TOJ Roundtable: New York Jets Defensive Issues Edition

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The Turn On The Jets Roundtable is back to debate issues surrounding the New York Jets. Make sure to give all of the writers a follow on Twitter and if there is a question you want to see us debate, leave it in the comment section!

How can the New York Jets remedy their ongoing issues on defense? (Inability to stop the deep ball, lack of turnovers, inconsistent pass rush)

Joe Caporoso – The harsh reality for the Jets right now is that they are pretty awful at cornerback and have a collection of safeties who are average in coverage at best. There is only so much Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman can do to cover up these deficiencies.

First off, it is time to avoid having Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner singled up as often as possible. I know this is the antithesis to the Rex doctrine but he cannot be stubborn enough to keep leaving these guys out there on an island. More zone coverage is needed and more help over the top from the safeties is needed.

It is also time to dig into the bench a little. Many people think we have an irrational love of Darrin Walls on this site. I’m not saying give him 60 reps this Sunday but, there is a role for him to play on this defense and the same goes for Isaiah Trufant, Ellis Lankster and Kyle Wilson on the outside…all options need to be on the table right now.

As for the pass rush, the Jets desperately need Quinton Coples to bring it off the edge every single week. He is the only real threat at the position and they cannot afford for him to disappear on Sunday.

You would hope that Ed Reed can contribute a turnover or two at some point, especially if he is going to keep playing so much. Beyond that, the Jets need guys like Demario Davis and David Harris to constantly be ripping at the ball and looking to create fumbles.

Cole Patterson Instead of making my own conjectures, I will try for an educated guess based off adjustments Rex Ryan has made in the past when his defense hit a wall. Early in his tenure, when the defensive backfield was stout but the front seven failed to get pressure, Rex would play the numbers game. He would play predominately nickel and use exotic blitz schemes to overwhelm the opponents o-line with a numbers advantage.

Now, Rex faces a new problem. The front seven can pressure the QB, but not consistently. The secondary has taken a step back in deep coverage. The defense, as a whole, is struggling to create turn overs. I believe Rex will again turn to numbers to remedy these issues.

In the coming weeks, expect to see a lot more three safety, dime looks. Look to see four down linemen (Wilkerson, Richardson, Harrison, Coples), one linebacker (Davis), three corners (Cromartie, Milliner, and Wilson – unless Rex decides Walls provides a better option) and three safeties (Allen, Landry, Reed). This specific personnel package could be lined up in various different formations to best remedy the Jets pass-rush/coverage/turn-over issues depending on the offensive formations.

The corners will almost certainly continue to see the most time in press man coverage. The safeties could alternate between a two-deep, one-mid zone or a robber coverage. The four down linemen and the linebacker will be primarily used to rush the passer. However, the benefit of having such superb athletes at these positions is that you can alternately drop one or more into coverage or stunt them to create favorable match-ups.  In short, Rex will put his best eleven defenders on the field at once and (outside of the corners) alternate their coverage and pass rush assignments to best get pressure while helping the corners over the top.

Dalbin Osorio – Aside from asking the league to rescind the trade of Revis and drafting Sheldon Richardson 9th overall and then convincing Revis that he should play for $12M for the benefit of the team? Ha! If it were only that simple, right?

Rex knows more about defense than I do, so i’d leave the nuts and bolts to him. What i’d do, in order to solve the issues on defense, is employ more two deep safety looks within a base 4-2-5 formation. Roll Ed Reed to Milliner’s side and keep Landry on Cro’s side. Play more press on the outside. Playing Coples, Wilkerson, Richardson, and Harrison on the line in more four down lineman looks would improve the pass rush. The 4-2-5 formation, as a base, with Coples and the Sons of Anarchy on the line, Harris and Davis at LB, and then Milliner, Cro, Walls/Wilson, Reed, and Landry gives you so much flexibility because you can go with the 4-2-5 base, or the 3-3-5 base with Antonio Allen blitzing off the edge similar to what he did at South Carolina, or even a 2-3-6 AMOEBA formation where everyone is standing up and you have no idea where the pass rush is coming from.

Plus, having more DBs on the field should shore up the pass defense. And, like Connor said, having Walls (the better player right now) on the field allows you to slide Milliner to the slot. Playing your four best pass rushers together should improve your pass rush and this, in turn, will allow for more rushed throws from opposing QBs and this will hopefully lead to more turnovers.

Frank Giasone – When Rex Ryan talks about his defense this season, it doesn’t come with the same air of confidence. Why is that? Well, It’s no secret that this defensive unit has some major flaws. Flaws that Rex has yet to encounter as a head coach here in New York.

How can he remedy these issues? More importantly….CAN HE remedy these issues?

