The Film Don’t Lie: Chance Warmack vs. Jonathan Cooper

With experts starting to reexamine who the best OG is in the NFL Draft, Mike Nolan takes a look at the film to break down Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper

In this post combine lull, a few draft prognosticators have gone on record to say that Jonathan Cooper is a better OG prospect than Chance Warmack. This is most likely due to Cooper’s excellent combine performance. Sometimes the combine can generate hype in the media that really isn’t prevalent in NFL War Rooms. Considering the Jets’ 2012 starting guards are currently unrestricted free agents and the team could be eyeing up a replacement as high as the 9th pick, let’s look at the tape to see who is really the better prospect. Continue reading “The Film Don’t Lie: Chance Warmack vs. Jonathan Cooper”

Film Room – Lifting The Lid On The Real Marty Mornhinweg

Steve Bateman goes into the film room to take a closer look at Marty Mornhingweg’s offense

Note – This was written by former TOJ employee Steve Bateman

What do we know about newly appointed New York Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg? Well, he’s going to bring the West Coast Offense eastwards to New York, we know that much for certain, right? And he also favors a zone-blocking run scheme – we know that much because everybody says he does and therefore it must be correct, yeah?

By making these assumptions, not only are we unwittingly limiting our understanding of what Mornhinweg brings to the table, but we are also underestimating his ability to adapt, change, and design entirely new offensive systems according to need. We are also deluding ourselves into believing that Mark Sanchez (or whoever the starting quarterback might be) will be asked to operate a traditional West Coast Offense in 2013.

Continue reading “Film Room – Lifting The Lid On The Real Marty Mornhinweg”

Film Room – Antonio Cromartie Lacks Shutdown Cornerback Ability

Steve Bateman goes back into the film room to break down why Antonio Cromartie does not have shut down corner ability

Note – This was written by former TOJ employee Steve Bateman

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece aimed at explaining why Antonio Cromartie will never be the great cornerback that some people believe he already is. Yet recently my Twitter timeline has repeatedly told me that the Jets can afford to trade Darrelle Revis because Cromartie can step in and fill his shoes. So I’m going to try again, only this time perhaps some pictures might be worth a few thousand words.

The first play that’s up for consideration is taken from the Jets’ Week 16 encounter with the San Diego Chargers. Philip Rivers and his men are trailing by four points in the 3rd quarter, and are facing a pivotal 3rd & 7 from the Jets 37-yard line (Picture 1). Cromartie is circled in yellow, and Chargers wide receiver Danario Alexander (who has only recently joined the team after being cut by the St Louis Rams) is circled in red.

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Picture 1

Despite Alexander throwing a double-move at him – something that has been a problem in the past – Cromartie’s coverage is initially good (Picture 2) and it’s worth noting that at this point he is focusing exclusively on the movement of his assigned man (inset).

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Picture 2

But when he sees Alexander turns to look over his shoulder, Cromartie decides to quit playing his man (Picture 3) and instead he seeks to locate the ball.

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Picture 3

Effectively, Cromartie has made a bad choice by gambling here but there’s still a chance that he might get lucky and hit the jackpot if Rivers comes up short on the pass. But unfortunately for the Jets no such thing happens and even Cromartie’s renowned athleticism is not enough to make up for his poor decision-making ability as Alexander hauls in the touchdown (Picture 4).

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Picture 4

To reinforce the point that while Cromartie is undoubtedly a fine athlete, his game will always be hurt by a lack of what Bill Belichick refers to as ‘FBI’ (Football Intelligence) let’s dig a little deeper into the archive and revisit Week 10’s game against the Seahawks. The ‘Hawks are up by two touchdowns with 8:08 to go in the fourth, and after two consecutive penalties they have a 1st and Goal from the Jets 23-yard line (Picture 5). If they’re to get back into the game, the Gang Green boys simply have to make a stop on this drive. The Seahawks come out with Golden Tate (turquoise) lined up at flanker, but prior to the snap he motions towards quarterback Russell Wilson and takes a handoff. Meanwhile, split end Sidney Rice (red) is ready to face off against Cromartie.

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Picture 5

Initially Cromartie does a great job of tying Rice up with press coverage but when he senses that Tate may be headed in his direction he decides to forget his coverage assignment (Picture 6) and – despite close run support from three unblocked teammates – he tentatively takes the first few steps towards tracking forwards.

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Picture 6

By the time Tate has cocked his arm to throw (Picture 7), the wide open Rice has a full six yards of separation between himself and Cromartie.

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Picture 7

Finally we’re left with the image of Cromartie gazing on helplessly as Rice pulls in the catch to plunge a final dagger into Jet hearts (Picture 8).

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Picture 8

As much as I wish it were true that Cromartie is a ‘Shutdown Corner’ the reality is that you don’t have to go through too much game tape in order to find repeated evidence of his inability to make the correct decision at the right time. He’s a tremendous athlete – that’s beyond question – but unless he suddenly develops some ‘FBI’ he will never be fit to wear the shoes of Revis and (maybe more importantly) despite how highly-prized he is by some Jets fans, GMs around the league will never be prepared to give up particularly high value in any attempt to trade for him. Like it or not, that’s the long and short of it all.

Quinton Coples: Believe The Hype?

Steve Bateman takes an inside look at the pros and cons Quinton Coples demonstrated in his rookie season

Note – This was written by former TOJ employee Steve Bateman

Rookie defensive end Quinton Coples has divided opinion amongst Jets fans ever since it was announced at Radio City last spring that he’d been selected as their first round draft choice. The former North Carolina man arrived in New Jersey with several question marks against his name and, if popular opinion is to be believed, many of those question marks will follow him into his sophomore year.

For various reasons, however (mainly that it’s difficult to untangle the melee of line play during a live broadcast), defensive linemen are often harshly judged by fans unless they’re producing JJ Watt-esque stat lines. So, with that in mind, let’s break down a tell-tale play from 2012 in an attempt to make a true evidence-based assessment of what kind of player the Jets have in Coples.

Continue reading “Quinton Coples: Believe The Hype?”

Film Room – Solving The Sanchez Problem

Steve Bateman breaks down the film to demonstrate three of Mark Sanchez’s biggest problems

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In recent days and weeks there’s been a great deal of attention directed towards the New York Jets search for new staff. Yet while it’s understandable that fans are anxious to learn who’ll be hiring the players and calling the plays next season, arguably the most important addition at Florham Park this year may also be one of the least heralded: with Mark Sanchez’s career now seemingly at tipping point, the man who’s hired to replace Matt Cavanaugh as QB coach could well be the pivot around which the team’s fortunes turn.

Sanchez was bad this season – there’s no doubting that – but to give us a better idea of where it all went wrong (and where work needs to be done this off-season) let’s take a look at a few plays from 2012 that highlight some of his greatest difficulties all too clearly…

We’ll begin by considering Sanchez’s difficulty in making pre-snap reads, and there’s no better example to be found than back in Week 2 against the Miami Dolphins. The game’s tied at 10 apiece in the third quarter, and the Jets are facing a 3rd & Goal from the 7-yard line. Although the Jets appear to be out in a 4 WR set, they are actually in 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE) with Jeff Cumberland split wide to the right (Picture 1, below). The Dolphins have responded with their big nickel package.

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The play has been designed with Stephen Hill (yellow route) as the primary receiver while to his outside Cumberland runs a short hook in order that Hill can draw single coverage in the back of the endzone.

As a QB making his pre-snap read, the first thing that Sanchez has to be aware of is his protection scheme. The Dolphins are showing a 7-man pass rush (4 down linemen along with 2 LBs plus 1 safety (circled in red) all showing blitz). Consequently, there’s a very good chance that the Jets’ 6-man protection scheme (the 5 offensive linemen plus RB Bilal Powell) will be overwhelmed.

This initial read should also trigger a red-hot awareness that if the three circled defenders are all blitzing, the center of the field will be left absolutely unprotected. Suddenly, to any QB who’s confident about his ability to adapt a play at the line of scrimmage (Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are masters of this) Santonio Holmes (purple route) becomes the most appealing option on the field.

As the play develops (Picture 2) the abandoned tract of center-field looms large (green area) as Holmes gains a step on his defender and breaks into it. Meanwhile, there’s a problem with the play design as Cumberland has taken his route too deep, meaning that the window where Sanchez had been hoping to deliver the ball (red area) is now effectively double-covered. The play can still be aborted, however, and the lead can be taken via a straightforward field goal if a pass is delivered to either of the yellow areas.

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Picture 2

The fact that despite all of this Sanchez dumbly floats the ball straight into the most dangerous area of the field (where it’s intercepted by Chris Clemons) is concerning to say the least (Picture 3). Not only does it indicate an unwillingness to deviate from the playbook by pulling the plug and taking a safe option, it also suggests that he entirely failed to compute how the blitzing LBs and safety would impact on the route being run by Holmes (who is now absolutely wide open in the endzone). This is one area where Sanchez simply must show considerable improvement between now and September.

