TOJ – Secondary Grade Sheet (Week 3) & Why AA Isn’t A Long Term CB

Mike O’Connor reviews how the secondary faired versus Chicago on Monday and covers the issue of Antonio Allen possibly playing cornerback long-term.

It’s been a telling three weeks of football for the New York Jets. And when I say telling, I mean utterly perplexing about what is going on in the secondary with players often injured and moves being made with the depth chart. It seems that Dee Milliner could return in two weeks or might be the next Derrick Rose, judging from Twitter. Players on the back end have already flashed a little bit of everything. We’ve seen the good, we’ve seen the bad, and we’ve seen things that might hint at what will (or should, for that matter) happen within the secondary when Milliner returns.

After the excruciatingly frustrating Monday Night loss, it’s hard to derive conclusions in the secondary since most of the guys heavily featured are either new to the position (Antonio Allen) or we simply haven’t seen that much of them in the starting lineup to confidently believe anything with their play (Calvin Pryor and Darrin Walls). Entering Week 4, we can only infer and hope that with better defensive play-calling, the pass coverage will get better as a whole, though the upcoming offenses are daunting to say the least.

Continue reading “TOJ – Secondary Grade Sheet (Week 3) & Why AA Isn’t A Long Term CB”

TOJ – New York Jets Secondary Grade Sheet (Week 1)

Mike O’Connor brings back the secondary grade sheet to start the season by grading the Jets’ secondary in its season debut.

The Jets’ defense didn’t have to do all that much versus a bland Raiders’ offense to find themselves at the top of most of the league’s defensive statistic categories. Derek Carr was grounded by his coaches’ vanilla gameplan and as a result, the Jets’ secondary only had a handful of plays where they had a chance to make a significant impact. Hell, the Fresno State rookie only attempted two pass further than 12 yards in Greg Olsen’s offense. Oh and that worrying about the cornerback depleted depth even against the Raiders? Not an issue. Like any dominant defense, the next man steps up because any relatively good fit can adjust and be a working piece under a smart, well-oriented defensive gameplan. Let’s take a look at who shined in the back end on a rather easy outing for them.

(Note: I won’t be able to bring GIFs to the table until I get my new computer in a few weeks, so don’t kill me over a few innocent screenshots instead).

Continue reading “TOJ – New York Jets Secondary Grade Sheet (Week 1)”

New York Jets Secondary Grade Sheet – Week One

Mike O’Connor breaks down the New York Jets secondary’s performance in the week 1

Every week throughout the season Mike O’Connor will break down the performance of the New York Jets secondary. Here is his take on week 1 

With so much confidence in the New York Jets front seven all summer and heading into the regular season, the re-shaped secondary that was once undoubtedly the Jets’ biggest strength has been somewhat overlooked. Even heading into the week of preparation for Week One, most expected the Jets’ primary focus to be on the Bucs’ biggest game-breaker on offense: running back Doug Martin.  s we learned with the Jets’ close win, sometimes an offensive weapon’s greatest effect is to draw focus away from the rest of the team.

Continue reading “New York Jets Secondary Grade Sheet – Week One”

New York Jets – Who Needs To Make The Jump?

What current New York Jets need to make the jump in 2013 to help expedite the team’s rebuilding process?

In a previous article this off-season, we discussed the necessary components of a rebuilding process for the New York Jets. When citing an example from how they quickly turned a disastrous 2005 season into a productive 2006, we mentioned younger players “making the jump” and having career years. A few examples of this in 2006 were Jerricho Cotchery becoming a capable, productive starting receiver, Victor Hobson becoming a playmaking linebacker, Bryan Thomas having a career high in sacks and Kerry Rhodes putting together a Pro-Bowl caliber season at safety.

The Jets aren’t going to be able to fill all their holes via free agency and the draft, there are simply too many. They are going to need young players currently on the roster to take their games to the next level the way Jeremy Kerley did in 2012, as one of the team’s few bright spots on offense.

Kerley having 56 receptions, 827 yards and 2 touchdowns in last year’s passing offense is a borderline miracle. He needs to continue building on that production because nothing is guaranteed with Santonio Holmes coming off such serious surgery and the rest of the wide receiver position in flux. Kerley showed he was capable of being more than a pure slot receiver and hopefully new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhingweg is more creative at using him than Tony Sparano was. But what rostered players outside of Kerley will the Jets need to make “the jump”?

