Jets Defensive Snap Count Analysis: What’s Rex Doing At Safety?

Mike O’Connor looks at the Jets’ defensive snap counts in depth from Week 12.

Due to Thanksgiving festivities, my usual snaps article comes in a little late this week. Regardless, the snap counts from the Jets’ defense versus the Ravens, which can be found here of this Rex Ryan defense is still as interesting as ever.

The first observation I have to make is one that I hope I’ve seen the end of already. Ed Reed is playing snaps that he doesn’t deserve, it’s as simple as that. He shouldn’t be starting over Antonio Allen, and him just being on the field takes away from Dawan Landry’s skillset, as you can tell from the tally that he’s playing the versatile role that Allen usually does. Allen playing only 24% is not only keeping the better player off the field more often, but it really sheds light on the flaws of Rex Ryan. Like I said, it goes beyond divvying up the playing time between players incorrectly, but Allen is a possible player of the future for this team. He’s only in his second year, and instead of having Reed simply mentor him off the field, he’s rolling with the lose-lose situation by starting Reed over him. It’s unbelievable how Rex doesn’t understand how much one decision can hurt his team in so many different ways.

Allen is currently playing a third-safety role with Reed in the starting lineup, and at least the Jets ran 21% of their snaps with three safeties on the field, their highest percentage since I began to chart that. Of course, however, that just makes Jaiquawn Jarrett’s playing time hard to come by (only three snaps this week after charting 22 or more from weeks 7-9). You can say what you want to about Jarrett, but he has performed well this year and shocked me in the process. Jarrett is also a young player, and the fact that he likely won’t get meaningful snaps over a player that he is better than as well (Reed) is a crime.

It is essentially the same argument many fans had against signing Braylon Edwards back to the team last year towards the end of the season. Bringing him in would only screw with the playing time of the younger receivers on the team already. However, the situation proves why Rex Ryan is horribly wrong this season with the decision we’ve seen before. Edwards was still a somewhat capable player; Reed is not (which was certainly proven versus his former team). More importantly, these young receivers didn’t show us any potential.  Jordan White, Mardy Gilyard, Clyde Gates, and Chaz Schilens weren’t worth developing because there was basically nothing there. Yet, Allen and Jarrett haven’t been liabilities all year, and have helped this team win games. Reed has proved himself a liability the first game he was tested.  Outside of the distraction he brings, he’s wasting a lot of our time and the team’s talent that could prove to be essential for the future.

Leger Douzable is really proving himself to be the most useful rotational defensive lineman you could have. He’s a very good player, and could probably start for multiple other NFL teams. That’s a story for another day, though. You can tell how useful he is just by his counts in the document. He’s proven before that he’s useful at every position on the line, and did so again this week with 6 snaps inside and 11 as an edge rusher. He can also play the run just as effectively as he can rush the passer, which is backed up by the nearly-alike percentages on first, second, and third down (29%, 25%, and 27% respectively). If there’s no place he can’t offer his talents, and there’s no game situation where he’s liable, where could you possibly ask for more in the game of a bench player?

Newly signed outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham may have only managed one snap versus Baltimore, but I expect more on the way. Troy Davis was previously the Jets’ first edge rusher off the bench for Coples or Pace, but he’s now on Injured Reserve after getting absolutely speared by Courtney Upshaw while covering a kick return. With Davis unavailable and the wavering health of Garrett McIntyre, Cunningham will have a role for whenever Rex Ryan wants Pace or Coples to get a breather. Also, the reasoning for why Rex hardly gave any snaps to any outside linebackers other than the starters can be credited to how efficient the Ravens were on offense. They only ran 12 plays on third down because they were notching first downs so easily, so Rex wasn’t presented with the opportunity to get a fresh pass rusher in very often.

It is undetectable on the snap counts document, but the Jets played more traditional 3-4 base defenses than I’ve ever seen before from them this year. In fact, I really haven’t seen any in 2013 from Rex until this game. Of course, I mean “traditional” as in a nose tackle at the 0-tech, two defensive ends out at the 5-tech or both at the 3-tech, and two stand-up edge rushers. I would guess that the reasoning for this lies within the Jets’ ability to stop the run so effectively, and this time versus an atrocious run blocking offensive line. Since they could give some give versus the run inside, they wanted to better defend the edge.

