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.

Picture 2
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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Picture 4

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).

Picture 5
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.

 

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

Turn On The Jets breaks down the offensive game film from Jets vs. Patriots

Turn On The Jets is back with another offensive film breakdown. Make sure to check back later in the day for Chris Gross’ breakdown of the defensive game tape. Today the primary focus is going to be on the passing game, which the Jets found a good amount of success with against New England. We will be looking at both “Good Sanchez” and “Bad Sanchez” and why Jeremy Kerley, Dustin Keller and Stephen Hill were so successful at getting open. 

The first two passing plays of the game were a perfect demonstration of Mark Sanchez’s inconsistency at quarterback. Tony Sparano called for a skinny post from the slot to Jeremy Kerley, which was executed to perfection. A good route from Kerley and a pinpoint throw from Sanchez in-between two defenders for a 20+ yard gain. The next play, Sparano goes right back to the well with the same play except to the opposite side with Stephen Hill in the slot. Encouragingly, Hill runs a very good route and gets himself wide open. Unfortunately, Sanchez overthrows him after just hitting a much harder throw to a much smaller target the play before. Frustrating to say the least.

The presence of Dustin Keller in the line-up made an enormous difference to the Jets passing offense. New England was forced to pay extra attention to Kerley on the outside, leaving Keller with one on one match-ups over the middle. Sanchez is extremely comfortable with Keller, particularly over the middle of the field. These are two separate 10+ yard completions, where Keller runs an option route, breaks the proper way and Sanchez correctly leads him away from the linebacker allowing him to turn up field. Expect to see a ton more of this throughout the year.

Sanchez only threw 12 incompletions throughout this game out of 38 attempts. At least five of those incompletions could be credited as drops. On the whole he was very accurate. However, Sanchez had his share of poor decisions as well. The interception was an indefensible mistake. He had two open receivers underneath, who he ignored and then floated an ugly, under-thrown pass to Stephen Hill. Later in the first half he tried to force this pass to Jeremy Kerley who is double covered and technically triple covered if you count the referee. He was lucky this didn’t turn into his second interception.

An appropriately criticized play-call was Tony Sparano’s decision to throw a slant to Chaz Schilens on 3rd and 1 near the red-zone. Regardless, the play was executed to perfection up until the ball went right through Schilens’ hands. This was a good route, a very good throw and a bad drop. Part of the reason you don’t make this call is because the Jets lack a big receiver who is reliable enough to make this play every single time.

Sanchez and Jeremy Kerley put on a clinic on how to operate the smash/fan combination in this game. Basically the Jets consistently had their outside receiver release on a short stop or in route and would send Kerley on a deep corner from the slot. The Jets completed this four times throughout the game, including this 19 yard gain where Sanchez drops a beautiful pass in all the way across the field.

We further see Sanchez’s arm strength on this touchdown pass to Dustin Keller. Look at how small that window is. Sanchez threw an absolute bullet in-between three defenders. There aren’t many people in the league capable of making this throw and I got news for you, Tim Tebow isn’t one of them.

A major point of contention towards the end of this game was Mark Sanchez taking a third down sack before the Jets go-ahead field goal. Anybody who criticized Sanchez in this situation is clueless (looking at you SNY). The Jets rolled Sanchez out and had Jeremy Kerley wide open at the 5 yard line. Sanchez cocks his arm back to fire it in to him but Kerley slips on his break so Sanchez pulls the ball back down. When he does pull the ball back down, he is immediately wrapped up. He then smartly takes the sack because if he threw the ball away, it would save New England a time-out. Yes, he added 10 yards to the field goal attempt but the Jets were so deep into field goal territory it didn’t matter at that point.

A few other player observations –

Jeremy Kerley – He is developing at such an impressive rate. Kerley runs precise routes and shows tremendous hands/toughness at consistently catching the ball in traffic. Honestly, he looks like a younger, quicker version of Santonio Holmes. Mike Tannenbaum got a steal in the fifth round.

Stephen Hill – His route running is really improving on a weekly basis. Outside of his drop, he easily played his best game as a pro. He made tough catches in traffic and did a nice job working back to the football on his routes. There is still going to be mistakes from time to time but Hill is going to be a very good NFL receiver, it is only a matter of time.