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The second problem that we’ll consider is Sanchez’s difficulty in knowing when to swallow the ball and take a sack. Here we’ll look at why this is such a problem by looking back at the Week 13 clash against the Arizona Cardinals.

Below we see the Jets about to run a play-action pass from 21 personnel (2 RBs, 1 TE) on 1st & 10 from their own 12-yard line, while the Cardinals are in a base 3-4 package (Picture 4). Although the player movements are detailed, they are not that important except for the those of the two middle linebackers (red) who will blitz the A-gap (ie the small space between the center and the guards on either side of him).

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In next to no time the blitz has leaked into the backfield and Sanchez is under intense pressure (Picture 5). For reasons unknown, Sanchez apparently becomes briefly seized by the belief that he’s the greatest QB to have ever played the game and attempts a ridiculous throw from an absolutely horrible position where one leg is in the air while the other is balanced on tiptoe. (I often compare playing QB to boxing in that there’s very little difference between the techniques that allow for the throwing of a powerful, accurate punch and a similarly lethal pass. I probably don’t need to point out that Muhammad Ali’s success wasn’t built on a tendency to throw punches while falling over backwards and tiptoeing on one leg).

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Picture 5

Unsurprisingly the ball wobbles out of Sanchez’s hand and loops into midfield where former Jet Kerry Rhodes immediately breaks on the throw and makes as easy an interception as he’s ever likely to. Thanks entirely to Sanchez’s difficulty in accepting that sometimes it’s best to take one for the team, the Cardinals have a 1st & 10 from the Jets 26-yard line. If Sanchez is to retain his role as the Jets’ starting QB in 2013 he must come to understand his limitations: while it’s great to believe in one’s own abilities, self-delusion is a surefire road to ruin.

Our last consideration is a problem that’s haunted Sanchez throughout his professional career, namely an inability to look off a safety so as to secure single coverage for a receiver running a deep pattern. Let’s look at an example taken from the Week 15 match-up against the Tennessee Titans…

We’re into the final quarter and the Jets are trailing 14-10. The Jets are once again in 21 personnel and are matched up against a 3-deep zone defense run from the Cardinals’ 4-3 under package (Picture 6). Braylon Edwards (circled) is the intended target on the play, and safety Michael Griffin is highlighted in green.

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Picture 6

Although he briefly scans center-field to establish whether or not both safeties have dropped deep (thereby giving himself an easy read of the coverage scheme) Sanchez soon switches his gaze towards Edwards (Picture 7).

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Picture 7

Griffin backpedals but keeps his head turned towards Sanchez so that he can read his eyes as he continues staring at Edwards (Picture 8).

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Picture 8

This enables him to commit towards the direction of the throw before it’s even been released, with the result that despite Edwards’s wily attempts to act as defender and knock the ball away, Griffin is in exactly the right place at exactly the right time and is consequently able to collect an easy pick (Picture 9).

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Picture 9

In conclusion, although these problems are by-and-large correctable through coaching it would be foolish to presume that the new QB guru – whoever he may be – will have an easy task in helping to resurrect Sanchez’s tarnished reputation. Because while it’s possible to identify the errors and implement drills that are designed to correct them, the only person capable of righting these wrongs is Sanchez himself.

Will he ever learn? I guess that’s the eight million dollar question.

New York Jets Defensive Film Breakdown: Week 14

Chris Gross goes inside the New York Jets defensive game film

Through a tumultuous up and down 2012 season, the New York Jets have experienced some all-time lows in the Rex Ryan era, this year. While the offense has been stagnant and putrid for the better part of the season, the Jets still somehow find themselves mathematically alive for an unlikely Wild Card spot as we enter the tail end of December. Ryan has rallied his group of embattled troops, through injury and an overall poorly constructed roster, enough to keep them playing relatively meaningful football in the final 3 weeks of the season. This is a testament to Ryan’s coaching ability. Not only has he been able to weather the recent storm that ensued among the Jets faithful following the disastrous Thanksgiving blowout loss to the New England Patriots at home, but he has also kept this team’s defense afloat throughout the entire year, turning in two dominant performances over the previous two weeks against Arizona and Jacksonville, respectively.

Last week, New York traveled down to Florida to take on the lowly 2-10 Jaguars in a game that has been engulfed in a series of must win contests for the Jets. Offensively, the game was another mess prior to the second half ground surge that helped propel New York to their sixth win of the season. While the offense was beyond frustrating once again, Ryan and Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine put together another defensive gem, an effort so impressive that this team was able to overcome one of the most abysmal first half offensive performances that you will ever see in the sport of football. Led by the likes of Muhammad Wilkerson and Antonio Cromartie, the Jets defense has shown serious signs of domination, similar to the play of the unit that helped propel the organization to consecutive AFC Championship games in the first two years of Ryan’s stay as Head Coach.

For this week’s defensive film breakdown, we will format the column similar to our previous evaluations. However, this week, we will provide a surplus of images to properly demonstrate the impressive individual efforts that took place within the personnel of the Jets defense, as well as the excellent quality of the overall defensive scheme built by Ryan and Pettine. We will again highlight the week’s top individual performances, followed by an individual breakdown of the defensive line, and finally an evaluation of the linebackers and secondary as respective units.

Week 14 Top Defensive Performances

Muhammad Wilkerson, DE – We may have to end up just solidifying Wilkerson’s name at the top of this list due to the frequency that it appropriately fits here. The second year defensive end out of Temple drew high praise from the Jets coaching staff all offseason, and has lived up to the hype thus far this year, particularly over the past month or so. The way Wilkerson has been playing for the Jets this season has solidified him as arguably the best player, not only on the defense, but on the entire team, making it obvious as to why Ryan and Pettine gushed over him this past August.

Wilkerson has begun to command serious attention from opposing offenses. Week in and week out, Wilkerson faces endless double teams, a bulls-eye on his chest in pass protection, and an abundance of game plans that are based on avoiding him at all costs. This did not change last week in Jacksonville, however Wilkerson’s increased ability to overcome these challenges has not only made him a much better player, but it has improved the quality of other individuals within the front seven, particularly fellow pass rushers like rookie Quinton Coples, as well as the entire defense as a whole.

Below are a series of images that display how Wilkerson is becoming so dominant, as well as how other players are becoming direct beneficiaries of said domination through optimal matchups.

Above is a shot of a pre-snap formation on Jacksonville’s opening drive. Wilkerson, highlighted by a red circle, is lined up as a 5 technique, slightly shaded to the outside shoulder of the Jaguars’ left tackle. At the snap of the ball, Wilkerson will engage the tackle’s outside shoulder, maintaining excllent leverage, which will give him the abiliy to dictate what he is going to do on this particular play.

In the top image below, you will notice Wilkerson engaged wih the offensive tackle, demonstrating perfect position with his hands inside his opponent’s breast plate, along with his head being lower than the offensive tackle’s, an accurate representation of how great his leverage on this play truly is. The green arrow represents the Running Back’s predicted trajectory on the play. His goal is to take the handoff from the QB, Chad Henne, and read the block of TE Mercedes Lewis, who is highlghted by the blue circle. The back will base his running angle off of the read he gets from Lewis’s rear. If Lewis kicks out the OLB, Calvin Pace in this instance, the back will cut inside of him in an effort to get to the next level. If Pace crashes inside, Lewis will use his momentum against him by blocking down, with the back reading his rear and adjusting his route to the outside.

The bottom image above shows that Pace did not crash inside, but set the edge as he normally would against the run. Lewis accurately recognizes this and adjusts his block accordingly by attempting to kick Pace out, and drive him toward the sideline. The back recognizes this, and rightully aims to hit the hole that should be opened up behind Lewis’s rear. However, as you will also notice, Wilkerson has complete control of Jacksonville’ offensive tackle, as shown by his picture perfect arm extension, placing him in position to stop the back for a minmal gain, which he does, represented by the image below.

This is a perfect example of how disruptive Wilkerson has become in defending the run, particularly when he is put in situations where he faces man-on blocking. This play was vital to the Jets success in defending the run last week,  as the Jaguars soon realized that they could not afford to abort their plan of scheming around Wilkerson. Wilkerson set the tone early here, notifying Jacksonville that he will kill all offensive plans if they wish to attempt to block him with just one player.

