BGA is back...and this time it's preseasonal (again)!
Coming up, part two of your two-part breakdown of Saturday's preseason game against the Giants, focusing on the defense and special teams, including our first look at the defense at full strength, some struggling backups at the cornerback position and what the special teams rotations tell us about the roster chances for certain players.
Last week, I was concerned that Muhammad Wilkerson might be rusty once the season begins. However, he looked to be in midseason form, getting in on four stops in the backfield and adding a quarterback hit. The knock-on effect of having their best player back in the fold was felt immediately elsewhere too.
Steve McLendon seemed to generate constant penetration as he stuffed two runs and recorded a pressure. Other than jumping offside once, it was an excellent performance and a step up from last week.
Leonard Williams also penetrated well and getting in on a bunch of tackles near the line. He had one pressure, forcing a throw-away.
Sheldon Richardson also had his best game so far, even though he didn't generate any statistics. He redirected two runs with penetration on the edge and helped contain a runner in the opefield on a third down stop. He almost added a sack, but the quarterback was able to escape.
The starting defense played for the whole first half, holding the Giants to 47 yards. They ended up with 163, so they enjoyed more success later on.
Six backups saw time and, while they didn't generate much pressure, a few of them did a good job of collapsing the pocket, notably Jarvis Jenkins and Tarow Barney.
Barney had two penalties though, one as he jumped offside and another as he was flagged for roughing due to inadvertent contact with the quarterback's helmet.
Shelby Harris had a hit on the quarterback and got upfield well to force a run wide. He also continues to impress with his effort in pursuit. Claude Pelon got into the backfield a couple of times, too.
Deon Simon and Helva Matungulu did not play much or make much of an impact. Mantungulu was released Sunday and Simon will presumably get a lot more work on Thursday night. Undrafted rookie Lawrence Thomas and recent signing Jake Ceresna did not play. Thomas has been injured.
With Wilkerson back, the Jets reverted to mostly four-man fronts for Saturday, which meant there were fewer outside linebacker reps to go around. Mike Catapano got the start as the strongside outside linebacker, but it was primarily Wilkerson and Richardson playing on the edge of the line with McLendon and Williams inside.
Catapano had a couple of pressures and did a good job of stretching out an outside run to the sideline, although he appeared to hurt his hand on one play. Lorenzo Mauldin made a couple of plays, with a tackle for loss and one pressure, but he was driven off the line once and got caught inside on an end-around that gained good yardage.
The main back-ups - Freddie Bishop and Josh Martin - didn't make a major impact but Bishop had a potential coverage sack negated by a penalty and Martin made a couple of good plays against the run on the edge. Jordan Jenkins sat out because of his sore calf while Deion Barnes and Trevor Reilly only got into the game right near the end. Reilly was in on a run stop, while Barnes (also released Sunday) had a pressure and a missed tackle in the backfield on two plays where he was unblocked.
Barnes was on the practice squad all season last year and called the most improved player on offense or defense this offseason by assistant head coach Mike Caldwell.
The major concern following this game was for the health of David Harris, who went down clutching his collarbone having made a tackle on the last defensive snap of the first half. He's getting an MRI on his shoulder Sunday, having reportedly left the stadium with his arm in a sling. If Harris misses any time, the Jets don't have a lot of time to prepare for life without him.
Erin Henderson would presumably remain in the starting line-up, but it's worth noting that Henderson hasn't played with Darron Lee at all in preseason and has only played two snaps with Bruce Carter.
It would pose a dilemma as to whether they would risk losing a second starter by playing Henderson against the Eagles on Thursday in order to get him some reps with a new interior partner. Hopefully, the Harris injury is not too serious, because he looked good with the defensive line cleaning things up ahead of him.
Harris made two third-down stops to force punts and a couple of open field tackles for loss on the outside. Lee didn't play much and had a quiet game, other than giving up a third down conversion in coverage.
Henderson made a good tackle for loss in the hole, but gave up a first down on a swing pass. Carter did not receive any defensive reps. Taiwan Jones and Julian Stanford played the whole second half together, with differing fortunes. Stanford was making plays in the running game, as a pass rusher and in coverage, while Jones had a couple of missed tackles in the open field. He had a pressure and a run stuff though.
Darrelle Revis continues to look good. Not only did he intercept a pass that Odell Beckham made little effort to catch with Calvin Pryor lurking, but he also made a tremendous open field tackle in the flat to deny the Giants a first down.
Buster Skrine seems to have the other cornerback slot locked up. He wasn't really tested with one deep ball to Victor Cruz overthrown as he had safety support and good positioning on a screen pass that was botched by the Giants anyway.
Marcus Williams looks set to be the nickel back for the time being - albeit with Skrine reverting to the slot. He was targeted on one pass for a short gain.