Shonn Greene – A solid effort from Greene, who picked up tough yards and somehow returned after taking an enormous shot from Brandon Spikes. Greene also deserves credit for being active in the passing game, where he made a positive impact and made a few difficult catches.

Joe McKnight – Ran very well, especially considering he played basically on one leg. When he is 100 percent healthy, it is hard to see him not being a much larger part of the offense.

OL – This was an ugly game for Matt Slauson and Brandon Moore. Shockingly, it might not be a bad idea to start giving Ducasse even more of Slauson’s reps. There is no discernible drop off between the two and Ducasse has a higher upside. D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold both played terrific, Pro-Bowl caliber games. Austin Howard was “meh” but the Jets generally do a good job of giving him help.

New York Jets Defensive Film Breakdown: Week 6

Chris Gross breaks down the New York Jets defensive film against the Indianpolis Colts

The New York Jets week 6 dominating performance of the inferior Indianapolis Colts was surely the best collective defensive effort of the season. From top to bottom, the Jets were sound in all facets of their defensive play. The defensive line, without two key players in Sione Pouha and Kenrick Ellis, played their best game of the season against both the run and rushing the passer, the linebackers looked surprisingly rejuvenated and fast, and the secondary continued to impress even without their All-World leader Darrelle Revis. Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine put together a brilliant game plan that clearly had Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck flustered and frustrated by the 4th quarter.

For this week’s defensive film breakdown, we will again format as we did last week, highlighting the game’s top performance, followed by the normal breakdown order. Let’s jump right into it because there is a lot to discuss.

Week 6 Top Defensive Performers:

Aaron Maybin – We have been extremely critical of Aaron Maybin in this column all season long, but it is time to give credit where credit is due. Maybin was very exceptional this past week, easily playing his best game of the season. Although the box score will not show it, Maybin was finally a serious factor in the Jets pass rush this week. We have knocked the former Buffalo Bill thus far this year for not working any pass rush moves into his arsenal, but simply running past the quarterback on a consistent basis. This week, Maybin finally worked in some variety of moves to his rushes, and it payed off tremendously.

On Antonio Cromartie’s first interception of Andrew Luck, Maybin worked a fantastic inside move that the opposing tackle was clearly not expecting, forcing Luck to run out of the pocket and make an off balance throw. Yes, Cromartie made a very nice play on the ball, but make no mistake, this play would not have happened if not for the efforts of Maybin.

Here, Maybin has Colts left tackle, and former first round pick, Anthony Castonzo completely off balance, as he tries to lunge at back to the inside, where Maybin clearly beat him.

As a result, Luck is forced out of the pocket, making an off balanced throw, with neither of his feet on the ground. With no leg drive behind his throw, Luck cannot put the necessary zip on the ball, and misses his target, resulting in the Cromartie interception.

Although Maybin only had half a sack in the box score, he was partially responsible for Muhammad Wilkerson’s strip sack in the 4th quarter.

On this play, Maybin came in on an inside loop stunt which he timed and executed to perfection. The key on these stunts is to sell the initial outside rush, to get the tackle to bail out, then come underneath, across half the length of the line, and establish pressure up the middle. As shown here, Maybin is right in the face of Luck, causing the rookie quarterback to make a decision – either take the sack, or scramble and try to make a play. Luck chooses the latter and the result is as follows.

Luck moves to his left, only to find the grasp of Wilkerson who gets credited with the sack and forced fumble. However, if not for Maybin’s perfectly executed stunt, this play would have not been made.

If Maybin can keep this level of play up, the entire pass rush will be boosted. The way he elevated the play of those around him this past Sunday should be very encouraging to Jets fans. If he does this on a consistent basis, all of a sudden the Jets go from a team that struggles to rush the passer to a team that poses a legitimate threat in that area.

Quinton Coples – As great as Muhammed Wilkerson played this past week, Quinton Coples was the best defensive lineman on the field for the majority of the game. In a full time role, Coples saw a lot of time not only at defensive end, but as a defensive tackle as well, similar to how he was used during his college career at North Carolina. What makes Coples so effective in being constantly moved around is his natural ability as a pure defensive lineman. Not only is he extremely athletic and powerful, but at 6’6″ tall, he has tremendous length, which he is beginning to use very effectively.