In the second quarter, Jacksonville unsuccessfully tried to tame Wilkerson with man-on blocking again, this time in pass protection. The image below represents the immediate moment following the snap of the ball, with Henne scanning the field to his left. Wilkerson – again denoted by the red circle – is in the 3 technique, lined up on the outside shade of the guard, attacking his opponent’s soft shoulder, or shoulder to the outside of the ball. The Jets send two additional players, Bart Scott and Calvin Pace, on a blitz to the outside of Wilkerson. Scott and Pace will commad the attention of the tackle and running back left in to assist in protection, leaving Wilkerson in a one on one blocking situation.

The next image – below and on top – shows Jacksonville’s left tackle opening up to Pace, giving Wilkerson an optimal lane to the quarterback behind him, as long as he is able to beat his block. Wilkerson – red circle  – has already gotten past the guard’s initial point of attack, as he executes a rip move that will propel him past the blocker with a clear shot at Henne. The second image below is the direct result of what happened next. Wilkerson was able to blow by his block with excellent hand technique and acceleration, allowing him to get a nice hit on Henne as he attempted to throw the ball, resulting in an incompletion, highlighted by the green circle showing the ball hoplesslly gain flight before falling to the turf, without a chance to be caught by anyone.

Although plays like this will never register in the box score as a sack or tackle, they are equally as important throughout the course of a game. On a second and long play, backed inside their own twenty, Jacksonville had the opportunity to hit a quick pass to set up a third and short in hopes of keeping the chains moving and extending the drive. However, because of this play by Wilkerson, the Jaguars were forced into a third and long situation, which resulted in a Wilkerson sack, ending hopes of any type of offensive momentum, and in turn, ultimately ending the game. Wilkerson’s presence on the field goes well beyond any statistics he will produce, even as impressive as they have been in recent weeks. The most important thing to remember in terms of defensive line play is that these players often make key plays without recording any statistical numbers.

These are just two examples of the problems Wilkerson can cause if he isn’t given the proper attention. However, this superior play from Wilkerson is beginning to create problems for offenses in other areas, as well. Below is an image of the Jets pre-snap alignment on Quinton Coples’ sack of Chad Henne, his third of the season.

As you’ll notice, Coples (red circle) is at the three technique, shaded on the outside shoulder of Jacksonville’s left guard. To his right is Bryan Thomas in a 4 point stance, set to come off the edge, and one of the interior linebackers who has walked up to defend the split out Montell Owens. On the other side of the line, Wilkerson is lined up in a 4I technique, shaded just slightly to the inside shade of the right tackle, with Calvin Pace lined up wide on the edge.

Usually, when an offensive line gets a front like the Jets show here, with the area over the center completely vacated, the center will adjust his line calls to slide the protection toward the defense’s strength in numbers. Using this idea, with three players to the left, the center would typically slide the protection to the left, in order to ensure there are an adequate number of blockers in the event that the linebacker over Owens comes on a blitz. On the back side, you would usually see the guard take the 4I/5 technique, with the tackle taking the edge rusher. This way, the blocking becomes an even five on five, considering the back doesn’t stay in to block, or another player isn’t motioned into the backfield, and left in as an additional blocker. In this case, no such motions are made, and Owens does, in fact, run a route.

Unfortunately for Jacksonville, however, this is not what the center opts to do. Instead, he slides the protection toward Wilkerson, who at this point has been dominating one on one blocking situations, seemingly protecting the interior of the line, as he likely views Wilkerson’s slight inside shade on the tackle as an indication that he will stunt hard to the inside. In order to prevent Wilkerson from registering another sack, or disrupting another pass, the center opens his hips to the right at the snap of the ball, opening the door for Coples to hit the left guard with a quick inside move, as shown in the image below.

With Coples having lined up before the snap on the outside shade of the guard, in a slight tilt, the guard likely expected that he was pinning his ears back, preparing to attack the soft shoulder in an aggressive pass rush, considering Jacksonville had come out in an empty set. However, Coples, who seemingly had an idea that the center would open away from him to give help on Wilkerson, comes hard across the guard’s face, leaving him with his base far too wide to recover in time – as indicated by the distance between his feet, and ratio to his shoulder width – giving Coples a clear path to Henne once he rips through that inside shoulder.

While Coples is slamming Henne into the turf, notice the Jaguars’ center still tentatively preparing for some type of contact with Wilkerson. Wilkerson’s value is beginning to extend beyond his own personal play, something that will not only make him an elite defensive lineman, but will assist in reestablishing the defense among the NFL’s elite, as well.

Antonio Cromartie, CB – Cromartie is another name that should probably be cemented in these top performances on a weekly basis. Since losing All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis in week 3 to a season ending ACL tear, the Jets have discovered that they have two elite caliber defensive backs in their secondary, as displayed by the highly impressive quality of play that Cromartie has performed at all season. Like Wilkerson, Cromartie has become a nightmare for opposing offenses to game plan for. He has taken over the role of eliminating a top offensive threat on a weekly basis, previously occupied by Revis prior to injury.

Last week in Jacksonville, the Jaguars’ coaching staff wisely devised a plan to get young and emerging rookie WR Justin Blackmon matched up with anyone in the Jets secondary, but Cromartie. Blackmon was motioned away from Cromartie frequently, as well being placed in a slot alignment in an effort to target advantageous matchups against the lower caliber defensive backs in the Jets’ secondary. While the technique was an intelligent one by Jacksonville, Cromartie still had a very high impact on the game. When he was lined up on Blackmon, the rookie out of Oklahoma State was non-existent. When he wasn’t on Blackmon, Cromartie remained a force in the secondary with his immeasurable instincts and aggressive, yet intelligent, level of play. Below, we will look at some images from his performance against Jacksonville, and point out how he also benefited the defense in a way that likely could have swung the game.

The image below is a pre-snap shot of a 5 yard out to Jacksonville’s Jordan Shipley on third down. The Jaguars line up in a tight bunch formation to the right, while Cromartie lines up about 8 yards off the ball.

When the play breaks, the inside receiver runs up the middle, with the receiver to his right running a hitch in front of Cromartie. Meanwhile Shipley runs about a 4-5 yard out route toward the Jets sidelines. Cromartie could have easily bit on the hitch directly in front of him, however his quick eyes recognize Henne locked into Shipley, prompting Cromartie to break on the out route before Henne has even hit the top of his wind up. The result? Cromartie hits Shipley as soon as he makes the catch, stopping him well short of the first down marker.

Cromartie’s best play, however, may have come on the game’s opening drive. Having marched right down the field on the Jets defense, the Jaguars come out in an unbalanced I-formation with Mercedes Lewis at left tackle, and two additional blockers on the right, one who is off the line. Split out left is Justin Blackmon, who will attempt a fade route on Cromartie. At the snap of the ball, Henne is supposed to get rid of this ball extremely quick and just give Blackmon a chance to make a play. Garret McIntyre, who you’ll see at the bottom of the image below, with his feet staggered, ready to come off the edge, will go unblocked because the play is designed for the quarterback to get rid of the ball well before even the fastest edge rusher could get there.

After the ball is snapped, Henne locks in on Blackmon, as displayed in the shot below. However, Blackmon is completely blanketed by Cromartie. Henne seemingly panics with no other option to throw to, so he holds onto the ball hoping Blackmon can get some type of separation. In the meantime, McIntyre (yellow circle) is coming off the edge like a bat out of hell, while the right tackle (blue circle), is facing the opposite way, as he never expected the ball to be in Henne’s hands long enough for McIntyre to get to him in time.

Blackmon never gets the separation that Henne was hoping for, so he seemingly attempted to try to force something to his receiver or just throw it away, but because he was forced to hold the ball for so long, McIntyre gets a hit on him in his release, causing the ball to take an alternate trajectory directly into the hands of Bart Scott.

While this was certainly a poor decision by Henne, Cromartie’s lockdown coverage of Blackmon gave McIntyre enough time to come off the edge unblocked, and force the bad throw that ended up in a Jets turnover. If Jacksonville scores on this opening drive, perhaps the outcome of the game is entirely different. Luckily for the Jets, Cromartie plays for the guys in green and white.

Defensive Line

Quinton Coples – As we have previously gone over Coples’ sack, that play alone does not quite do his performance from last week the proper justice it deserves. Coples was very active in the run game, as well as rushing the passer. He continues to show the physical tools that will allow him to become an elite defensive lineman in this league, but he needs to be a bit more consistent. While his consistency looked vastly improved against the Jaguars, he still has some plays where he looks unsure of what he is supposed to do, as he has a small habit of peeking into the backfield, causing him to play far too high and get tangled up with the offensive line.

When Coples is sure of his assignment, however, he has been lethal. He is beginning to develop a presence on the edge in passing situations, helped partially by his extremely effective inside move. As we discussed above, his inside move assisted him in registering his third career sack. This move also helped seal the game for the Jets, as the following images will demonstrate.