With his current cast of characters in the secondary, I’m not sure he can. Yes, the Jets pass rush is better than ever under Rex. And yes, this team has been unbelievable against the run. But in a passing league, the issues at hand are devastating and it’s become clear that Rex must address them moving forward.

– Consistent Pass Rush: It’s pretty simple, when the Jets are able to rush the passer the inconsistent coverage in the secondary becomes less of a factor. But herein lies the issue, as the Jets struggle to consistently create pressure. Why? Well, it really comes down to the lack of an edge rushing presence. Asking three interior lineman to consistently create pressure won’t always pay dividends (as we’ve seen this season). Unless this team can start creating pressure off the edge with Quinton Coples and Calvin Pace (among others), we’ll continue seeing quarterbacks shred this defense via the quick passing game.

– Talent: When you’re a team breaking in a rookie cornerback on one side of the field, having a total liability on the other side isn’t exactly what a coaching staff wants to see. Unfortunately for the Jets, Antonio Cromartie has been just that, as he’s looked nothing like the version of himself from 2012. When your top defensive back (and arguably top defensive player heading into the season) struggles to defend short/intermediate routes as much as he does deep routes, and looks as if he’s clearly lost a step or two, it’s a recipe for disaster. If Cro doesn’t get better, Rex needs to consider sitting him down in favor of Darrin Walls…even if just for a short period. At the very worst, this will give the Jets an idea of what the future of the secondary looks like.

– Lack of Roster Flexibility: Rex loves his players. That’s not a secret. And while it’s a terrific way to motivate his players, it also results in Rex starting players who, at times, really aren’t deserving (see Cromartie comment above). It also leads to Rex trusting his guys more than he should. It’s never been more evident than with Cromartie this season, as Rex seems blind to the fact that No. 31 is a completely different player than he was in 2012. Most coaches would make adjustments for something so obvious. Unfortunately for Jets fans, Rex appears incapable of change.

So what can Rex do? Well, if he’s not willing to put different people on the field then he’ll need to start getting creative. He’s no longer in a position to put his corners on an island. While it worked during the days of Darrelle Revis opposite Cromartie, this secondary is nowhere near the same.

Rex made a comment about playing Cover Two the rest of the season to limit the amount of big plays from opposing offenses following the Jets loss to Buffalo last Sunday. While he wasn’t totally serious, his comment comes with some merit as he’s slowly (very slowly) coming to the realization that his corners need safety help. Whether Rex starts getting creative with blitz packages, or just gives his CB’s more help, there are changes to be made on this defense. If Rex wants to save this season (and possibly his job), he’ll need to adjust.

Connor Rogers – The Jets issues on defense are quite simple. They have been torched in the quick passing game, early on in their match ups. Their poor work in press coverage is giving the front seven no time to create a pass rush.

As they press up after being torched underneath, quarterbacks begin to sling the ball deep over their heads (I’m looking at you Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner). The addition of Ed Reed can help with this if Rex Ryan plays him in a deep zone, not constantly blitzing him off the edge. A package that allows Reed to sit in a deep middle zone while Antonio Allen helps in man coverage would be an interesting concept. Another idea would be to start Darrin Walls over Dee MIlliner, a player who has proven himself as a solid cornerback in limited snaps.

  • Lidman

    Dalbin,

    I think your 1st paragraph is all that needed to be said. Trading Revis was a mistake. He’s returned, he’s great and the NYJ had him under contract. While I can’t, with certainty, say they would’ve taken Richardson, at 9. I think it’s logical to suggest, Milliner wouldn’t have been the pick.

    Trading Revis, cost them cap room this year, as his remaining bonus money was moved up into this season after the trade. So, he represents 13mm of dead cap space. Had he stayed he would have counted roughly 9mm of cap space.

    He wouldn’t have held out. If he did, his contract would have extended 3yrs, for roughly 8mm per year. Now, you can all say ‘he wouldn’t have cared and would have held out’, but the fact of the matter is, he was still coming off a knee injury, so say he wasn’t traded and did hold out, what makes anyone believe the market price, for his services, would have increased?

    If he left after this year, by voiding his contract, the Jets would likely get a compensatory pick, before the 4th round, in 2015. At best, the Jets will get Tampa’s 3rd rounder, this year. If Tampa fireds Schiano/Domenik, it’s not likely a new GM keeps Revis at that cap number, so it could wind up being a 4th.

    Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but I was steadfast on this issue from the beginning. Did the guy want to be paid? Yes. Did the guy always produce on the field? Yes..better than anyone else too.

    So, again, when anyone wants to annoint Idzik as a great find, I say: He didn’t get enough for Revis and he fubar-ed the Sanchez situation, leaving the team without a capable back up QB.