Coples demonstrated effective swim moves, push/pull technique, and the ability to get excellent separation from the offensive line. When the rookie uses his hands effectively, his reach is so long that it makes it just about impossible for any opposing offensive lineman to get into him enough to make a block. In doing this, Coples dictates exactly what he wants to do on any given play, making him extremely dangerous to an opposing offensive line.

Coples continues to be extremely agile in his pass rushes, particularly when lined up on the inside where he is a complete mismatch against slower offensive lineman. However, what very few realize, is just how powerful he is against the run. On a play in the 1st quarter, in which Muhammad Wilkerson stopped the ball carrier for a loss of one in the backfield, Coples forced the play back into Wilkerson with a tremendous push on the opposing offensive guard. Take a look:

As you can see, Coples has the opposing guard about 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The back (who is right behind the guard) is forced to cut back to the other side, where Wilkerson is in hot pursuit. Without this push by Coples, the back is likely never forced to cut back across the field, thus never giving Wilkerson to opportunity to make the tackle for loss. Great cohesiveness by this unit demonstrated on this play, as was the case throughout the entire game.

Rex Ryan – Ryan was ranked as a top performer for his game plan last week against Houston, something he topped this week against the Colts and their rookie quarterback. Ryan mixed up fronts, coverages, personnel, and most importantly, blitzes, particularly, the blitz that resulted in Antonio Allen’s first career sack, one of the greatest demonstrations of schematics and execution that one will ever see in a defensive arena.

As shown below, Allen lines up on the slot receiver, showing anything but blitz.

At the same time, cornerback Isaiah Trufant is lined up over the center showing an inside blitz. The alignment here makes it nearly impossible for a rookie quarterback to expect a blitz to be coming from where Allen is currently lined up. However, at the snap of the ball, Allen comes hard off the edge, while Trufant bails out to compensate for what would have been Allen’s man.

The complexity of this blitz is why it is so successful. Luck could have never expected the Jets to attempt to get Trufant all the way back to Allen’s man from where he was lined up, but that is exactly what they did. Unsuspecting that pressure is coming from his right, Luck cannot avert the blitz in time, and the play results in Allen’s first career sack. Extremely gutsy call that clearly paid dividends.

With his top two nose tackles inactive for this contest, Ryan also did a tremendous job of mixing up his defensive fronts to compensate for the lack of a true nose guard. At times, the Jets did show a traditional 3-4 look with various players lined up at the nose including Mike DeVito and Wilkerson. However, since neither of these players are truly effective at the position, Ryan adjusted to his personnel greatly.

Here, Ryan comes with a very creative scheme up front. From left to right, the personnel is David Harris, Muhammad Wilkerson, Calvin Pace, Quinton Coples, and Aaron Maybin. With virtually no one lined up in the middle, the Colts offensive line gets an unfamiliar look here both in terms of alignment and personnel, causing great confusion amongst this unit and their rookie quarterback. Excellent job by Ryan in recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of the players he had available on Sunday.

Since losing Darrelle Revis, Pouha, and most recently Ellis, Ryan has become extremely innovative in his schematics. For the second week in a row, we have witnessed how impressive of a defensive mind Ryan truly is.

Defensive Line:

Muhammad Wilkerson – Statistically, Wilkerson played his most complete game as a Jet with 7 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and a tipped pass. New York continues to rely on Wilkerson to be their jack of all trades on the defensive front, a role he is beginning to become much more comfortable with. Throughout the course of the game, Wilkerson saw time at the 0, 1, 3, and 5 technique, and was effective at each position. We have discussed his sack above, but one particular play that really stood out was Wilkerson’s tackle in the backfield in the second quarter. On the play, Wilkerson split an aggressive double team by the Colts guard and tackle, to stop the run for a gain of only one. It was an impressive display of strength, explosion, and leverage.

Wilkerson is slowly becoming the man of many roles for the Jets, which speaks volumes to how the defensive coaching staff grades his talent and ability. Wilkerson is beginning to mature as a leader on this defensive front through both example and poise, something that, considering his tremendous talent level, is an excellent sign for this group. Moving forward, New York has to feel good about its young group of defensive lineman.

