The secondary grade sheet makes its valiant return this week, but unfortunately, it comes off of a week to forget in the Jets’ back end. The Jets secondary came to a crashing halt versus Andy Dalton and the Bengals last week, who managed to lose to the Dolphins last night (that says a LOT).
We’ve already walked through the consistent struggles of Antonio Cromartie in grade sheets earlier in the year, and also previously highlighted what Dee Milliner needs to work on to get back on track. In Cincinnati, Cromartie and Dee were simply not in the right league. They weren’t making minor flaws, but they were beat in all of the facets of the game. This week, I’d like to focus a little bit on Dawan Landry in particular and point out some questions I have about Milliner’s current tenacity while playing. To see how much certain defenders were playing and from what specific positions they took their snaps from, take a peek at my snap spreadsheets and turn to “Sheet Three.”
I danced around the idea of Cromartie seeing the start of his career’s decline this year when he started to play poorly, and it’s been all but confirmed with his poor play even after his injuries have cleared up. Anybody who watched the Jets attempt to compete with Cincinnati could tell that this was so. Cro was manhandled by not only AJ Green, but also Mohammad Sanu and Marvin Jones on numerous occasions. I think the most telling instance of Cromartie’s fall from grace was him getting simply outran by Sanu, who’s always been knocked for his straight-line speed ever since he left Rutgers. ro doesn’t look in sync with running with receivers and then competing for the football in an appropriate manner, and even both on a considerable amount of plays.
It’s sad, because they’re no longer certain facets of his game that he’s struggling with; he’s simply not an adequate cornerback anymore overall. Rex Ryan refusing to let him off the island that he places him on out on the boundaries in strict man coverage won’t help his season assemble any sort of recovery, either. He’s being left out to dry, plain and simple.
We saw two very different players in opposite stages of their careers start at corner last Sunday, but saw the same result: failure. It’s natural for Milliner to be suffering some rookie growing pains, but it’s not so predictable when they come as such a severity and they’re aren’t many signs or promise. I still have plenty of hope for Dee to turn it around, but I definitely wish he would show us a bit more even while getting torched.
Milliner lacks basically any effective cornerback technique at this learning point in his career, but it seems that everybody knows that and has settled on the fact that he will just need more time. However, you can’t say the same for his determination out there, which has been lacking to say the least. f a player is far behind in his skill or missed the learning curve, I get it, but you can always give your full-fledged best effort out there to make up for any of that, and Milliner hasn’t.
To further explain what I mean with Milliner’s effort waning, take his tackling for example. He was always a suspect tackler at Alabama in regard to his technique and timing, but definitely didn’t shy away from laying the wood on the boundaries. On this play down below, Marvin Jones beat him for a 30 yard gain. Milliner’s tenacity towards making this tackle is something you’d see on the elementary school touch-football playground. Observe…
With Jones completely off balance and even turned towards Milliner, a plain form tackle attempt, or any actual tackle attempt for that matter, would have successfully downed Jones. Instead, he bullied the rookie for then more yards.
Another example I found of Milliner just not giving it his all was on Giovanni Bernard’s near-touchdown at the pylon.
I feel like I captured this at a pretty important moment. Milliner has sprinted his way over to Bernard to involve himself with the play, but to no avail as he declines the chance to apply any sort of hit on him to knock him out of bounds before he reaches the goal line. If Milliner dives here, there’s no argument that he’d at least worsen the fellow rookie’s chances of scoring, and I’d say he’d probably stop him. This is a bad angle, but Bernard just dove, so he’s still at least a yard and a half away from the goal line. This poor effort and lack of tenacity in inexcusable, especially from a rookie who hasn’t exactly proven himself.
Not only was Dee absolutely miserable in coverage, but he provided us with some plays to ponder regarding his ability to prove himself as a true, gutsy football player.
