Week 1 Secondary Breakdown – Debut of New Jack City

Ben DiNapoli with a review of the New York Jets secondary in week 1…

Once an offseason filled with hype and big player predictions concluded, Jets fans were anxious to see how the team would respond on the field when real game action began. Safe to say, the team exceeded expectations on every side of the ball, cruising to a dominant 48-17 victory over the Detroit Lions. When keeping an explosive offense like the Lions in check, it’s a given that the secondary performed at a high level, but who stood out and who needs to improve going forward?

Monday night was the long awaited debut of the new and improved secondary, self-titled “New Jack City”, led by second year safety Jamal Adams and newly acquired cornerback Trumaine Johnson. The group certainly didn’t disappoint, limiting Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense to 10 points. Their performance was even more impressive considering they were without their starting free safety, Marcus Maye; he was out with an injury and still has not returned to practice.

Doug Middleton got the start at free safety and luckily for the Jets, he looked like a capable replacement. He was mostly solid, but did have a missed tackle that allowed Golden Tate to score at the beginning of the 3rd quarter. The play looked like a busted coverage from the start, but Middleton whiffed pretty hard, allowing Tate to reach the end zone. However, he did have a nice pass breakup that saved a touchdown and finished with 5 tackles, good for fourth on the team. Other than Middleton, the starting lineup was what you’d expect when looking at this team on paper. One thing that surprised me was Juston Burris getting the nod over Derrick Jones, whom I, along with many others, have been high on throughout the summer.

From the first defensive snap of the game, the Jets’ secondary came out aggressive and fast, causing Matthew Stafford to struggle throughout the night. He finished 27-46 for 286 yards with 1 touchdown and 4 interceptions, 2 of which were by the secondary. New Jack City was in control for the majority of the night and finished with 6 passes defended, in addition to 3 turnovers – the third being a Matt Cassel interception. Perhaps just as important, the secondary limited two issues that normally plague the defense: long gains and penalties, finishing with only two. They also came out of the game healthy, with both Trumaine Johnson and Buster Skrine returning from in-game injuries. While the two were out, Darryl Roberts received time on the outside and Parry Nickerson played in the slot. In limited action, Nickerson got flagged for an unnecessary taunting penalty but also almost came down with a nice interception in the end zone while covering Tate.

When the defense plays so well, it’s hard to single out individual players who had good games or to conversely point a finger at someone who didn’t show up, but let’s look at a couple studs and a dud from the secondary in week 1:

Stud: S Jamal Adams

Jamal Adams opened up the 2018 season with a bang, finishing with 6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 3 passes defended and 1 interception, the first of his young career. This game showcased his immense potential and ability to play all over the field. His ability to play in the box and assist in the running game is well documented, but I was really impressed with the strides he took in coverage; his pursuit and the way he played the ball were truly excellent throughout the night. In my opinion, this was the best Adams has looked in his brief NFL career and if he continues to play like this, we are in for a treat this season.

Dud: CB Trumaine Johnson

Admittedly, Trumaine Johnson didn’t have his best game in week 1. Johnson finished with 3 tackles, 1 pass defended and an interception, which he wound up fumbling away on the return. He was called for pass interference on the first drive of the game and got beat for two 26-yard gains by Kenny Golladay. It seemed like he was giving Golladay too much space and couldn’t recover in time when the wideout was running crosses through the middle of the field. Johnson also suffered an injury that caused him to miss some time but thankfully, it was minor and he finished the game. Although it wasn’t a great start to his first year as a Jet, I believe Johnson will rebound against the Dolphins.

Stud: CB Morris Claiborne 

In Morris Claiborne’s first game as the Jets’ number 2 corner, he had one of his best games as a member of gang green. Claiborne finished as PFF’s number 3 rated corner and had 2 passes defended and an interception. On the interception, he made a nice, acrobatic play on a slightly underthrown shot downfield to Marvin Jones. Claiborne also had a really nice pass breakup in the end zone on another deep attempt to Jones, who has a knack for making circus catches in traffic. After locking down the Lions’ skilled group of wide receivers, Claiborne is off to a strong start in 2018.

As a Jets fan, it’s hard not to be excited about this team going forward. I’m eager to see how the secondary responds against a Miami team that has a decent group of pass catchers. Kenny Stills is a receiver to watch, as he can take the cover off a defense and score at any moment. Hopefully, the Jets come out hungry to show week 1 wasn’t a fluke instead of being overconfident and flat. To be able to compete in the AFC, New York has to take care of teams in the division not named New England and it all starts with locking down Ryan Tannehill next week.