham duel, Muhammad Wilkerson's return and some linebacking struggles. We'll move on to the offensive review in part two.
Join me after the jump as I attempt to cover every angle. It's good to be back!
This was a much more satisfactory performance from the Jets in all three phases. While the 18-point lead the Jets took into the fourth quarter might have flattered the Jets slightly, they were in control throughout and deserved the 10-point win even though the Giants actually outgained them in total offense. Maybe the defense is starting to coalesce or maybe having all of their starters available made all the difference. Either way, it was an encouraging way to prepare for the season opener, with most key players expected to be rested next week.
The big downside from this game was the knee injury suffered by Leonard Williams. As I write this, the latest update is that it's not expected to be serious, but any absence could have big ramifications even if it's a short-term thing, because the Jets are already one key man down for the first four weeks of the season. While Williams was out there, he didn't make any flashy plays, but again was solid at the point of attack, getting some good penetration on a handful of plays. He stuffed one run for a short gain.
After shaking off some initial rust, Wilkerson (who played 26 or 38 first-team snaps) was in on a couple of run stops and then picked up a sack as he had his man on rollerskates before throwing him off to get Eli Manning. As a sign of his influence, Wilkerson was triple-teamed on the next play, giving both outside rushers a one-on-one.
The other starter, Damon Harrison, has been one constant throughout preseason. He held up well as usual at the point of attack and was in on two run stuffs.
Leger Douzable continued to rotate in with the first-team nickel package and also had some rotational reps. Douzable had a nice sack and an even nicer sack dance and also got a low hit on Manning when he threw his pick-six. He could have had a second sack, but missed the tackle in the pocket and was peanlized once. He got in on a run stuff in the second half.
Sheldon Richardson , suspended for the first four regular-season games, got plenty of work all the way into the fourth quarter. He saw a lot of blocking attention but did showcase some good power and spent plenty of time in the backfield. He didn't really make any plays until the second half, when he exploded up the middle for a sack on a stunt and beat his man for a pressure.
One guy who really impressed me was Ronald Talley, who - let's not forget - was a starter while Muhammad Wilkerson was out. Talley's get-off is impressive and he got some excellent penetration. He stuffed one run and leveraged his man inside for a pressure in the second half.
Stephen Bowen worked alongside Talley in the second-team nickel defense. While he isn't as explosive as Talley, he held up really well at the point of attack and is good at getting off blocks. He was in on three run stuffs and had one pressure. He could have had a sack when Giants reserve QB Ryan Nassib stepped up, but missed the tackle in the pocket leading to a first down scramble.
T. J. Barnes played nose when that team went to a base personnel alignment and he also rotated into some nickel packages down the stretch. He doesn't hold up as well as Harrison at the point of attack, but I'm hopeful he can do a job as the backup nose tackle this year, not that there will be many reps available if Harrison stays healthy. He did stuff one run for no gain.
Rookies Deon Simon and Jordan Williams got into the game in the fourth quarter, but didn't get many reps because the Jets ran out the clock. It was good to see Williams out there after he left practice with an injury a few days ago, but he was dominated on a couple of plays, including a short yardage conversion.
Kevin Vickerson again did not play and has missed all of preseason so far. The Jets might be wishing they left him on the PUP list.
Much of the negative focus from this performance falls on Demario Davis, who had two pass interference penalties and a bad missed tackle on the Giants' long second-quarter touchdown drive. The inside linebackers will be under a lot of pressure this year if the Jets cornerbacks and defensive line play as well as hoped, so his struggles are concerning. To be fair to Davis, he actually played quite well before the drive and was in on three run stops close to the line. He also had one other play where he missed the tackle, but slowed the man up for someone else to clean up. Davis was also taken out of a play at the second level on the touchdown drive, but did take on a lead blocker well to help bottle up a run on the next drive.
Early on, I was more concerned with David Harris' performance. Harris had a quiet first quarter and was blocked out of a couple of plays early on in the second. He did respond, getting in on a couple of run stops and pursuing out to the flat to make a stop. Other than that touchdown drive, Davis (team-leading eight tackles) would probably grade out much better than Harris.
Also quiet initially was Quinton Coples, but he stepped it up with a couple of nice plays. His best play saw him drive his man upfield while setting the edge and then get off the block to wrap him up for a loss. He got good penetration on a couple more runs and had a hit and a pressure in the pass rush, driving Marshall Newhouse back on one play.