I get really fed up with Rex Ryan when he consistently starts Milliner over Walls, with the latter player being the superior one. Walls came in to the game to relieve Milliner when his play was beyond too bad to play, and let up a touchdown to Marvin Jones on the same five-ten yard back shoulder pass on the goal line that Milliner was also beat on. However, there were differences in these plays, as Walls actually made a respectable contest of the pass while Milliner appeared to have no idea of the route and the play diagnosis. Furthermore, Walls played the rest of the game without allowing considerable yardage to his receiver(s) while Cromartie and even Kyle Wilson continuously got beat by Dalton’s deep ball connection with his receivers. Walls also cracked down on the run game on the edge nicely, which is an asset of his game that hasn’t been a strength until now.
Wilson is so incredibly infuriating, and not because his play has been bad. In fact, he’s picked up his play as soon as I took a break from writing the secondary grade sheets in Week Four (coincidence?!?!). However, Wilson still mixes in some of his classic plays of hilarity with his solid play from the slot. He was burned by Sanu and Green a couple of times, and not even because his coverage was poor. When he has to turn his hips, his coverage is immediately poor, even when running stride for stride with a receiver, because his play at the point of the catch is so atrocious (especially when he has to turn to locate the football). Regardless, Wilson was still victimized the second least of the Jets’ corners behind Walls, so he gets by with a mediocre grade.
I was one of Lankster’s supporters last year when he had close to none. I liked the raw skills I saw from him, and I thought he was placed in an unfair position of having to basically start for the Jets in the slot when Darrelle Revis went down in 2012. He’s deserved to see the field a bit this year with his average play last year and excellent play on special teams in 2013.
Lankster didn’t get many snaps (only six at the very end of the game), but he still chipped in on the run game. He’s no chump when it comes to seeking the football and laying the hit, as we’ve been shown by his special teams’ efforts. It was only a little flash of Lankster, but his quickness and aggression allows him the versatility of free blitzing, attacking the run, and being a stingy defender in the slot or the outside. I’m a fan of his.
Landry has certainly been an interesting addition to this defense in 2013. He’s been dependable with his durability, but he hasn’t been excellent in coverage and is a liability as a tackler. He also leaves out a lot of “splash” plays you’d like to see from your safety in the centerfield role that the Jets feature him in. As a player, I find that he’s always just one or two steps too slow to making the play he’s asked to. Here are some examples…
Well actually, I’ll show a tackle that Landry needs to make but doesn’t, because we’ve gotten a little to used to that from him already this season as Jet fans. Landry has come up from his deep safety position to hit Bernard in the wide open hole. This a a third down play, and Landry has actually made the read early enough to make a really nice play, as Bernard would need a yard or two beyond Landry to move the chains (as I highlighted with my best drawing of the first down line). I couldn’t get any nice shots of Landry failing the tackle, so just know that he didn’t. In fact, he went high on the tackle and tried to bring him down with pure force. Bernard kept his feet churning and picked up more than he needed for the first, which illustrates how he essentially went right through Landry. Landry needs to be more of a willing hitter. He came up with enough speed and momentum to put Bernard on his backside, but couldn’t do so.
Here we have -cringe- Marvin Jones’ third touchdown of the day. Landry is in zone coverage behind Darrin Walls and Antonio Allen in a three-safety look from the Jets. Landry is slowly treading at a diagonal angle further back in the end zone, for reasons I’m not sure of. What’s to note here is that Jones, highlighted by the orange route, has already made his first and only cut in his route to design his post-corner. Landry should have seen this and stepped up into the wake up Jones’ route, but you can see his eyes still locked in on Dalton. To make this pass defensed, Landry has to put himself in a much better position. He’s not the athlete to trust his reading of the quarterback’s eyes to follow and crash on the play. Look what happens below…
Sigh. Landry, of course, got to the path of the ball far too late to even contest the pass, and settled with trying to reel Jones out of bounds before his feet tapped (which was also unsuccessful).