Continue reading “New York Jets – Who Needs To Make The Jump?”

New York Jets: Green and White Scrimmage Recap

Mike Donnelly recaps the New York Jets Green and White scrimmage

Mike Donnelly provides a recap of today’s Green and White scrimmage. Make sure to give him a follow on Twitter and check back tomorrow for Chris Gross’ overview of the Jets options at wide receiver with Santonio Holmes likely being out for 4-6 weeks with a broken rib. 

With today’s first Jets Green and White scrimmage taking place, the important thing to remember is that today is August 4th and the season doesn’t begin for another five weeks. So getting too up or too down about certain players or position groups on this team based on one glorified practice is a pretty futile exercise. That being said, there would be no fun in keeping a level head and not breaking down the action that we saw, heard, or read tweets about this afternoon.

The main thing to know about today’s scrimmage was that in addition to learning a whole new system on the fly, the Jets offense was without wide receivers Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, and Chaz Schilens, plus 3/5 of their starting offensive line were out. (Nick Mangold was off in London to watch his sister compete in the Olympics, Brandon Moore was out watching Curtis Martin get inducted into the Hall of Fame, and Wayne Hunter was not playing, which would usually be good thing until you remember his backups are even worse, but that’s a whole other issue). Oh, and they were only going against arguably the best defense in the NFL.

No big deal. That of course won’t stop many “experts” and commenters from bashing the offense and making unfunny Twitter jokes, but the fact is, the defense is supposed to dominate in situations like that. So for the purposes of this article, I’m going to be looking at all of the positives that came out of today’s scrimmage and not taking petty shots at anyone; not even at Tim Tebow, i promise. Let’s break this down in easy-to-read fashion with random thoughts:

Quinton Coples – I guess all the fans ready to call him a Gholston (it seemed like some actually want him to fail so they can say “I told you so”, which blows my mind) can exhale and actually, you know, give the first round pick more than 6 practices before writing him off. On the very first play of the scrimmage he beat his man, knifed in, and stuffed Shonn Greene behind the line of scrimmage. After that, by all accounts he played very well and should only build off this performance.

Flashes of the new Defense – Rex Ryan started to show some wrinkles he’s incorporating into the new 46 defense this year, and came in with many different looks. Aaron Maybin was all over the field lining up at many different positions, and we even saw some looks where Calvin Pace and Coples were standing up next to each other on the same side of the line. It’s very easy to get excited about this defense, especially when you read things like…

Antonio Allen, Garrett McIntyre, and Ricky Sapp all looked great – Three guys who are all under-the-radar and unknown to casual fans all have had very strong camps and continued that today. Allen has looked like an absolute steal as a 7th round pick, and Sapp and McIntyre are proving that the Jets are not as thin at OLB as many would think. Those Stock Watch Buys of Sapp the past few weeks are looking like money makers so far!

Dustin Keller – Keller caught 3 passes for 31 yards against the first string defense, which is a very positive sign. It appears as though new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano got the memo Brian Schottenheimer never got around to reading, about Dustin Keller being a legit weapon for this offense and if put in the proper position can really do well. Better late than never I suppose. Speaking of Sparano..

Sparano makes adjustments, Sanchez looks sharp – After getting it handed to them early in the scrimmage, when the offense came out for the first drive after halftime, they looked totally different. Mark Sanchez looked great as he went 7-9 for 52 yards during a 60-yard drive that culminated in a touchdown pass to Bilal Powell. That halftime adjustment already gives Sparano one more than Schotty had in six years here as coordinator. Sad, but true.

Santonio Holmes broke his ribs – Oh wait, that’s not a positive at all. But it looks as though that is the case, as he was apparently leveled by #2 wide receiver Antonio Cromartie — yes, Antonio Cromartie made a big hit. Seriously. — and came out of the scrimmage. If the rib is indeed broken, his status for week 1 is very much up in the air. The options to replace him from outside the organization are downright putrid now that Braylon Edwards just signed with Seattle, so someone has to step up. If there is a silver lining to all of this, it will give players like Chaz Schilens, Patrick Turner, Jeremy Kerley and even Jordan White the opportunity to step in and show the coaching staff something. It remains to be seen whether or not they will do so, but if all else fails, I guess we can just look forward to watching a 57-8 run/pass ratio in week 1, right?