Mike DeVito – DeVito was solid as usual for Gang Green. He was forced to fill in at the nose at times due to injuries to Pouha and Ellis, however, as we have previously discussed in this column he is not necessarily a good fit in that position. Still, DeVito surely held his own, and remained the usual blue collared, run stuffing defensive tackle Jets fans have grown to love. As for his pass rush ability, DeVito still proved to be very ineffective in this area. Fortunately, Ryan and company are beginning to seriously limit his reps in passing situations, which will both keep him fresh for first and second down, and allow someone else, like Aaron Maybin to get the necessary reps during those situations.

Calvin Pace – Pace played quite solid yet again. Still struggling to get to the quarterback, he does have a natural ability to set the edge and not allow anything to get outside of him, something that he certainly does the best among everyone at his position on this roster. During the first quarter, on the Colts’ first attempted end around, Pace took a bad step and was beat to the outside by the tackle.

At the left of the screen here, Pace can be seen in poor position as he is seemingly sealed by the tackle, thus losing the edge and giving the back room to run around. However, Pace continued to work toward the sideline, despite being beat on the initial step. The best defense for an edge player when they are sealed is to drive the blocker as far as they can toward to side line, in order to string the play out as long as possible, and allow the help to come from the inside. Well, this is exactly what Pace does on this play, and it works to perfection, as he eventually turns the play back inside, allowing Wilkerson to make the tackle for no gain.

This is textbook recover technique from Pace, who continues to be this team’s best edge player against the run.

Daniel Muir – Muir played with an excellent energy level, and certainly did not look like someone who was just signed off the street. He did get driven off the ball a few times, but other times he did a great job holding his own against the double team. He is also very active with his hands and feet in his pass rush. Although unsuccessful, he repeatedly worked a surplus of pass rush moves against the Colts offensive line. For the capacity in which he was signed, you have to be very impressed by the effort Muir put forth on Sunday. He is playing like someone who is hungry to keep his spot on the roster, regardless of who returns.

Damon Harrison – Harrison saw limited action this week, with Muir getting more reps as the last tackle worked into the rotation. He continues to prove to be very raw, but demonstrates great power. With some coaching, down the road, Harrison can certainly be a very effective role player in this league.

The linebackers – Excellent effort across the board from the linebackers this week. Bart Scott and David Harris both looked faster than they have in the first five weeks, and both did an excellent job in their run reads and defending lead blockers. Scott even broke up a pass, which was a phenomenal demonstration of awareness on his part. With his back to the ball, Scott recognized the target’s eyes and arms reacting to the pass, and stuck his arm out where he thought the ball might be coming from, swatting it away before the receiver ever had a chance. There are still some coverage issues with these two, but for the most part they were very improved in this area this past week.

DeMario Davis’s reps continue to increase, and you’d have to think that by mid-season he will be seeing at least half of the defensive snaps per game. His speed is above and beyond anyone else’s at the position, and he continues to play with great tenacity. He looks a bit tentative at times, perhaps because he does not yet have a full grasp on the system, but he is seemingly becoming more comfortable each week.

The Secondary – As a unit, this group played very well. Kyle Wilson put together his most complete performance to date through a strong display of coverage, open field tackling, and the ability to shed blockers. Anontio Cromartie continued his dominant play in the absence of Darrelle Revis, recording an interception in his second consecutive game. Ellis Lankster was hot and cold. On some plays, he was in perfect position and showed great reaction to the ball, while on others his technique was poor, and he lacked awareness. Still, an overall above average effort from Lankster this past week.

The safeties played quite good again as well. LaRon Landry got caught trailing a couple times in coverage, but his physicality against the tight ends was spectacular this week. On one particular play, Landry lined up in the box directly on Colts Tight End Dwayne Allen. Landry jammed him hard at the line, then laced him as soon as the ball touched his hands. What he may lack in pure coverage ability, he certainly makes up for with his physical level of play.

As discussed above, Antonio Allen executed one of the greatest timed blitzes you will ever see, which is an area where we expected him to succeed in in our full draft evaluation. Yeremiah Bell was solid again, but sometimes showed a tendency to give too much of a cushion between himself and the first down marker.