Landry has been somewhat excused for the Jets secondary’s poor outings, and incorrectly so. He’s been just as bad when it comes to putting himself in the position to make plays, and when he does do that, he hasn’t seemed to make them (or tackle them!!!). This was one of those nights when we actually saw a good amount of Landry’s mishaps on display.
I really love Allen, but it wasn’t his finest night, either. Allen is still the Jets’ best run defender in the secondary by a significant length and he played like it, but his coverage versus the Bengals in the slot was a little less than stellar. In the end, however, Allen was one of the Jets members of the back end who gets a firm pass for the grade sheet because he wasn’t a victim of so many collapses from the Jets’ defense.
Jarrett was all-around solid last Sunday. He didn’t play nearly as much as Allen did on the back end, but got a a handful of snaps in his place and received snaps numerous times when the Jets gave the Bengals a three-safety look on defense. Jarrett didn’t make any spectacular plays, obviously, but he crashed on the run game pretty well and made some impressive recoveries in coverage. Something you have to love about these free safeties (Allen and Jarrett) is that they’re allowed to come up and play the run, but Rex Ryan’s defensive scheme allows them to be expendable enough to play in the slot or even out wide in press coverage.
Similar to Lankster, Bush came in for some scrap snaps at the end of the game (also only six of them), but also looked good. He played a deep safety and in the box, and he made impressive reads and stops in the urn game when lined up at both spots. I’ve always been a supporter of his, and wish Rex would find some way to integrate him into the defense a bit more.
Where do the Jets go from here?
With Drew Brees and the Saints’ explosive offense coming to town this Sunday, it’s okay if you’re already getting overly superstitious in nervousness for this one. Luckily for the Jets, however, this isn’t a vertically-based offense like the Jets saw versus the Bengals. While Brees can certainly thread it to intermediate-deep routes downfield, the Saints work off of getting the ball to Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles underneath before they can spread the ball around. I think these will be the match-ups for Sunday, and the Jets’ winning chances surely lie on every one of these players to hold their counterpart to manageable yardage…
1. Antonio Cromartie vs Marques Colston/Nick Toon – It’s unclear whether Colston is going to be able to suit up this weekend. If he does, Cromartie will have his hands full with the large target, but he’s not carrying the load like he had to versus the Bengals, who became addicted to testing him on deeper routes downfield. Toon is another big target who can spread the field, but is also reliable underneath to move the chains. Cromartie gets a nice bounce-back opportunity here, but I’m not confident in him at all at this point versus pretty much anybody.
2. Dee Milliner vs Kenny Stills – The Saints’ rookie out of Oklahoma has come on strong recently, and Milliner will have a daunting task of covering him after not being able to stop a nosebleed last week. I still don’t understand why Rex feels the need to trot the worse of the Jets’ two options at their second corner position out there with the starters.
3. Kyle Wilson vs Lance Moore – The Jets are pretty unlucky to have to face the Saints all the way in Week Nine, because they could have gotten them in MetLife when Moore was injured up until last week. Moore is always a threat all over the field. I think this will be a harder test for Wilson than the ones he’s faced throughout most of this season, because Moore isn’t a typical slot receiver; he’s the jack-of-all-trades. We’ll see him lined up out wide, in the slot, and even in the backfield. His route tree follows this theory as well, as he isn’t limited to any specific route pattern.
4. Antonio Allen vs Jimmy Graham – With the struggles that the Jets’ starting corners have had recently, I don’t think the Jets will be facing a Saints’ offense desperate to run the game through the Brees-Graham connection like the Pats’ offense was with Brady-Gronkowski. Still, Allen will have a tough task on his hands even with Graham still healing from an injury. His coverage will have to be as nice as it was facing Gronkowski for Graham to not take the game into his own hands. Brees will be looking his way as his probable first read whenever New Orleans enters the red zone.
No matter how much of a bounce-back game this Jets’ secondary musters, this is going to be a tough game regardless with how the Saints can then look to their punch in the run game. Brees directs a very fire-powered offense, but it’s underrated how balanced this offense can be at times, and therefore, dangerous from the play action.