On Jacksonville’s final offensive play of the game, Henne takes the snap out of the shotgun with Owens lined up to his right. Coples (red circle) works what appears to be a hard edge rush to the soft shoulder of the left tackle.

However, Coples again hits the offensive lineman with a quick move across his face.

Again, this hard inside move, causes the right tackle to try to recover, but the speed of Coples does not allow him to get his feet under him, making him completely obsolete as a blocker. With how wide his feet are in the image below, the tackle might as well be in quicksand.

As you’ll notice below, the left guard attempts to offer some help to the tackle, but cannot nearly get there in time. Instead, he is left (literally) giving his fellow offensive lineman a hug while Coples (red circle) drills Henne, sending the ball in the air, and directly into the hands of Ellis Lankster, who is able to field it as if it were a punt.

Coples also did a tremendous job of displaying how physically strong he truly is. On David Harris’s sack of Chad Henne, Coples rushes the center out of the amoeba, driving him nearly 10 yards back, causing Henne to flee the pocket and run to the outside, where he is eventually tracked down and stopped behind the line of scrimmage by Harris.

Coples could have had a multiple sack day in this contest, however on this particular play, he left his feet as he got to Henne, giving the quarterback a lane to duck under and escape his grasp. Coples needs to learn that as a defensive lineman, he can never leave his feet. He will become subject to some severe cut blocks, and will often find himself tackling air, rather than a player, as he did on this one. He is certainly still a bit raw, but there is no question that the tools are there. Once he becomes a bit more comfortable with the scheme and his fundamentals, expect to see a surge in his play similar to what we have seen with Wilkerson this season.

Kenrick Ellis – Ellis was very impressive early on. He displayed excellent power, as he always has when healthy, and continues to show a very deceptive lateral quickness, a combination that will allow him to thrive in the coming years as this team’s nose tackle.

The play displayed in the image below is a direct snap to Owens, that results in a gain of two yards. However, if not for the efforts of Ellis (red circle), who began the play lined up as a 0 technique directly over the center, this play could have been hit for a substantial gain.

At the snap of the ball, you’ll notice the play is a counter, designed to be hit directly inside of the pulling guard (blue circle) who will aim to hit Garrett McIntyre coming off of the edge. The left tackle blocks down on the three technique, the left guard blocks down on Ellis, with the front side, away from the counter, blocking man on – basically your traditional counter blocking pattern of down/down/kickout. Following the kick out of McIntyre, the plan is for the fullback to lead through the hole and either pickup any leakage, or hit the first person he sees as a threat to the play (green arrow). The orange arrow indicates where Owens would like take the ball to find a seam.

Meanwhile, Ellis (red circle) is fighting hard across the face of the down blocking guard, in order to get to where the ball is going. This is simply a great reactive technique by Ellis. Rex Ryan religiously preaches the need to fight back from where the pressure is coming from, because if the line is attempting to block Ellis down to their right, it is highly likely that the ball going to their left. Recognizing this, Ellis uses his strength and quickness to assist his laser like reaction in fighting back to the ball carrier.

As the play develops, it seems to be wired for a massive gain, with all players accounted for in the box, and LaRon Landry as the sole defender to beat to the end zone. The red arrow indicates Ellis’s current position at this point in the play. While it looks as if the guard has him sealed to the inside, you’ll see that he fights his way back directly in the path of the ball carrier, and makes the play for a gain of just 2 yards.

The red arrow in the image below points to Ellis breaking free to the outside of the guard that attempted to block him. Because of this, the fullback (green circle) is forced to slow down to try to give help on Ellis, causing Owens to slightly slow down his path of attack, which ultimately results in both of them getting completely stuffed by Ellis. What could have been a significant gain, turns into just a two yard play due to the excellent strength and agility, but most importantly, the relentless motor of Ellis.

As great as Ellis looks in flashes, he tends to disappear late in games, which usually indicates a conditioning issue, something that would not be surprising considering the amount of time he has missed this season due to injury. If he can get his conditioning level to the point where he can be this effective on a consistent basis, this defensive line will undoubtedly be one of the best units in football in the not-so-distant future.

Mike Devito/Sione Pouha – We bunched these two together because our evaluation of each of them remains the same as it has all year. DeVito is the work horse of this group. He is extremely effective in occupying multiple blockers against the run, but provides very little to no help against the pass. Pouha, still clearly hampered by the lingering back issue, shows that he can still be a very effective NT when healthy. His comfort level seems to vary throughout the course of games, and when he is visibly stiff in his bend, he performs at a noticeably inferior level. Pouha’s health could be a key factor in this team’s run defense if they end up making an unlikely postseason push. As promising as Ellis is, he does not have nearly the amount of experience or veteran moxie of Pouha. A healthy Pouha would provide the Jets with an effective every down NT, while having the ability to rotate a fresh Ellis in and out of the lineup.

Linebackers – David Harris came extremely close to “top performers” consideration, however, his 10 tackles were more of a result of the improved defensive line play than it was of a superior defensive performance. Harris certainly looked better, as he seemed much faster and more tenacious than he has in recent weeks, however, I’d like to see him gain some consistency moving into the final three games. Bart Scott played extremely aggressive, but a bit out of control at times, causing him to miss some early tackles and bounce off of lead blockers. Still, Scott played a relatively average game, with a very small amount of negative plays. Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas were both excellent in the run again, but continue to provide virtually no help in rushing the passer. Garrett McIntyre played extremely hard and opportunistic, however, he continues to prove to be nothing more than a role player/special teams starter. On Jacksonville’s sole touchdown of the day, McIntyre was pancaked by Owens’ lead blocker, before the running back hurdled over him en route to a 32 yard touchdown run. DeMario Davis saw more reps than he has in previous weeks, but still seems to be struggling to grasp the defense, as he continues to look unsure for the better part of his reps.

Secondary – Outside of Cromartie, the cornerbacks played slightly above average. Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster did decent jobs in coverage throughout the day, and neither of them were beat for anything significant. Wilson struggled against hitches and comeback routes again, though, another indication that he has relatively stiff hips that are hampering his ability to change direction. Lankster made, what could have been, a disastrous mistake by going for an interception on 4th down of the Jaguars final possession, rather than knocking the ball down. The pass went right through his hands and into the hands of the intended Jaguars WR, extending the drive for another set of downs. Fortunately for Lankster, Quinton Coples is on his team.

LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell each looked impressive again. Landry is a menace in the box, and seems to be expanding his range in coverage as the weeks pass. Bell is the ultimate communicator in the secondary, which seems to be helping the less experienced guys come along more and more. Antonio Allen was impressive in the box. He was sent on blitzes a few times off the edge, showing excellent burst and a knack for getting to the passer. Against the run, he showed an impressive ability to use his hands to get separation, and he even drew a holding call on Mercedes Lewis. Expect to see more Allen in some blitz packages this Monday night.

Turn On The Jets Offensive Film Breakdown – Jets vs. Jaguars

Turn On The Jets answers your questions on the New York Jets offensive game film from their game against Jacksonville

The Turn On The Jets offensive film breakdown this week is going to focus on a handful of questions I received on Twitter – All the questions generally broke out into the following four categories, which I will review section by section. Make sure to check back later today for Chris Gross‘ defensive film breakdown.

1 – Wide Receiver Separation

Many people were curious if the Jets wide receivers were getting any type of separation against a below average Jacksonville secondary. There was only 19 attempted passes by Mark Sanchez, in what was a highly conservative game plan. To put it bluntly, the Jets basically ran a high-school passing attack this past Sunday. Extremely simplistic and meant to give Sanchez easy, quick reads that would equate to a high completion percentage. Yet, how did the receivers fare with their limited routes?

Overall, they were relatively average. Yes, there were situations where they struggled to create separation as seen below when Mardy Gilyard runs a comeback route and curls directly behind the cornerback. Needless to say, there is a reason Gilyard has been unemployed in the NFL more than he’s been employed.

But outside of him and a few instances from other receivers, the situation wasn’t a complete disaster. Jeremy Kerley continued to run crisp, quick routes and gets himself plenty of separation like shown below but Mark Sanchez just missed him. Chaz Schilens had a good day, consistently getting himself open outside of a sideline comeback route that should have never been thrown his way. He got excellent separation twice on a boot route, including this 17 yard completion below.

2 – Mark Sanchez’s General Play

Meh. The Jets literally ran a high school passing attack, which consisted of them running about 3 different basic passing plays out of a few different alignments and formations. They ran boot, quick rub routes (short speed outs) to the outside and three step slant/comeback combinations. Sanchez did OK with this but generally played timid and still missed more throws than you’d like to see in this type of attack (like the Kerley comeback above). Look at this boot route – He has Chaz Schilens open for a big gain but instead he pulls the ball down and runs for 4 yards.

