After a mixed bunch of grades in the secondary from the New York Jets’ Week One performance versus the Buccaneers, there plenty to keep an eye out for when the Jets squared off with Tom Brady and the Patriots last Thursday. The Pats entered the game with an extremely depleted group of pass catchers due to injuries sidelining Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, and Zach Sudfeld. Yet still, the Jets’ secondary was bound to be tested just as intensely with Brady under center. Brady kept passing so much, in fact, that the Jets gave playing time to all of their rostered cornerbacks (six players) after we only saw four of them last week. Before we dive in, I recommend refreshing up on the grading scale and guidelines that I’ll be analyzing from below.
Grading Scale: Every week, I’ll be handing out simple letter grades to each member of the Jets’ secondary. Additionally, I will be charting and publishing their success rates in coverage for most of the other games in the season. Remember, a better grade for a lesser known player doesn’t necessarily mean that he played better than a starter who received a worse grade. The snap differentials will likely be drastic between a starter and a backup, so I’m just grading these players on the role they had. f a player was excellent despite his 10 snaps, than he’ll get that kind of favorable grade. NOTE: I include certain film examples to critique players. I won’t be posting many examples applauding players, since it’s typically already know or I’ve previously pointed out.
Snaps – 65 (100%)
Cromartie was disappointing last week, even considering that he was matched up against the stud that is Vincent Jackson. Versus New England, Cromartie saw a variety of matchups, with most of them being man to man coverage on outside receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson. Cromartie held his own versus the rookies, but that isn’t saying much. A veteran of his talent should be able to do so, and he still wasn’t dominant. While he won the majority of these matchups, Thompkins won on routes where he could test Cromartie’s ability to turn and challenge the sideline.
If you believed that the telling struggles we saw from the veteran last week were just flukes, than I’d advise you to take a look at the few times that Cromartie was asked to cover slot receiver Julian Edelman. Edelman’s quickness within his routes isn’t even on the same level as former Patriot Wes Welker’s was, but he still exposed the same stiffness and slow reaction time that was evident last week. Here is an example below.
In this play early on in the game, Cromartie is playing off-man coverage versus Edelman. The Patriots probably consumed a lot of Cromartie tape fro last week, because Edelman immediately tested his hip swivel and ability to read and react. Above, it appears that Edelman is just running a small hitch. Cromartie runs with his typical style, however, and doesn’t overplay it. However, his body should be turning around to open up to Edelman’s inward cut within the next half a second or so.
However, this is where Cromartie makes a crucial mistake. Instead of letting Edelman’s route lay out like it appeared he would, he starts treading forwards in stride to defend Edelman’s inward cut. This would have been an acceptable, aggressive move a second or two ago, but now Cromartie is late and he’s stuck in the middle. Edelman has already ditched the hitch in the flat and makes his second cut powerfully upfield. This route perfectly tested Cromartie’s reaction decisions/timing, and since he missed on that decision, his ability to turn smoothly and run with a fast receiver are under the microscope.
Predictably, the rapid 180 degree turn is too much fro Cromartie, which is understandable. He was caught with his body stuck in the middle of an action that he couldn’t afford to be doing while Edelman could have still pulled off a double move (which he did on the “Sluggo” route). As a result, Cromartie stumbles out of his turn, and Edelman is left with outside separation and more to gain. Note how low Cromartie’s stance is as he stumbles. It is nearly impossible to regain balance and get back up to speed from that position.
Cromartie actually recovers immaculately, but there’s still considerable separation. Luckily for him, Tom Brady missed miserably on this throw.
I’ll give Cro the benefit of the doubt here. He wasn’t gashed like he was versus the Buccaneers, but he wasn’t tested by any notable receivers, and only one that has even adapted to the NFL at this point in his career. He says his hip is finally 100% going into the Buffalo game this Sunday, so his performance will be essential in determining how real these flaws we’ve seen really are.
Snaps – 38 (58%)
- 52% of team’s 1st down snaps, 64% of 2nd, 55% of 3rd
Where do I start? Stories came out this week that the Jets rushed Dee back form his injuries suffered in the summer. It might sound weird, but I kind of hope this is the case. Milliner hasn’t had a good start to his season. Granted, he’s a rookie, but the best corner from the 2013 Draft should be showing more signs of learning and pure talent than he has.