Calvin Pace dressed but did not play as expected This gave a good opportunity to Trevor Reilly, who started and played deep into the second half. Reilly was credited with a half-sack along with Wilkerson and added two tackles. He had one quarterback hit and a pressure when he was unblocked and Manning had to throw the ball away. He was offside twice, although he got bailed out on third-and-2 because the Giants wide receiver flinched first.
Generally speaking, Reilly didn't really beat his man cleanly in the pass rush and at times was outmuscled when trying to hold up on the edge. Reilly is listed on the Jets' official roster at 225 pounds, but that's obviously a mistake because he was 245 at the combine last year and would presumably have added some weight since.
But I'm still a little worried that he might not be able to hold up too well at the point of attack if given significant reps as a starter. To his credit, he did hold up well on the edge on one play that was bottled up and he looks comfortably dropping into coverage, although he wasn't targeted.
Jason Babin also jumped offsides on one of those plays, so Reilly was unfortunate to be the one tagged with the flag. Babin almost had a sack, with Nassib throwing the ball away while Babin had him wrapped up. He added a pressure and was in on a run stop. He also held up well on the edge on one run stop.
Deion Barnes, who impressed me last week, gave an interesting insight into the difference between making plays against backups and then being required to face starters. With Reilly heading to the bench for a couple plays, Barnes was driven badly off the line by a slot receiver and couldn't get off the block as a run off the edge went for a first down. His confidence perhaps dented, Barnes did play more in the second half, but didn't make much of an impact.
Bryan Johnson, who only signed with the Jets a few days ago, did get some fourth quarter reps, chasing the quarterback from the pocket on one play.
Backing up on the inside, Joe Mays and Jamari Lattimore worked with the second unit and both struggled. Lattimore gave up three big plays in coverage, including one touchdown, although the score did seem like some kind of coverage breakdown which may not have been entirely his fault. He was also blocked out of one running play at the second level. Mays didn't fare that much better, getting blocked out of a couple of running plays and being a step slow to get across in coverage on a completion down the middle. Each did record a pressure on a blitz.
Taiwan Jones filled in for Lattimore when he left the game with a knee injury, but he did return. Jones worked with Mays on the third unit, suggesting that perhaps Lattimore is considered to be ahead of Mays. While Jones had a quiet performance, he did have one tackle - which was more than could be said for Lattimore.
Erin Henderson and Lorenzo Mauldin did not dress for the game.
Antonio Cromartie seemed to have a rough camp and had been on the wrong end of a couple of negative plays in the first two preseason games, so it was nice to see him bounce back. His 59-yard touchdown return was a great play as he sat on James Joes' route and then gambled and jumped it for the easy score.
However, this doesn't entirely alleviate my concerns with Cromartie because we know he can make plays with his closing speed coming forwards - it's those plays where he has to turn his hips and stay with a receiver that are worrying. Cromartie did well on a couple of other targets, making tackles short of the first down marker on two passes which were, again, in front of him. Cromartie was also blocked out of one running play.
Darrelle Revis comes out of the Odell Beckham Jr. matchup with his reputation intact. But, truth be told, he was actually pretty lucky a couple of times. He did give up three short first-down conversions and nearly gave up two downfield catches as Beckham got a step on him deep but Manning missed the throw and Beckham made a signature one-handed catch but came down just out of bounds.
In Revis' defense, one of those first downs should have been incomplete because it hit the ground. Also, he stumbled on the deep ball and was arguably pushed off before the one-hander. Even so, it's a testament to how good Beckham is that he gave Revis the run-around. Revis did come off his man to make a stop short of the marker to force a punt on the first drive.
Buster Skrine didn't fare too badly at nickel corner. He gave up one first down on a short third down completion and one other catch on second and long short of a first down. He was in a good position on another target that was incomplete, although that play was negated by a penalty anyway. There was one play where he struggled to get off a block on a screen pass though.
At safety, both Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor made some good contributions in run support, although Pryor had a missed tackle in the open field that led to a first down run and Gilchrist also slipped and missed a tackle on one play. Gilchrist did have a couple of important open field tackles, one on a short pass, and Pryor made a third down stop. There were no issues in coverage from either of them.
Jaiquawn Jarrett was another safety that came up and made some contributions in run support. Maybe that's more of a focus for this team than it was under Rex Ryan. He made a good hit and was in on a tackle for a short gain. To nobody's surprise, Rontez Miles was around the football a lot too, getting in on two run stuffs and making an open field tackle on a short pass. He was credited with six tackles. Rookie Durell Eskridge made his return following his recent concussion and closed well on one low incompletion on the outside.