This hesitation likely comes from having two deep balls to Schilens the previous week dropped and intercepted, along with an emphasis from the coaching staff to play safe. However, if we see Braylon Edwards running the same route this week, I can guarantee that Sanchez makes this throw.

Outside of his 37 yard completion to Jeff Cumberland late in the fourth, Sanchez didn’t make any plays that you’d classify as “very good.” He basically had a mix of proper decisions, good throws mixed in with some missed throws and poor reads. The completion to Cumberland was a thing of beauty however…just a frustrating glimpse of his first round talent.

3 – Running Back Comparison

Bilal Powell and Shonn Greene put up nearly identical numbers, with Powell having a slightly higher yards per carry. Both players are very comparable on a week to week basis but the film maintains that Powell is a little quicker and can make a little more happen when less is available. Surprisingly it was Powell who was more effective going directly up the middle, while Greene was getting more from the outside counters. Here are two inside handoffs, the first one is Greene which went for 9 yards, the second one is Powell which went for 13 yards. Powell gets more yardage because he is quicker through the hole and is quicker with his cuts at the second level.

To Greene’s credit, he showed better vision and decisiveness on counter handoffs than Powell. Both backs were benefitted by a superior game from the Jets offensive line.

4 – Offensive Line

Outside of D’Brickashaw Ferguson letting Jason Babin beat him for a strip sack, this was an excellent all-around performance from the Jets offensive line. In the second half, they simply took over the football game and drove Jacksonville defenders all over the field, clearing big lanes for Greene and Powell. Look at the blocking on this counter –

To their credit, Austin Howard and Matt Slauson had particularly strong games despite having up and down seasons. Both were borderline dominant in the running game. Nick Mangold had arguably his best game of the season and made the PFF All-Week 14 Team. Vladimir Ducasse played limited snaps but Slauson looked better out there and was in the line-up for both touchdown drives. Jason Smith also deserves credit for strong blocking as an extra tight end.

New York Jets Defensive Film Breakdown: Week 13

Chris Gross with his weekly film breakdown of the Jets defensive performance, looking at how they shut down Arizona

Although it has become an afterthought in the wake of the earth shattering move that replaced the embattled Mark Sanchez with second year pro Greg McElroy this past Sunday, the New York Jets actually provided what was arguably their best defensive effort of the season. While this assertion must certainly be taken with a grain of salt due to the unbelievably poor quality of offensive play from the Arizona Cardinals, there are still several reasons to be excited about what the Jets did last week. Is Ryan Lindley the worst quarterback to start an NFL game this year (and possibly ever)? Yes, probably. However, New York’s defensive performance during this contest goes far beyond the offensive ineptitude of Arizona.

For this week’s defensive film breakdown, we will format this column as we normally do — top performers, individual defensive line play, and positional breakdowns of the linebackers and secondary. However, this week we will highlight the obvious signs of progress from within this unit as we move into the final month of the season.

Week 13 Top Defensive Performers:

Muhammad Wilkerson, DE: No surprises here. Wilkerson has been playing at a high level all season, and is finally beginning to get some of the recognition that he deserves. In Arizona’s first few offensive series, the game plan was obvious — do whatever it takes to neutralize number 96. The film repeatedly shows the offensive line adjusting their line calls and blocking schemes, whether it was a run or pass play, to provide extra help to whichever side of the line Wilkerson was lined up on. On passing downs, if Wilkerson was at a 1 or 3 technique, the center opened toward the second year defensive end 100% of the time. If Wilkerson was at the 5 technique, or on the edge, a tight end or back would stay in to provide help, with the guard to that side also offering assistance with an unoccupied gap over him. If it were a run play, Wilkerson would simply be doubled, or the ball would be run away from him. Throughout the first half of this game, there was not a single play that Wilkerson was unaccounted for. Credit the Cardinals coaching staff for drawing up their game plan based solely around avoiding the Jets best defensive player in the front 7.

Although much attention was paid to Wilkerson, the Cardinals could only hold him off for so long. Wilkerson has been developing an excellent knack for defending the double team, something he has likely been working on all season long with defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, as the mounting double teams have become a surplus this year. Wilkerson’s block recognition has become flawless. On film, he displays excellent instincts to get a pre-snap read on the opposing offensive lineman by noticing “tells” in their stances and the overall offensive formation. He always seems to be one step ahead of who he is lined up against, and that reveals a lot about, not only his knowledge of the game, but the amount of time he puts in in the film room as well.

What really stood out about Wilkerson from this past Sunday was his recovery ability. As excellent as he is in getting these pre-snap reads, there are still some plays where he makes a mental error by taking the wrong step, or peeking his head in the wrong area. In these few cases, Wilkerson displayed a tremendous ability recover from his own mistakes. If he was beat to the outside on a reach block, he screamed to the sideline to regain his outside leverage. If he got hit on a down block, he quickly fought across the opposing offensive lineman’s face to maintain his position.

Simply put, Wilkerson has tremendous physical ability, but his intellect for the game is what is beginning to carry him to the next level. In the few instances where the Cardinals would attempt to block him with only one player, Wilkerson caused havoc. In these cases, he stopped two running plays for minimal or no gain, and recorded a sack. He is an obvious mismatch when offensive lineman attempt to go on an island with him. Combine that with his developing ability to beat double teams, and Wilkerson is becoming a nightmare for the offensive lines he is facing.

Antonio Cromartie, CB: Again, no surprise here. Cromartie held one of the league’s best wide receivers to just one reception for 23 yards, a play that he actually maintained decent coverage on, but was beaten by a tremendous catch from Larry Fitzgerald, combined with what was actually a very good throw from Arizona quarterback Ryan Lindley (realistically, his only one of the contest). Following his sole reception, Fitzgerald was targeted only 6 more times throughout the entire day. By the middle of the second half, Lindley hardly bothered to look his way. Cromartie was on him like white on rice, regardless of the type of route it was. This has been a tremendous year for Cromartie, who has elevated his play to the elite level of NFL defensive backs in the absence of Darrelle Revis. At this point, it is a complete toss up between Cromartie and Wilkerson for this team’s MVP.

Bart Scott, LB: Scott played what was, without a doubt, his best game in the past year and a half. Looking beyond his impressive stat line of 5 tackles, 2 QB hits, and a sack, Scott played extremely fast and aggressive, asserting himself as a player that the entire Arizona Cardinals offense, particularly Lindley, wanted no part of. His reads were incredibly fast, and his reaction time was even faster. Scott came down hill very aggressively all game, and took on lead blockers the way he did when he first became a Jet back in 2009. There were multiple plays where he blew up the leading fullback or wrapping offensive lineman, allowing himself to either make the play on the ball carrier, or freeing up another defender to make the tackle. Combined with his rediscovered swagger, the chip on his shoulder that Scott played with this past week was a microcosm of the entire Jets defensive unit.

LaRon Landry, S: It is difficult to believe anything that Head Coach Rex Ryan says these days, however his claim that Landry played like a heat seeking missile is 100% accurate. Landry was all over the field this past Sunday in both coverage and in the box, defending the run. His interception was a great display of athleticism, and route recognition. Lined up in the center field role, Landry went through his normal coverage progressions, recognized the receiver running a seam route in front of him, and jumped it with perfect timing, taking the ball away before Lindley even realized what was going on. When lined up in the box, Landry was a pure mismatch. Tight ends and receivers lined up close to the line of scrimmage had virtually no chance of blocking him throughout the entire game, as he relentlessly displayed quickness in his hand strikes with impressive strength to rid anyone who attempted to get in his way, while defending the run. In a year of turmoil for Mike Tannenbaum, this is one personnel decision that the embattled GM got right. The Jets would be wise to lock Landry up for the future.

Rex Ryan and the Defensive coaching staff: Again, while the task of game planning for Arizona wasn’t quite the challenge of defending a team like New England, the Cardinals are still an NFL offense with very capable weapons. Ryan’s schematics and in-game adjustments were simply brilliant this past Sunday. Using a surplus of amoeba packages (more on this coming later in the week), Ryan took advantage of Arizona’s rookie quarterback by mixing up the fronts and disguising blitzes and coverage that made Lindley visibly uncomfortable. When Ryan realized Arizona’s plan to shift their passing protection toward Wilkerson, he exploited them. On Bart Scott and David Harris’s combined sack in the second half, Wilkerson was lined up at the 3 technique, with Pace to his left, and two other defenders on the right side of the line. At the snap of the ball, the offensive line again shifted the protection toward Wilkerson, with the center opening up toward him. Realizing the gap that this created in the middle of the line, Ryan and Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine, sent an inside blitz of Harris and Scott, who timed it perfectly. The guard was forced to pick one of them (Scott) to attempt to block, leaving the other (Harris) with a clear path to the quarterback. Scott beat the attempted block anyway, and the play resulted in a sack of Lindley and a 9 yard loss. Ryan has come under criticism as a head coach this season, but in terms of his defensive mind, he is without question among the best in the NFL.