Against the Patriots, Milliner was significantly worse in coverage than he was in Week One, where I gave him a C+/B- grade. He was even benched when he started to become a liability in favor of Kyle Wilson and Darrin Walls. didn’t find any plays that are telling of what Milliner is specifically doing poorly, because he’s been an all-around piece of work. He hasn’t been trusting himself in coverage at all, and bites on the smallest of fakes from his opposing receiver. His overall deep speed has even looked questionable against the likes of Dobson and Thompkins, even though it was never a question when he was coming out. When it comes down to it, Milliner will have to show coaches that he’s at least worth giving substantial playing time before he starts again and improves on the smaller aspects of his game.
Milliner was atrocious in his second NFL game, but he played better in run support than he did in Week One, and he had a successful strip of Julian Edelman that was incorrectly overturned to an incomplete pass. The rookie has time to improve, but he’ll have to get back on the field after his benching to keep trudging up the hill.
Snaps – 45 (69%)
- 57% of team’s 1st down snaps, 82% of 2nd, 70% of 3rd
Yes, I’m just as frustrated as you are that Wilson is still seeing this many snaps. Milliner’s benching helped him get more snaps and snaps as an outside corner, but he was playing as the lead nickel corner over Darrin Walls and Isaiah Trufant anyway. Unsurprisingly, Wilson was a liability when he was asked to cover Edelman in the slot quite often. Wilson poor instincts and awareness let Edelman get the better of him on nearly all of their matchups, especially when Edelman took advantage of his inside slants. It’s so sad, because Wilson really isn’t that bad once it comes to deeper routes down the field. He can press and play the receiver very well. However, that’s where it ends for him because of how poorly he finds the ball (if he even bothers to try). Here’s a prime example below.
Wilson lines up in off-man coverage versus Edelman, who comes in motion. From his motion, he runs a quick slant but then juts out to the left on a slant-and-go fly pattern. Wilson doesn’t react well to the change in his route, but he actually recovers nicely and finds himself in tight pursuit of Edelman, as shown in the image below.
Here is where Kyle Wilson plays like Kyle Wilson. Let me stress once again; he’s in absolutely perfect position to defend this ball. The ball is misplaced by Brady, as shown, but Edelman would have easily hauled this in if it were on target. Why? Wilson’s still unaware of where the ball is, even though it has already gone incomplete. Notice how his head is just turning around now trying to locate the ball. This is just an ugly finish to a play where Wilson actually used one of the strengths of his game well.
In reality, Wilson didn’t let up that many yards in coverage. He was victimized by Edelman often, but Brady missed him a few times and Wilson was always there for a sure tackle. He still can’t piece together the puzzle, though. That’s really the pattern. Wilson is always just one step too slow, or not ready to complete the play by making a play on the ball. Whether it’s one or the other, he’s just not a complete cornerback. He was fortunate that the Patriots were limited at receiver, or else his subpar play would have been a lot more at risk.
Snaps- 10 (15%)
- 4% of team’s first down snaps, 9% of 2nd, 35% of 3rd
As you can see from his snap count details, Walls played a huge contributing role for the Jets on third down. It’s unfortunate that he wasn’t the first corner off the bench like he should be when Milliner was benched, but at least he was play whenever the Jets used three corners in Milliner’s absence. Something I noted that was interesting was that Walls came in after Wilson, which would initiate that he’d be the primary nickel back. This wasn’t the case. Walls slid out to the outside across from Cromartie, while Wilson was bumped into the slot. This was a good move by Rex Ryan, and it definitely means that the Jets are giving him a chance to take Milliner’s job as the second starter.
Overall, Walls played himself an excellent game for the scarce snaps he saw. He only allowed one reception that was his man coverage assignment, and made many more plays than that. His ball skills are still his main setback, but they’ve gotten much better, as you can see below from the image.
We already discovered that Walls’ strength was playing man coverage in intermediate-deeper routes in my breakdown of him, but I did question his play at the point of the catch, specifically his ball skills. Above was a fly pattern from Dobson, and Brady placed the ball perfectly for Dobson to go up for it and win it with his size. Walls has nice size for a corner at 6’0, but Dobson has incredible athletic ability to add on to his 6’3 frame. Ideally, Dobson should come down with this ball, or at least be able to take a stab at it from the highest point. Walls, however, shows great ball skills by getting both hands up there and timing his jump nicely, and the pass is deflected.