Darrin Walls, who had issues with penalties last week, gave up three first downs, slipping downfield on one hitch route and allowing a 3rd and 10 conversion on one play. He did make an outstanding tackle in the flat for a loss and also was closing well on a receiver short of the marker on another pass that was dropped.
Marcus Williams was the only defensive back penalized (illegal contact in the second half). He gave up two first downs and a two-point conversion, but on one of those first downs he superbly ripped the ball away from the receiver for a turnover. Williams had good coverage on another deep incompletion and also had a pressure blitzing from the slot.
Dexter McDougle had a rough game last time out, but held up well Saturday. He almost gave up a first down but the receiver dropped it and there was a penalty anyway. On another incompletion, he did a good job of locating the football as he ran deep with the receiver.
Javier Arenas, Keith Lewis and Keon Lyn did not play on defense this week. Neither did Curtis Brown who played his first game of the preseason as Dashaun Phillips was the only other defensive back to join Dee Milliner on the inactive list.
After my disappointment with the special teams performance in the previous game, this was a step in the right direction. However, there were still a couple of breakdowns. The one which is getting the most attention is the muffed punt by Eric Decker.
After Walt Powell ran a punt back 54 yards for a second-half touchdown, some beat writers are asking why Decker was in there in the first place, but isn't it obvious? The Jets obviously don't feel they have room for Powell on their roster so were going with the back-up plan that would be in place if Jeremy Kerley were unavailable for a regular season game.
Let's not assume that because Decker looked a bit rusty fielding punts (he also misjudged one that went over his head and rolled downfield for a 66-yard punt), he's totally incapable of handling the role. In fact, the Broncos felt he was reliable enough that when Trindon Holliday was struggling, they put him into that role for a cold-weather playoff game. Let's also not assume that because Powell ran one back, he's 100% reliable fielding punts. He had a crucial muff against the Broncos last year and also fumbled a kickoff in the same game.
Does Powell's return change the Jets' thinking and guarantee him a spot? Not necessarily. Ian Smart had a punt return touchdown in 2004 and didn't make the roster. With roster spots at a premium and Powell yet to show much in the passing game, the role probably still belongs to Kerley heading into next week. While I'm not a fan of Decker as the emergency guy due to the risk of losing him to injury, he does have more experience in fielding punts than most of the other guys who will be on the 53, apart from maybe Gilchrist. Kerley himself was probably the Jets' second-best receiver in 2013 and 2014 and still had the role full-time, not even just as an emergency fill-in.
One thing well worth noting is that Decker had next to no vice protection on any of those plays as the Jets were working on some punt block packages. If this had to be repeated - and even if they retained Powell or Kerley as the primary punt returner, that doesn't mean they won't get hurt so the Jets would need someone to fill in - then I'd imagine they'd be a lot more careful with that.
Anyway, it was a nice play by Powell and a couple of bad ones by Decker. That gives the Jets plenty to think about.
Another breakdown came when Nick Folk missed an extra point. That will probably happen a lot around the league this year. In the CFL, the percentage on the new 33-yard extra point has been significantly lower than on field goals from the same distance. On this particular one, I believe a Giant may have deflected the kick. Even if he didn't, he got into the backfield easily on a lazy block by Jeff Cumberland. Folk did hit his other two PATs.
Ryan Quigley had a pretty good game for the second week in a row. He was consistent, with five of his six punts going for at least 40 yards and the other one downed inside the 15.
Coverage units were much improved on last week too. Among those making good plays were Skrine, Saalim Hakim, Walls, Jarrett and Jones. Tommy Bohanon did overpursue on one kickoff and missed a tackle on a punt though. Nobody has locked down the gunner role(s) yet, with the likes of Chris Owusu, Skrine, McDougle and Walls among those getting reps there.
Finally, the returning Owusu did a great job returning kickoffs, averaging 38 yards and bouncing off a big hit on one. Hopefully that's a sign the latest concussion issue is behind him.
Part two will cover the offensive performance including insight into whether Quincy Enunwa would at last show any signs of what the Jets apparently see in him, some disappointing blocking from the tight end position and an update on how the offensive line chemistry is developing. That will be posted this afternoon. Please note that there is no "BGA Extra" mailbag during preseason, but if you do have any specific questions, ask me in the comments section to that article and I'll try to answer them there or in next week's BGA.