The overall play of the defense was also a direct reflection of Ryan. The unit played with a obvious sense of resentment toward all of its detractors, displaying the angered attitude that it had played with in the early years of the Ryan era. Give credit to Rex for this. He had his guys motivated, prepared, and ready to make a statement this past week, and that is exactly what they did. Ryan Lindley was so shook by the 4th quarter that he began to badly rush his throws, as he clearly wanted no part of any further contact. Ryan’s goal was the rattle the rookie 6th round draft choice, and he succeeded with the best defensive effort of the season. Well done, Rex.

Defensive Line

Mike DeVito: There cannot be enough said about the value of DeVito’s relentless play and leadership. The veteran defensive tackle has remained a stalwart against the run all season, and continuously occupies blockers the way a player in his position is meant to in this scheme. His motor is above and beyond the majority of players you will see in this league, as displayed by his tenacious play and menacing pursuit. Although he provides little help in the pass rush, DeVito is a staple of this front, one that cannot afford to be lost when he hits free agency this offseason.

Sione Pouha: We’ve been saying this all season, but Pouha is visibly not at full health. Sunday was basically a microcosm of how he has played all season long. On some plays, he seems to have difficulty getting into his stance, as he looks very tight in his bend, making him visibly uncomfortable. When he shows this, he has difficulty getting off the ball, allowing himself to easily be blocked or driven back. Conversely, there are also plays where he looks loose and comfortable in his stance, and this is when he displays the explosion and strength that Jets fans have become accustomed to. When he can get off the ball in a ferocious manner, he commands multiple blockers at all times, and because of this, the entire front seven has one less opponent to worry about, allowing the linebackers and ends to be put in optimal situations. The entire unit is better when Pouha plays well, but unfortunately these plays are becoming few and far between due to his lingering back issue. To his credit, Pouha realizes the lack of depth behind him, with second year NT Kenrick Ellis also nursing an injury, and rigorously fights through his pain and discomfort. Pouha, like DeVito, is a player whose work ethic and leadership cannot be valued enough.

Quinton Coples: Coples played in just 19 snaps this past week, which is the only eyebrow raising decision by the coaching staff, considering the vast potential he has shown. However, in his limited reps Coples displayed a bit of up and down play. He seems to still be coming into his own, trying to find his niche in the defense this season. Like Wilkerson, the Jets like to use Coples’ versatility by aligning him everywhere along the defensive front. Once he begins to become more and more comfortable, Coples will be a force on this line with Wilkerson, as he has all of the tools (speed, strength, agility, explosiveness), and size to be a dominant defensive end in this league. It seems as though the coaching staff is taking their time in developing Coples, which is seemingly the correct move, particularly with how late in the season it is (remember he is a rookie), but the little things he is picking up on are going to help him become that dominant force next season, and in the seasons that follow.

Kenrick Ellis: Ellis also played limited reps, as he appeared to pull up with some type of injury in the second half. However, in those limited reps, Ellis displayed the skill set of a very good 3-4 NT. As he does have the tremendous size and strength necessary for the position, he also displayed the agility that could make him a true difference make as he progresses in his career. One particular play that stands out from Sunday’s game was his use of a flat step technique — a technique that allows defensive lineman to lineup in one gap, while shooting another, and not losing any ground in the process — against Arizona’s center. Ellis lined up in the A gap to the center’s left, and displayed agility that he has yet to show this season, as he seamlessly moved across the center’s face, easily getting into the backfield before the center could come close to recovering. When Ellis can get himself healthy, he will be a key to this defense, and will likely begin to take more and more reps from Pouha, before eventually claiming the full time job.

The Linebackers: Along with Scott, this was the most complete game this unit has played all season. Scott’s improved play seemed to inspire David Harris, who also appeared faster and more explosive than he has all year. Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas, although heavily criticized for their lack of pass rushing abilities, still remain the two best outside linebackers on the team by a landslide. While each of these guys played with a relentless motor and undying tenacity, they also proved how effective they are at setting the edge and turning plays outside in. Fans are screaming for these two to be replaced, but it will not happen, nor should it at this point. Yes, neither are effective in rushing the passer, but as every down players, they are by far the best available guys to put on the field right now. DeMario Davis saw very limited reps and still seems to be somewhat uncomfortable and unsure at times. While he needs playing time to gain his comfort and familiarity, it is no secret as to why he did not play much considering how well both Scott and Harris performed.

The Secondary: Like the rest of the defense, this was easily the best the secondary has looked all season. Before the game, I questioned the success the Jets would have if they expected to put Ellis Lankster or Kyle Wilson in man coverage on Michael Floyd, Early Doucet, and Andre Roberts. Well, that is exactly what the Jets did, and each of them rose to the occasion. Outside of Wilson’s poor defensive holding penalty early in the game, there was really only one play where he was out of position — a comeback route by Michael Floyd that was poorly overthrown by Lindley. Wilson has struggled with these types of routes all year, as he seems to have trouble changing direction and opening his hips at times, but on Sunday he made tremendous strides toward improving these flaws. Yeremiah Bell was also all over the place, in both his run and pass defense, and clearly provides a leadership element that the younger players in the defense feed off of. Donnie Fletcher saw extended reps and certainly did not do anything noteworthy in terms of mistakes. This unit displayed excellent pre-snap communication, as displayed through their hand motions and calls based on formations and shifts, while seamlessly mastering switches in assignments on crossing routes designed to create miscommunications in the secondary.

Although this wasn’t a great test, the Jets defense showed that they still have the potential to be a dominant unit in this league. Consistency across the board will be key in these final four games, particularly against San Diego and Buffalo who, despite their struggles, still maintain a surplus of playmaking ability.

 

Turn On The Jets Offensive Film Breakdown – McElroy’s 10 Dropbacks

Breaking down Greg McElroy’s 10 dropbacks in Jets/Cardinals game this past Sunday

We’ve been slacking a bit with our film breakdowns the past few weeks here at TOJ, so we are hitting you with a double dose in the next 24 hours. In this article, I will look at all of Greg McElroy’s dropbacks from his first NFL action this past Sunday. Chris Gross will also provide his regular terrific defensive film breakdown shortly after.

On to McElroy…

1. 2nd and 6 at ARZ 43 yard line – Incomplete To Stephen Hill – The Jets ran a stop and go on each side of the formation out of a standard 2 wide receiver, one tight end look. Jeremy Kerley was out to the right and Hill was out to the left with Cumberland working over the middle. Pre-snap Kerley faced press coverage from Patrick Peterson and Hill had William Gay playing about 7 yards off him. The Cardinals had a one-high safety look, with three linebackers dropping into coverage in the middle of the field, taking away the deep in-route from Cumberland. McElroy makes the right read here but instead of floating the ball deep, he should have realized that Hill ran a poor route and didn’t trick the corner at all with his hesitation. When he saw Gay running 2 yards out in front of him, he should have thrown the ball on a line to Hill’s back shoulder for what would have been an easy completion. Instead he floats the deep ball, which is nearly intercepted. Good read but bad route from Hill and poor throw from McElroy, although understandable considering it was his first NFL pass.

2. 3rd and 6 at ARZ 43 yard line – 8 yard completion to Stephen Hill – The Jets ran tight twins to each side of the formation with Jeff Cumberland in the slot to the left with Stephen Hill outside him. Hill runs a 8 yard speed out with Cumberland running the flag route from the slot, a common route combination. Chaz Schilens runs a short drag route from the slot on the right side of the formation. McElroy made a smart, decisive read as soon as the corner and safety on Hill’s side backed up a step. He didn’t throw a perfect ball but he put it where Hill could make a play on it, which Hill did…elevating to make a very nice catch as he took a big hit from the corner. Well done all around.

3. 2nd and 7 at ARZ 32 yard line – 3 yard run – Jets ran a standard play-action bootleg with Cumberland as the primary option in the flat and Konrad Reuland dragging across as the secondary option. Both were blanketed from the get-go. McElroy recognized this and showed zero hesitation to tuck the ball away and take-off for a short gain. He also drew a 15 yard penalty for taking a hit out of bounds. It is unfair to compare him to Mark Sanchez with a such a small sample size, but this is a play Sanchez frequently hesitates on (at least in 2012), pumping the ball and either takes a sack or throws it away instead of just taking the short running gain.

4. 3rd and 1 at ARZ 1 yard line – 1 yard touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland – Not much to say here, the Jets completely fooled Arizona on the play-fake and McElroy got a great seal block from Brandon Moore to give him all day on the rollout. He could have ran it in but instead floated it to a completely wide open Jeff Cumberland for a touchdown. Easy.

