Week 14 Defensive Overview and Panthers Preview

Mike O’Connor breaks down the Jets’ defense heading into it’s match-up with the Carolina Panthers.

Even in a winning effort versus the lowly Raiders last week, the Jets defense wasn’t masterful in their craft.  In fact, they were the little brother to Geno Smith and the usually-dismal Jets’ offense in the 37-27 win at MetLife, and they face a much tougher offense in Carolina.  Let’s see how the defense will fare based off of the recent changes in personnel in Rex Ryan’s defense (snaps can be seen right here, as always). I also included a quick secondary grade sheet, since the whole unit is playing all over the place right now.

Snap Analysis 

Personally, I still find it sad that a veteran like Ed Reed who would arguably be without a job if it wasn’t for Rex Ryan oddly be friendly with him is still taking away snaps from young players who have beyond proved themselves to a limited role like Jaiquawn Jarrett.  Jarrett hasn’t received double digit snaps since Reed arrived, despite the liability the veteran has proven to be multiple times.

Sticking with the safety discussion, it was extremely encouraging when it looked like Rex had finally come to his senses and played Antonio Allen the majority of snaps in the first half, mainly on first and second downs and as a third safety on third.  Yet ignorance was a topic surrounding the head coach again by the end of the game, as Allen hardly played in the second half on any downs, even though Reed was a major liability on two touchdowns from the Raiders already in the game.

While we’re still on the topic, I like the role, as small as it may be, that Rex has carved for second-year safety Josh Bush.  Though he only notched three snaps, all of them came on the goal line when he played an outside contain-zone coverage.  He did the same in goal line situations on defense last week against the Dolphins, as well.  It’s a nice role for Bush because he has top speed to contain the flat in case of a rollout of dump off to his direction, but he also has the strength and tenacity to dig in to the line if a stretch run were to be called to his side.  For what it’s worth, Jarrett played the other side in this same role.  It’s only a glimpse of Rex Ryan seeming to understand which players do certain things more efficiently than others, especially in the secondary, but it won’t be enough to solve the ongoing question of his decisions with personnel this late into the season.

Another week, another hefty palate of snaps for Damon Harrison.  More importantly, his 50% play time was once again double of Kenrick Ellis’ 21%. At one point in the middle of the season, it seemed that the two mammoth nose tackles were going to collide in playing time since the differential in their respective snaps kept on shrinking.  Even on a slightly off week for “Snacks,” his playing time didn’t suffer and Ellis only saw snaps when he would get his own series with the defense or one goal line formations when both of them would play and hit the A-gaps together.

It sparks an interesting debate with Ellis still getting some of the defensive series all to himself at nose tackle.  There’s the argument that Ellis serving full series with the first unit keeps Harrison more fresh, but couldn’t that be done by just giving him rests between a couple of plays on ling drives?  Besides, the two combined for only six snaps on third/fourth down out of the 16 played by the defense.  When they’re hardly playing on these conversion downs besides the goal line, is Harrison really getting that frequent of snaps where he needs to take a full series off here and there?  I find it slightly questionable, even though the Jets do have the luxury of getting almost equally as good play from the middle with Ellis in there instead.

It would be difficult to find a game this season where Demario Davis had even just a handful of snaps taken from the sideline.  Throughout the whole season, it’s been rare to see him not play nearly every down with David Harris, who hasn’t missed a down in the seven weeks I’ve charted myself.  However, this was sort of the case last Sunday.

It was only five snaps that Davis missed out on, but they were all crucial ones and not due to injury or fatigue.  The Raiders were really challenging the Jets speed on passing downs, especially when they really needed to spread the field on the multiple 3rd and longs they faced.  To combat the speed of guys like Tawain Jones, Jacoby Ford, and Rod Streater, and Mychal Rivera, all very plausible pass catchers, Rex Ryan ordered for more rushers and defensive backs, while differing from linebackers in coverage.  This worked pretty well until the coverage unit really starts to lag late in the game.

Grade Sheet

Antonio Cromartie:
Every week it seems like it can’t get much worse for Cromartie.  He was just awful on Sunday.  His instincts aren’t there, he doesn’t want to hit or trust his play (and I don’t blame him for that), and he’s playing afraid on an island that Rex Ryan is stranding him on.

I feel bad for the guy, I really do.  He’s basically playing on one hip and now possibly a mild concussion, and he’s suffering a disastrous season in green, yet we all know Rex Ryan is going to trot him out there with the starters versus the Panthers like everything is going smoothly.  The talent behind Cromartie on the depth chart that’s sitting there dwindling away is just an afterthought now, because it’s obvious Rex cares too much about his veterans to make a change.  I doubt he’s going to make a return next year, so we’re just going to have to bear through this like he is for the rest of this year, it seems.
Grade: F

Dee Milliner:
I can’t blame Jets fans for overrating Milliner’s seemingly flawless performance on the stat-sheet (no catches allowed in his coverage), since we’ve all been waiting on another flashy performance from him.  It was very good, but he still was showing some crucial flaws while watching the tape, and he’s lucky Matt McGloin was the one under center for Oakland.  If even Terrelle Pryor were starting, things may have been different since Pryor would have likely tested his questionable deep coverage more often.  Still, it was without a doubt a very promising outing for the rookie, who showed off his length and quick twitch that’s he’s been hesitant to trust all season.  While I still like his performance against the Saints earlier this year a little better, this was a good one when you also factor in how well he chipped in with stopping the run.
Grade: B+