The Giants won the game thanks to Tavarres King, who beat Dee Milliner and Doug Middleton for touchdowns. However, was Darryl Morris actually the player more at fault on both of these plays?
The Jets appeared to be playing quarters coverage on the first touchdown and Milliner bit on the corner route, presumably anticipating support from the inside. Morris didn't run with the receiver on the crossing route in front of him, so he may have been responsible for the throw down the seam, in which case he should have dropped deeper.
The other touchdown was similar, as King ran a whip-out in between him and Middleton and Morris reacted late, then over-pursued to allow him to take it to the house. It's impossible to determine who was at fault here, but either way, it seems evident that Morris - who had been impressive in man-to-man coverage so far - perhaps feels less comfortable with zone assignments and therefore plays tentatively in those situations as a result.
Giving up the touchdown ruined an otherwise encouraging performance by Milliner, who broke up two passes nicely on the outside, although he was perhaps too far off his man on one other incompletion.
It's obvious the Jets like Juston Burris and he saw some time against the Giants starters as they continue to look to develop and evaluate him. To look at his numbers - two catches for 27 yards on six targets - you'd think he fared pretty well, but actually he was fortunate because he was burned a few times on incompletions due to bad throws and once when the receiver slipped. He also gave up one 20-yard gain on a play where he was over-aggressive and missed the tackle. Burris had a good pass break-up in the end zone, but even on that play he was lucky not to get flagged and the receiver still almost came up with the ball.
Kevin Short was unsuccessfully targeted twice, once on a pass that was dropped and also on a deep ball to the end zone that the receiver caught well out of bounds. Dexter McDougle and Bryson Keeton did not play. Safeties At safety, Pryor led the Jets with six tackles, getting in on a couple of stops near the line, making a couple of plays in coverage and showing good discipline to make a clean hit for this sack.
Alongside Pryor, Marcus Gilchrist almost came up with an interception and was constantly in position. He's been quietly efficient all preseason.
Off the bench, Rontez Miles once again stood out, making a couple of stops near the line. Ronald Martin was similarly quiet to Gilchrist, but made no mistakes. Middleton, aside from being involved in the winning touchdown, made a couple of stops near the line, but also gambled and missed going for an interception, leading to a big gain. Dion Bailey has been injured and did not play.
As we've discussed before, Carter has a knack for blocking kicks and that alone almost justifies him having a roster spot. Since he received zero defensive snaps, I wonder if they're prepping him for a special teams-only role. He blocked his first punt last night, but hopefully more will follow. It has to be noted, though, that had he not blocked it, Miles probably would have instead.
Miles was everywhere, credited with three special teams tackles and nearly making a couple more. He's really emerging as a leader on this unit. I'd already pointed out the likes of Stanford, both Martins and Morris as players whose special teams contributions perhaps give them an edge over other players they are fighting for a spot with. These players continue to get work with the primary coverage units and it does seem like the team is planning to retain most, if not all of them.
Morris is behind Burris and Milliner in terms of his spot in the cornerback rotation. However, if he's contributing on special teams, then he would perhaps be active ahead of one or other of them on gameday. Morris had mixed results this week on special teams, in addition to an uncertain performance defensively, though.
The drop-off to Milliner and Burris on special teams is noticeable though. Milliner had one tackle, but overpursued once and got beaten in the vice role. Burris made one good block but had a missed tackle and a missed block.
There's a similar situation with Charone Peake. He's been in the mix for a roster spot based on his pass catching, but as he doesn't contribute to the return game, he needs to impress on special teams. However, while he kept getting down there well, he didn't do a good job of finishing and also had a missed block. He did draw a block-in-the-back penalty though.
Speaking of blocking, Middleton was one player who impressed with his effort in the return game. He made a couple of excellent blocks. Stanford and Josh Martin, also known for their blocking, instead both contributed with good special teams tackles in coverage.
In the return game, Chandler Worthy got an opportunity when Jeremy Ross was got dinged and made the most of it with the longest return of the day. Ross had a 28-yarder of his own earlier on though, albeit when taking a bit of a risk when fielding the ball.
It's interesting that Ross was out there first, even though Jalin Marshall started on offense. Perhaps more telling though, is the fact that Marshall was out of the game sooner, while Ross was sent back out there for more return work. Marshall got some work as a gunner too, but was flagged for running out of bounds. Brandon Bostick also had a penalty on special teams.
Ross Martin impressively made a 55-yard field goal, but it was for naught a the Jets released him Sunday. Nick Folk has been mistake-free though preseason.
Finally, punt coverage wasn't great this week, as Lachlan Edwards boomed the ball downfield pretty consistently, but did give the return man some room to run a couple of times, surrendering two returns of over 20 yards. He landed one nicely inside the five though.
That's it for this week's BGA. We'll have an Expendables update for you in a day or two. If you have any questions or suggestions for me, leave them in the comments and I'll get round to them when I can.