5. 3rd and 6 at ARZ 35 yard line – 2 yard completion to Kahlil Bell – This was either a poor play-call or poor execution from the Jets wide receivers, as the primary target appeared to be Jeremy Kerley on a short crossing pattern. However, Chaz Schilens also runs a short cross and settles in the middle of the field, clogging up the zone and making it easy for the Arizona linebackers to cover both players. McElroy steps up in the pocket and dumps it off to Bell, who promptly gets hit and fumbles. Considering what the coverage offered, this was the right decision by McElroy and a heady play to swing the ball to Bell instead of trying to run for the first down himself (which he wouldn’t have been able to).

6. 2nd and 11 at NYJ 25 yard line – 5 yard completion to Jeremy Kerley – Another encouraging quick read and throw from McElroy. Kerley ran a speed out from the slot, while Chaz Schilens ran a slant from split end. The linebacker dropped and safety closed, making the window tight for the slant so McElroy hit the speed out…not an easy throw and one that is particularly encouraging considering his reputation for a weak arm. This was also a very nice catch by Kerley.

7. 3rd and 6 at NYJ 30 – Incomplete pass – There was clearly some kind of miscommunication here. McElroy rolls out to the right and all receivers run routes that appear to expect him to roll out to the left (inside receiver out left runs a wheel/stop route, outside right receiver runs drag across the middle) – A safe guess is that McElroy rolled the wrong way but it is impossible to know definitively.

8. 2nd and 7 at ARZ 47 yard line – 4 yard run – The Jets again roll McElroy to the right and he quickly sees his primary options covered up well by the Arizona defense (A Stephen Hill backside drag and a Jeff Cumberland out). He might have been able to throw it quickly to Bilal Powell in the flat but that likely would have resulted in a 4-5 yard gain as well. Considering the coverage, it is hard to fault McElroy’s decision to run here.

9. 3rd and 3 at ARZ 43 yard line – PENALTY – Illegal Contact – We see the good and bad of McElroy on this play and he caught a big break on the illegal contact call which probably shouldn’t have been made. McElroy made a smart protection check pre-snap to bring Jeff Cumberland into the formation to pick-up the outside free rusher. However, after Hill beats the press coverage, McElroy needs to throw the ball on a line before the high safety breaks over the top. He instead floats the ball and it is intercepted. This should have been a big play to Hill. Beyond that, he also has Jeremy Kerley on the backside dig for a big gain.

10. 3rd and 9 at ARZ 37 yard line – 13 yard completion to Jeremy Kerley – The throw of the day from McElroy and the catch of the day from Kerley. They executed a back-shoulder fade against one of the league’s top corners in Patrick Peterson. This required perfect timing and placement from McElroy and a pretty one-handed juggling grab from Kerley. A big-boy conversion in a big-boy spot.

Overall, it was an encouraging debut from McElroy. He wasn’t without his mistakes but considering it was his first NFL action and he received barely any work with the first offense during the week, this was impressive. Before you enshrine him in Canton, remember Mark Sanchez went 18/31 for 272 yards with a TD in his first NFL start.

New York Jets Defensive Film Breakdown: Week 10

A defensive film breakdown of the Jets vs. Seattle with a preview of how they match-up against St. Louis

With 10 weeks and 9 games already in the books for the 2012 New York Jets, the team’s record is extremely reflective of their overall team play. The Jets seem to only play well in stretches, on one side of the ball. This team has struggled mightily in two thirds of the game over the past few weeks. Luckily, we’re here to break down the sole third that has not been an entire disappointment for the better part of this season.

The Jets week 10 defensive effort was actually stellar for the most part of their matchup at Seattle. This unit was forced into some tough spots, field position wise, on multiple occasions throughout this game, and, for the most part, did a fantastic job of not giving up their ground in tough situations. Outside of about 2 possessions through the first three quarters, the defensive play of New York was lights out. Unfortunately, with virtually no support from the offense and special teams, this group was worn out by the fourth quarter, resulting in the inflated score that now shows on the stat sheet.

However, don’t be fooled by the numbers. Defensively, New York played much better than the box score shows. The front seven, particularly the defensive line, was the most impressive unit on the field, among other individuals as well. Rookie Quinton Coples and 2nd year Defensive End Muhammed Wilkerson have not put up monstrous stats thus far, but each of them continue to prove that their worth on this defense is virtually invaluable. Among the two young promising defensive ends, this group as a whole was quite impressive, outside of a few subpar performances and lapses in play.

For this week’s defensive film breakdown, we will highlight the group’s top individual performers, followed by our usual format of breaking down each group as a whole, with an emphasis on the defensive line. We’ll then take a look on what it all means for Sunday’s must-win game in St. Louis.  Lets jump right in.

Week 10 Top Defensive Performers:

Antonio Cromartie, CB: Cromartie continues to assert his dominance since the loss of Darrelle Revis in week 3 to a season ending ACL tear. Coverage wise, the contest in Seattle seemed effortless for Cromartie. When matched up with Golden Tate, the same player who took joy in facing Kyle Wilson, Cromartie was extremely physical and aggressive, not allowing Tate to get off the line easily. On film, Tate’s frustration when lined up across from Cromartie was obvious. While matched up with Sidney Rice, Cromartie was on him like…well, white on rice (see what I did there?). The sole play that Rice was able to get a step on Cromartie, Seattle’s attempted flea flicker, was a fantastic display of the type of athlete Cromartie really is. Trailing by nearly 5 yards, Cromartie demonstrated make up speed that can only be seen when watching a handful of NFL defensive backs. Still, Rice had a chance to make a tremendous catch, but all hope for that was lost thanks to a heads-up, last minute, punch at the ball from Cromartie. The Jets defacto defensive leader also displayed his high level of football intelligence (save the Children’s names jokes, we’re talking about football here), as well as a phenomenal feel for the defense, as he repeatedly sniffed out routes before the ball was even released by Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson, as he abandonded his coverage to jump the route of the would be intended receiver on more than one occassion. It’s hard to think about where this defense would be this season if not for the efforts of Cromartie up until this point.

Quinton Coples, DE: Many casual observers of this team, and league in general, have been deeming Coples as a poor selection by the Jets in last year’s draft simply because he has yet to put up a massive stat line. This assertion could not be farther from the truth. Coples may not be jumping off of the stat sheet just yet, however his play on the interior of the defensive line has been fantastic thus far, and continues to improve week to week. The strongest point in Coples game right now, outside of his pure athleticism, is his growing ability to utilize his length. Coples’ reach is that of defensive stalwart, and the extension he has been getting on opposing offensive lineman is becoming a serious problem for the rookie’s opponents in every game. Also playing with great leverage, Coples’ effective use of his long arms allows him to get excellent separation against the run and pass, giving him the ability to dictate what he wants to do more often than not. The sacks and double-digit tackle games are sure to come down the road, but for now Coples is getting better on the little things — footwork, hand technique, leverage, separation, block recognition, etc.– with every rep he takes. Jets fans should be ecstatic over this selection, as a year or two from now Coples could very well be considered among the NFL’s top defensive lineman, if the trend of improvement continues.

Muhammed Wilkerson, DE: Like Coples, Wilkerson has had his doubters this year, simply because he isn’t putting up monster numbers. However, consider this: Wilkerson is, by far, the best player in the entire Jets front seven this year. Think about what that means for a second. Wilkerson is the best performer in a front 7 that has struggled greatly this season. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, opposing offenses recognize this and circle number 96 on their gameplans every single week. Considering the attention he has drawn, as displayed by the vast amount of double teams he faces on a weekly basis, along with the fact that teams are seemingly sliding their protection toward him on passing downs, it suddenly isn’t very difficult to undertand why Wilkerson isn’t putting up the huge numbers that many were projecting heading into 2012. When taking all of this into account, it is truly impressive that he has still been as productive as he has been. In a recent ranking of the top defensive ends in the NFL, Pro Football Focus put Wilkerson second to only JJ Watt, based on their grading criteria which takes all aspects of defensive line play into account. Wilkerson is the foundation of this front seven, and proved why yet again last Sunday in Seattle, where he proved to be adapting to all of the attention he is getting by effectively separating double teams, recognizing shifts in protection toward him, and playing with an overall confidence that is displayed by only a few on this entire roster. Pair Wilkerson and Coples with a healthy Nose Tackle and an effective pass rushing Outside Linebacker, and all of a sudden people are talking about this Jets defense as having one of the most effective front sevens in all of football.