    For all those who were clamoring about what the Jets ‘would’ have had to pay Revis to extend him, the simple fact is he was under contract and couldn’t hold out without losing money and taking on significant personal risk of future earnings. I remember a lot of ‘this isn’t a luxury this team can afford’. This secondary is abysmal, so what looked like a luxury, was actually a vital necessity.

  • mike

    wait, there are jets playing poorly who aren’t named geno smith?

  • mike

    this is a great read, dudes.
    personally the trouble seems to be less an issue of personnel (although certainly cro, milliner, coples, and landry need to pick up their play), and more an issue of coaching.
    how is it that rex/thurman are able to draw up game plans that leave future hall of famers like brees and brady visibly frustrated, but he can’t keep andy dalton and ej manuel from throwing bombs all over the field, when it’s basically the same guys playing defense week after week?
    i think rex’s confidence helps him when drawing up game plans against superior opponents, but seems to hurt him when going up against mediocre offenses. it would be nice to see him treat every opponent with the same respect he gives his brother.
    and, yeah, it’s time to give these corners some safety help. whatever the reason, single coverage is getting us scorched every other week.

  • KAsh

    Connor [scans contributor’s names for other Connors] hit the nail on the head. The Jets have lacked an edge rush and they have been relying on defensive tackles to generate pressure up the middle, but there is not a lot you can do or add to shave even a second off this pass rush. Even if the pressure does not turn into sacks right away, having o-lines pass block for that extra second almost every time wears them down, to the point they start to come apart in the second half of the game.

    The quarterbacks they rattled (Josh Freeman, Manuel in week 3, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady in week 7, and Drew Brees) all tried to stretch the defense vertically as significant parts of their game plan. The quarterbacks who have had an easier time were Tom Brady relying exclusively on Edelman’s short slants, Locker and Dalton quickly throwing the ball ten yards to their speedy receivers, Ben Roethlisberger (with a shitty o-line), and EJ Manuel throwing quick out routes and short curl routes. The problem area seems obvious.

    The thing I do not understand, though, is why the Jets have moved away from their press-coverage philosophy. Our corners are playing off-man coverage regularly and they do not press a lot even when they line up right on the LoS. I cannot explain this change in philosophy. Press-man coverage would seem to be the solution to all of our ills on defense.

    Maybe we went away from press-man coverage because we did not have a true free safety, so if a corner got beat deep, there would be noone there to help him. Our linebackers and safeties are not known for their pass coverage, so Rex puts as many bodies in the middle as he can to stop the throws to that area. In the offseason, assuming Ed Reed is not his old self, we should probably look into linebackers and safeties that can cover, and not only stop the run.

  • John X

    Good observation and post, Kash. I think you’re on to something there. You correctly point out the trends in opponents passing success. The Jets need to be physical in their approach which will buy them time they need to offset the quick rythym passing that negates any pass rush. I think it starts there.
    Dalton looked like a HOF’er against us for this reason.

  • Jake

    It’s easy in hindsight to say Revis deal was bad move. But if Milliner plays the way many believed he would, nobody would be questioning the deal. Having said that, pressure on the QB cures most defensive ills so Rex needs to be creative against Flacco who likes to hold the ball too long to begin with anyway

  • Lidman

    You have to mix your coverages. If you strictly play ‘press’ all the time, eventually you’re going to get beat deep. Even Revis, with the Jets, didn’t play exclusive ‘press’.

    I also think the strategy in giving up the quick short slants is, unless you miss a tackle, ‘dinking and dunking’ down the field takes consistent precision. You give up those with the idea that eventually a mistake will be made, that will either turn the ball over to you, or create a down and distance advantage to your defense.

    One thing I’m always amazed/confused about, how on 3rd and whatever, DBs, who are playing off the line, start at, or close to the first down marker and back up off it, at the snap. It happened a lot in the 1H to the Jets last week.

  • David

    Here’s the problem when you talk about the defense in Buffalo: The first half, the Jets are down 20-0 and you think, without looking at much, that the defense played horrible. Well 3 out of the 4 drives were this:

    10 plays,36 yards– FG
    2 plays, 4 yards– TD
    4 plays, 3 yards– FG

    Is that really bad defense or just the result of a poor QB that is turning it over too much and putting the defense in bad situations? I mean let’s be honest, even Jacksonville could put up points if they had to only go 7 yards in 2 drives to get 10 points.

    The Tennessee game was the same way for the most part; when NFL offenses only have to go 35 yards or less, more times than not, it is going to result in some kind of points.

    Yes, the Jets defense has given up some big plays, but for the most part they have been very good all year!