It should be interesting (or infuriating) to see if Rex tries to throw an aged, bruised, and battered Antonio Cromartie out on to the field versus the Dolphins this Sunday. He only played 77% of the snaps against the Ravens because of his re-aggravated hip injury, but the Jets didn’t miss him. Darrin Walls is obviously up to the task more than Cromartie is for this Sunday with the health discrepancy for one thing, but the levels of play as another. I’ll be in attendance for this one, so I really hope Rex doesn’t worsen Cromartie’s health and the defense’s play by playing him for the sake of the innocent fans around me. I don’t want to be the one over-exaggerating, but this decision and the looming difficulties at safety will tell a story about Rex Ryan and his struggles with putting the right personnel on the field this weekend and throughout the rest of the season.

  • KAsh

    You cannot say that Reed is stealing reps from Allen just based on snap count. By your own snap count division, Reed has taken Landry’s old position, lining up deep on most snaps, and Landry has displaced Allen, splitting snaps between lining up deep (50%), in the box (30%), and in the slot (20%). Compare the snaps against the Ravens against the snaps against the Saints and it is clear that Reed is now fulfilling Landry’s role and Landry is taking Allen’s.

    In the first place, Reed has a very different skill set from Allen, so even if Reed was taking Allen’s place, you would have to criticize the game planning. Secondly, starting a ballhawk like Reed, even a bad ballhawk, on this team that needs one, in place of an in-the-box safety, of which you have three, gives the team more versatility. The Jets might have the best run defense in the last fifteen years and are struggling to defend the pass, so changing from a secondary that helps stop the run to one that focuses more on stopping the pass is a good decision.

    If you want to criticize not starting Allen, you should criticize starting Landry in his place. If you want to criticize starting Reed, you will have to argue for starting Landry instead of Reed. The fact that Landry is starting is criminal: he is competent, but Allen has better man coverage and more upside.

  • KAsh, I never directly said that Allen was being replaced by Landry. However, he basically is because with Reed now in the lineup, the positions that you described have pivoted. I don’t understand your slander of Landry, either. All three safeties behind Reed are better than him, so the position assignment should realistically go back to how it was before Reed was brought in with Reed on the bench.

  • mike

    can’t remember the guy’s name, but a former jets scout said on the jets blog podcast that reed’s value is probably more about knowing rex’s defense, being able to make adjustments all over the secondary, that sort of thing. i’m not saying i agree with playing him as much as rex has, the results so far pretty much speak for themselves. but there is that added factor beyond just physical ability, the idea that rex might not be comfortable giving landry or allen the responsibility of quarterbacking the secondary.
    again, i don’t agree with the decision, but hearing that at least helped me make sense of the thinking behind it.

  • KAsh


    Better at what? You talk as if Reed, Landry, Allen, and Jarett are all absolutely equal, have the same skills and the same responsibilities on the field. I know you never said that Landry was replacing Allen. You said:

    “Ed Reed is playing snaps that he doesn’t deserve, it’s as simple as that. He shouldn’t be starting over Antonio Allen, and him just being on the field takes away from Dawan Landry’s skillset, as you can tell from the tally that he’s playing the versatile role that Allen usually does.”

    In the first part, you say that Reed is replacing Allen. This is not true, as Allen and Reed are very different players, specializing in different things. Allen never has and probably never will play as a deep, ballhawking safety responsible for reading the quarterback and assisting the side of the field the throw will be to. Landry is also limited in this aspect, as is Jarett.

    Allen, Landry, and Jarett all offer you the same skills and one of them, probably Landry, would have started across from Bush, if the coaches had not determined that Bush was not ready and Allen was. Therefore, Allen got the start, and Landry, the experienced veteran who could do a little bit of everything, was shifted over to play as the single safety over the top, a position that he was not a fit for. When you looked at the roster, there was tension between Landry and Allen because one of them would be backing up the other if the team had a true free safety.

    Which brings us to the second half of your statement: Reed forcing Landry into a position for which Allen is a better fit. I agree with the sentiment, but it stops making sense when you try to make it Reed’s fault. Reed is not responsible for neither Allen or Landry beind able to play like he plays or not having his recognition skills. Even as a bad, washed-up free safety, Reed still does things Allen and Landry cannot be depended on to do. And since our run defense does not need extra help, I do not understand your argument against Reed. Do you think our pass defense would be better if Landry and Allen were playing and Reed was on the bench?

  • @Kash: Yes, yes I do to that last statement. And I think you’re over-complicating this whole thing. Allen and Landry are superior players to Reed, no matter what skillset he brings, and he shouldn’t be playing; they should. Landry was playing the position Reed took very adequately.

  • Joseph

    This move makes me upset. Now the jets want to sign a safety? this dudes playing days are over. Has Antonio Allen not shown enough?________________Who won the game vs New England? I sometimes wonder what the heck is going on in the head of Dennis Thurman. I think this all boils down to Tim McDonald. He is doing a horrible job of getting his Men prepared for Nfl players.