The Jets have been criminally under-using Walls for the past year now, and he’s looked great enough in the pre-season and the Thursday night game to play over Kyle Wilson, and therefore, start at the other cornerback spot until Dee Milliner can prove himself ready. If Walls can continue to play at such a high level at nearly every facet of his game, the Jets shouldn’t be too worried about Milliner’s slower development.
Snaps- 3 (5%)
- One 2nd down snap, two on 3rd
Trufant was surprisingly hardly used after most (including myself) thought he would be the guy to man Edelman throughout most of the game. The Jets may have made the right move, however, as Trufant was beaten by Edelman in the slot for two first downs. After last year’s injury, Trufant’s quickness may be numbered a bit. Outside of special teams, his usage for the rest of the year may be as a blitzer with Walls’ emergence.
Snaps- 3 (5%)
- One 2nd down snap, two on 3rd
Though Lankster had the same amount and type of snaps that Trufant received, he only dropped into zone coverage, unlike Trufant. He blitzed once, as well. This type of small role will be how he gets playing time when the Jets face teams that throw often out of the shotgun with multiple-receiver sets.
Snaps – 65 (100%)
Landry once again played the entire game for the Jets. Overall, he wasn’t as good as he was last week. I couldn’t find any significant flaws or positives on tape, as his game consisted of average reads and support against the run game and hot and cold coverage from deep. Landry took a couple of bad angles towards to ball carrier when he was the would-be tackler, too. In a game with multiple breakdowns in coverage and and often confused back end, it’s tough to judge how the safeties played in this game. Brady also missed on multiple deep passes that tested safeties, so the only players in the secondary who were tested early and often were the corners, especially those playing in the slot.
You know what kind of average athleticism you’re getting with Landry, so highlight-reel plays shouldn’t be expected often. However, it was a little disappointing to not see him play consistently versus the run OR the pass. Teams that throw the ball as often as the Patriots do might expose Landry.
Snaps – 40 (62%)
- 61% of team’s 1st down snaps, 64% of 2nd, 60% of 3rd
Allen was superb versus the run game as usual, as he stepped up into the box and occupied gaps whenever his assignment allowed him to. He was really efficient in shedding blocks and getting to the ball carrier, and showed off his sure tackling on a variety of plays.
However, you probably noticed Allen’s lower snap count. This was because he was benched in favor of Jaiquawn Jarrett for a notable 18 snaps. The Jets motive for this was that Allen was getting tested quite often in coverage, and closing quickly on out routes or slants isn’t his forte. His closing speed or reactions aren’t necessarily bad, but he doesn’t flow very well in man coverage, especially with the quicker receivers he was covering when he was asked to play man coverage (Edelman, Josh Boyce).
I would say that the Jets were actually a little harsh on Allen. He was giving up yardage in man coverage, but held up on deeper routes and kept playing very well against the run. Yet, it’s still an understandable move to bench him for a bit. The Jets were looking for more explosion out of their safeties to crack down on the sharper, shorter routes that the Pats’ receivers were running. He still gets a passable grade. It should be interesting to see how much Allen plays against teams that will test the Jets’ back end more vertically in the air and not in the short game, because that’s not a strength in Allen’s game, either.
Snaps -18 (28%)
- 39% of team’s 1st down snaps, 31% on 2nd, 30% on 3rd
Jarrett benefited from the Jets giving Allen much of the 2nd quarter off, as he played pretty well in his limited time. He played mostly on rushing downs, where he didn’t make any tackles, but took better angles than I’ve seen from him in the past.
His one play that had me surprised was when the Patriots were rushing back to the line after a questionable catch on the sideline by Thompkins, so that it couldn’t be reviewed. Jarrett hardly had any time to rush and pick up Edelman in the slot, but still made a great play. Here it is below.
Jarrett picks up Edelman in the slot, and immediately rushes him after picking up on Tom Brady obviously staring him down off a two or three step drop back. This type of situation hints on a bubble screen.
The ball is predictably thrown Edelman’s way, but Jarrett is right there to smash him with a nice hit. Jarrett covered an impressive seven or eight yards from when he started to make his way towards Edelman in the slot. This was the electricity the Jets were looking for when they gave him time over Allen. He may be an out-of-control kind of safety, but it does benefit for plays like this to stop the momentum on the opposing side.
Biggest Stock Improvement:
Obviously this one goes to Darrin Walls. He flashed why some of us has been begging for him to start since the end of the pre-season in just 10 snaps.