Kyle Wilson:
It’s become quite a routine this season to look back on a relatively quiet performance from the Jets’ slot corner.  Wilson has adjusted well to the role that Rex Ryan has cemented him into, and though he sometimes suffers a few mental lapses still, he’s not allowing that many catches.  He had another one of these performances versus the Raiders.
Grade: A-

Dawan Landry:
Landry was made out to be the scapegoat on multiple occasions last Sunday because of his man coverage that was lacking against subpar Oakland receivers.  After watching the tape, it was as bad as it seemed live.  Landry just doesn’t have the trust in his already slow instincts or even the speed to make up for that, and it’s evident when he gets burned, almost always to the boundaries, too.  The veteran was also at fault on Marcel Reece’s 63-yard touchdown run, when he cheated way too hard to an unimportant lane at the line of scrimmage, putting himself out of position to crack down on the play when Damon Harrison’s missed tackle allowed Reece to catapult through the middle and outrun the whole secondary.
Grade: C-

Ed Reed:
My Twitter-avatar took a major hit when Reed’s first half interception lost me my bet with Joe, which was that a Reed interception would force me into slotting Reed’s mugshot-like picture into my representation.  Even though I slander his play often, I enjoyed Reed’s interception just as much as the rest, and it was a really smart play by Reed to position himself like so.  However, the rest of the game just didn’t go in his favor.  His man coverage, though it was hardly exercised, was burned in the second half.  When he had chances to make plays, he didn’t by missing a tackle or two that sprung big gains and taking out Antonio Cromartie when he read a pass incorrectly which led to a Raider touchdown.  In short, Reed still shouldn’t be playing significant snaps, in my opinion.  Yet, he gets a slight pass since Dawan Landry was equally as lacking this game.
Grade: C-

Antonio Allen:
It was really nice to see Allen get as many snaps as he did on Sunday, even if he was taken out for the most part in the second half.  When he was in, he was really good.  Outside of one particular play where he allowed a reception downfield because he elevated poorly, his man coverage was excellent and his tackling was the best out of the Jets defense that tackled poorly all day.  To top things off, he blocked a punt with ease.
Grade: B+

Jaiquawn Jarrett/Josh Bush:
Jarrett and Bush only combined for 10 snaps, but they played their roles well.  Their containment on the goal line for what was nearly a complete goal line stand in the fourth quarter was superb.  Bush managed to break up a pass in the flat intended for Reece that would have resulted in six.  With Ed Reed having almost no chance of returning next year, it’s going to be really nice to see more playing time for these two.
Grades: A (in limited playing time).

How Things Will Look for Carolina-

Like I said in our RoundTable earlier this week which focused on how the Jets can upset the dangerous Panthers, I said that you have to blitz Cam Newton despite his skills running the football.  If you’re afraid when playing a dual threat quarterback like Newton, who will find a way to orchestrate his offense even if you strictly shape your gameplan to not let him run, you not going to be able to hide.

Closing the pocket will be key to throw off Newton and his poise however much they can, while not giving him any direct access to scrambling to the boundaries.  In fact, the Jets may limit Demario Davis’ coverage responsibilities so he can play half of a spy role on Newton.  Either way, the Jets should and will know going into this that they’re not going to strap Cam down completely; he’s going to have his chances to extend plays.  It’s about how they limit those chances and how they effect his play when they aren’t there that’s going to really matter.

Key Match-ups:

Antonio Cromartie vs anybody, really-
Cromartie is so banged up and not in good enough shape to play a game of football competitively.  Rex Ryan doesn’t know that, somehow.  The Panthers receivers’ games revolve around they’re quickness, finding softness in zones, and executing double moves similar to Baltimore.  If and when Cromartie inevitably starts, it’s hard to imagine himself having a respectable outing versus Steve Smith, Ted Ginn, and even Brandon LaFell.

Greg Olsen vs Jets’ Safeties-
Want a frightening statistic?  Olsen has 26 more receptions than any Jets’ receiver.  Yeah.  Cam finds Olsen often in seam routes streaking right through the middle because the Panthers’ receivers widen the field so successfully with the routes they run and natural speed.  Antonio Allen is the player I would choose to man Olsen for the duration of the game.  If Dawan Landry is that guy a lot instead, the Jets could find themselves giving up huge chunks of yardage to Olsen way too often.

Muhammad Wilkerson vs Byron Bell-
Wilkerson shocked everybody last week with a terribly off game versus a porous Raiders’ offensive line.  If he was looking for a bounce back game, it’d be a challenge to find a better one available than this one.  Mo Wilk will see a lot of one on one opportunities versus Bell when he gets to rush from the 5-tech, and that could be deadly for Carolina if he’s back on his game.  However, expect Ben Hartsock (former Jet alert!!) to block on the weakside (often Wilkerson’s side) quite a bit to chip him or double team him.  Hartsock is rarely ever used as a receiver, and he’s basically an extra offensive tackle, just forty pounds lighter.

I definitely expect some of the same successful offense we saw last week from Geno and company, even facing a much tougher defense. The Carolina pass defense is intimidating, but I think it’s one of the easier ones to gameplan around, especially with a spread offense.  However, I still think that the speed Carolina possesses on the offensive side of the ball will be too much for the Jets.  I’m sometimes criticized for, well, criticizing Rex Ryan for how he dishes out playing time to the wrong fits and suitors, but I actually mean it more than ever approaching this game.  If Antonio Cromartie starts, he WILL get beat.  Often.  I am pretty sure I can say the same for Ed Reed.  If Ryan sticks to his guns (which we haven’t seen him ever NOT do), it will be a long afternoon.  Panthers- 38, Jets- 20.