Mike DeVito, DT: I haven’t been able to say enough about what DeVito brings to this team in terms of motor, energy, and leadership all season long, a trend that continued in Seattle. While DeVito certainly isn’t the flashiest guy you’ll see, he is the prototype for what a blue collared player really is. With a relentless motor, and strong grasp of assignment, DeVito continues to lead through example. We could easily break down the plays in Seattle where he mugged opposing offensive lineman, resulting in a tackle for loss, or for short gain, plus his strip sack, but even that wouldn’t justify DeVito’s overall body of work. He continues to be plugged in all over the line, at the 1, 3, and 5 technique spots, and rarely ever lets down. The 1 technique is probably his weakest position, due to the fact that he does not possess the elite strength and size to consistently battle double teams, however his versatility as an interior lineman, although often overlooked, should not be something viewed as expendable. An impending free agent, DeVito should be offered a new contract by New York following the season. His numbers will likely not break the bank, and one would think he would be fine with a cap friendly deal, so there should be no reason for him to be playing elsewhere next year. That is, of course, unless Mike Tannenbaum continues his trend of letting blue collared veterans with great leadership ability walk out the door (See Jones, Thomas; Richardson, Tony; Faneca, Allen; Ellis, Shaun; Ihedigbo, James; Cotchery, Jerricho; Washington, Leon).

Bart Scott, ILB: You did not misread that. Although he hasn’t been the player he was in 2009 and 2010 for much of the past two season, Bart Scott actually played with a similar level of intensity and aggressiveness that made him such a force during the Jets’ back to back AFC Championship game seasons. Scott looked quicker and more aggressive than he has all year against Seattle, as he displayed the ability to fly downhill, take on lead blockers, and completely stuff any run headed his way. Hell, he even registered a rare sack for a veteran his age, nursing a toe injury, in the loss. Is the Madbacker of old completely back? I don’t think he will ever be. However, the flashes of his former self that were on display last Sunday are surely a sign of encouragement entering the final seven weeks.

Defensive Line:

Sione Pouha – Pouha has clearly not been himself this season, seemingly nursing a back injury that has prevented him from playing with the level of explosion and leverage Jets fans have become accustomed to. However, the Seattle game showed more glimpses of the old Sione than we have seen all season long. He was finally able to show some explosion and strength off of the ball, resulting in him occupying multiple blockers on numerous occasions. This team’s lack of ability to defend the run this season stems a vast amount from the lack of play at the NT position, with Pouha not playing at 100%, and Kenrick Ellis missing extensive time. However, Pouha’s play on Sunday was a major contribution to why the front seven players listed in our top defensive performers were able to excel. Pouha’s ability to clog the middle with multiple blockers sprung linebacker Bart Scott to be able to roam free, fly around, and make the plays he made, while also creating more one on one scenarios for Coples and DeVito. Wilkerson still drew a good amount of double teams, but if Pouha can continue to increase his play, it will likely begin to limit the attention that can be paid to big Mo. While he proved to still be virtually useless in rushing the passer, a healthy Pouha’s value against the run is indispensable.

Bryan Thomas – This was probably one of the best performances, if not the best performance, that Thomas has put on all season. While he still struggles in space, and rushing the passer on a grand scale, Thomas was able to effectively set the edge against the run, while actually proving to be a handful for Russell Okung. Thomas displayed solid leverage, and a good feel for the overall blocking scheme of Seattle, helping contribute to his team high 7 tackles, while adding half a sack as well. A good sign, but one that must keep Jets fans skeptical, based on his overall performance up until this point of the season. Cerebrally, Thomas is great. Physically, he is at the point in his career where it is difficult to put together performances similar to his against Seattle on a weekly basis.

Calvin Pace – Pace, like Thomas, put together a rather surprising performance to the outside observer. However, if you have been reading these breakdowns throughout the seaon, Pace’s performance was right on point with what we have been saying since week 1. Pace is very solid against the run, can set the edge well, has excellent technique, but just lacks that second gear at this point in his career. Well, last week’s game summed that up to perfection. Pace was his usual tenacious self inside the box, and proved once again, to have a variety of pass rush moves, effective to get beyond the opposing tackle, yet not quite enough to actually get to the quarterback in a timely manner. Mike DeVito’s sack strip was actually caused by a ferocious rush by Pace that forced Russell Wilson to become frazzled to the point where he carelessly stepped into Mike DeVito’s interior rush, without protecting the football, resulting in one of the best defensive plays of the day. Pace still struggles greatly in coverage, but at this point he and Thomas are still the best options as everydown OLBs on the roster, which tells you all you need to know about how poorly this team’s depth has been constructed.

Garrett McIntyre – McIntyre continued to show a high motor against Seattle, recording a couple tackles in situations where he came off the backside unblocked, but he is a perfect example of how poor the depth is at the position. I am unsure if I can think of another NFL team that he would be getting meaningful reps with.

Linebackers:

With the exception of Scott, the overall play of this unit was just slightly above average. David Harris looked better than he has in recent weeks, but he is far from being the dominant force on the inside that the Jets were hoping he’d become. He did a much better job of taking on lead blockers, with the correct shoulder, either forcing run plays into his help, or allowing him to make the plays himself.

DeMario Davis was used a bit more as an edge rusher last week, where he seemed quite comfortable. On one particular play early in the game, Davis came off the edge with great closing speed, and should have had a sack on Wilson, who was forced out of the pocket on the play, but was held by Seattle’s Right Tackle, without a call from the official staring directly at the line of scrimmage. Davis, unfortunately, did have more lapses in coverage last week, however, and seemed to be caught out of position on some run plays. One play that stood out was an edge run to his side, in which Calvin Pace spilled the lead blocker to force the back to the edge, assuming he’d have the help of Davis to make the play, but the rookie linebacker was nowhere to be found, turning what should have been a 1-2 yard gain into about an 8 yard gain. Physically, Davis is proving to be quite substantial, but mentally, he still has lightyears to go.

Marcus Dowtin and Ricky Sapp flashed some of their athleticism and potential, however, there has yet to be a large enough sample of their play to give a fair evaluation at this point. Sapp did make an inexperienced move, however, on Marshawn Lynch’s fumble that, if recovered, would have given the Jets the ball inside the Seattle 10 yard line. Sapp had a clear chance to simply fall on the ball and secure it for New York, but he instead tried to pick it up with a clear path to the endzone, causing him to take his eyes off of it, thus allowing Seattle to pounce on the ball and maintain posession. Hard to fault a guy just signed from the practice squad for wanting to make a game changing play, but fundamentally, this was a major lapse. To use Tannenbaum’s company line, a recovered fumble there may have changed the complexion of the game. Who knows?

Secondary:

Kyle Wilson’s faults are magnified to their highest degree, and rightfully so. Wilson struggles tremendously in man coverage, and is notorious for the finger wag that has been highly documented here at TOJ. However, despite the Golden Tate touchdown on the first drive, Wilson responded rather well, with the exception of his ability to change direction. Wilson did a good job of covering the deep ball after Tate’s touchdown, but where he really struggles is on any type of hitch or comeback routes. His stop and go ability, and route recognition, is quite poor, something that can surely be taken advantage of.

Ellis Lankster has proved to be effective as a blitzer and in some zone coverage schemes, however, like Wilson, he struggles mightily in man coverage. Sidney Rice’s touchdown is a perfect example of his struggles. Lankster completely mugged Rice, who somehow was still able to make the catch over the out of position DB. Unfortunately, like OLB, I am unsure of who else New York could turn to at this point, particularly with Isaiah Trufant recently placed on the injured reserve list.

The Safeties played their usual game – solid against the run, looked for the big hit, and didn’t give up any real significant plays. The only poor play that comes to mind is LaRon Landry’s pass interference penalty in the endzone, but to me, that was a highly questionable call considering there was little contact and the ball seemed rather uncatchable. Landry proved again to be effective in the box, while Bell played another smart game with a high display of veteran savvy.

This Jets team is at a breaking point right now. There are two ways the season can go at this point – somewhat average, or a complete disaster. How they respond this week in St. Louis will be a sign of things to come for the 6 games to follow. Defensively, this unit is a healthy nose tackle and a pass rushing OLB away from being dominant once again. Inside Linebacker may end up being an issue if Davis contiues to struggle mentally, but I don’t neccesarily see that happening. Of course, Harris will need to regain form as well, but he is slowly beginning to play more effectively than not lately.

This week in St. Louis, the Jets front seven seems to hold the advantage against St. Louis’s offensive line, however the key comes down to Danny Amendola. If Rex Ryan and Co. think that they can put Lankster or Wilson on Amendola in man coverage, expect a 8-10 catch, 100+ yard game for the WR. With the way Coples and Wilkerson have been playing, this could easily be the week that they each register a sack. Stop the run, put Cromartie on Amendola, and get Bradford to the ground are all very realistic possibilities that should lead to defensive domination for New York on Sunday.