Josh Bush and Isaiah Trufant also saw time this week. Both did not do anything spectacular in terms of making plays, but neither did anything that hurt the team, which is very positive. The more experience these youngsters can get in fulfilling their responsibilities, the better.

Sunday’s game was a very complete defensive effort. Each unit complemented each other very well, and the cohesion of this defense is really starting to take shape, even in the absence of the leagues best defensive back. Rex Ryan has gotten back to his roots as a defensive mastermind. All of these things will need to continuously improve moving forward, but make no mistake, New York should be very encouraged by the product they put on the field against Indianapolis.

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

An offensive film breakdown of the New York Jets game against the Indianpolis Colts

This week’s Turn On The Jets offensive film breakdown is going to focus more on the running game, considering their success this past Sunday. Make sure you check back later in the day for our defensive film breakdown from Chris Gross – 

This was a banner performance from the New York Jets offensive line, particularly guards Matt Slauson and Brandon Moore. They were dominant at the point of attack and consistently driving Colts defenders 4-5 yards off the football. Offensive coordinator Tomy Sparano was heavily reliant on Moore pulling into the hole and clearing out space for Greene. On his 21 yard run in the first quarter, look at the hole cleared out by Moore and then sealed off by Konrad Reuland and D’Brickashaw Ferguson. You won’t see a better blocked play in the NFL than this one –

Tight ends Dustin Keller, Jason Smith and even Jeff Cumberland deserve credit for their contributions in the running game. Keller in particular looked like a different player blocking against the run. Sparano’s game plan was built around the tight ends having a large role as blockers, not pass catchers and they responded.

While plenty of credit goes to the offense line, we won’t shy away from giving plenty to Shonn Greene. More impressive than his 21 yard run was this 7 yard one below, which showed vision, patience and power. Greene played this entire game in a different gear and finally ran like the true power back the Jets expect him to be. On this play, Greene correctly extends horizontally to get behind the pulling Matt Slauson

He sees the hole, plants and sharply cuts inside of it without stumbling or slowing down. This has been a frequent problem for him this season. Even more impressive, he began to absorb contact around a 2-3 yard gain on this play but charged forward and dragged three defenders and turned it into a 7 yard gain. Greene got more yards than were blocked up for him, instead of leaving yards on the field.

On his 10 yard touchdown run we saw more of the same. Greene quickly locates the hole and hits it at full speed. He is untouched until the 5 yard line when he is met by two defenders, with a third closing in. He absorbs contact and then keeps his legs churning to drag all three of them into the end-zone. By any standard, against any defense this a very impressive run. If he continues to play like this, the Jets offense has a chance to be consistently successful.

Finally a quick look at how the Jets properly used Tim Tebow. On a 3rd and 1 near the goal-line, the Jets lined Tebow up at quarterback with two running backs behind him, a variation of the Pistol formation. Tebow quickly calls for a shift to five wide. Look in the second image at how much confusion it causes on the Colts defense. When they settle, the Jets have 7 blockers in front of Tebow to deal with 8 Colts in the box. The Jets will take this match-up every single day of the week on a 3rd and 1 with Tebow under center. They should literally run this play every single time on 3rd and 2 or less until a defense shows they can stop it.

Other Observations 

Mark Sanchez – He was not asked to do much in this game but played very well in his limited opportunities. In particular, his two touchdown passes were throws into tight windows. On the touchdown to Stephen Hill, he showed terrific chemistry with the young receiver as Hill properly broke the route off, Sanchez recognized it immediately and fired the ball in. Of his seven incompletions, one was a drop by Jeff Cumberland, one was thrown away on a busted screen, and one should have pass interference on the defender covering Chaz Schilens down the sideline. The only bad throw he missed was Jeremy Kerley down the seam on a third down where his timing was off.

Wide Receivers – Chaz Schilens still has a bad rep with some fans because of his injuries over the summer. The reality is that he has been very good for the Jets, catching 12 passes on 16 targets. He is turning into a favorite target of Sanchez on third downs and rightfully so. He runs sharp routes and aggressively attacks the ball in the air. He will be an important player in the Jets passing game moving forward. Stephen Hill also looked good in limited reps. He caught the ball well and did a nice job using his size to shield off defenders when catching a deep stop route and a slant.