Curtis Martin going into the HOF – Not part of today’s scrimmage, but definitely worth mentioning. One of the greatest Jets of all time is heading into the Hall of Fame tonight, and we couldn’t be happier for him here at TOJ. If you missed my column on why Curtis deserves this honor so much, you can check that out here.

New York Jets: Rookie Defenders Should Make Immediate Impact

What kind of impact will the New York Jets rookie defenders make in 2012?

The New York Jets drafted four defensive players in the 2012 NFL Draft, three of them are locks to make the roster and contribute in some capacity in their rookie year. How much will the Jets be asking from their newest additions and will they be able to handle the workload? Let’s run through the four selections and discuss what reasonable expectations should be –

Strong Safety – Antonio Allen – 7th Round – Allen fell further down the draft board than most people expected. He is a natural strong safety who basically played like an extra linebacker at South Carolina. Talent-wise the Jets got great value with Allen but it will be extremely difficult for him to make any kind of impact this season on defense. LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell and Eric Smith are all similar players to Allen and ahead of him on the depth chart. Unless there is significant injuries throughout the Jets secondary, it is difficult seeing Allen being active on a weekly basis. The only way he will be, is if he proves to be a monster on special teams. It isn’t out of the question for Allen to be a practice squad player in 2012 as he projects to make a bigger impact down the road after Landry, Bell or Smith have moved on.

Free Safety – Josh Bush – 6th Round – Walked into a better situation than most 6th round picks. Bush is entering training camp as the team’s fourth safety and only true free safety likely to make the 53 man roster. If he can hold his own throughout August, he will see significant playing time particularly in the Jets sub and nickel packages. Don’t be surprised to see Bush playing a Dwight Lowery type role in Rex Ryan’s defense, bouncing between safety and corner to take advantage of his coverage skills. If Bush can’t establish himself as a competent role player with long term potential in 2012 it will be disappointing and hurt the Jets already questionable depth at safety. Bush is a likely candidate for an extensive role on special teams, particularly on coverage units.

Demario Davis – Linebacker – 3rd Round – The pre-training camp darling of the Jets draft class who has already been given comparisons to Ray Lewis (seriously, come on Rex) for his intensity and natural leadership. Davis has something the other Jets linebackers lack: speed. It is going to get him on the field immediately on passing downs and he is already running with the first unit in the sub package. Davis will also be a fixture on just about every special teams unit from day one. The question is, can Bart Scott hold him out of the starting lineup for the entire season? Make no mistake, Davis will be the opening day starter at inside linebacker in 2013 but will he crack the starting lineup in 2012?

Quinton Coples – Defensive End – 1st Round – We won’t hide from our initial criticism of the Coples selection however with the Jets apparently moving to a defensive scheme that is more 4-3 and 46 heavy it at least makes a little more sense. Beyond that, Coples put together a very strong OTAs and says everything you want to hear from a first round pick with motor questions. He is going to start from day one and is physically the most talented pass rusher the Jets have had on their roster in awhile. Alongside Muhammad Wilkerson, he has the chance to be a special player in this defense.

New York Jets: Pass Coverage Still A Concern

The New York Jets could still have major issues covering tight ends and running backs in 2012

The New York Jets defense struggled heavily when it came to covering the tight end last season. Basically, if a team had a good receiving tight end, they exploited the hell out of Rex Ryan’s defense. Jason Witten finished with 110 yards, including a 64 yarder. Fred Davis grabbed 6 passes for 99 yards. Brent Celek went off for 156 yards and a touchdown. Rob Gronkowski pulled in 113 yards and 2 touchdowns in primetime and in the Jets/Patriots other meeting, it was Aaron Hernandez who racked up 56 yards. Antonio Gates had 54 yards and a touchdown. Hell, even Ed Dickson was able to get 45 receiving yards on them.

Their coverage of running backs out of the backfield also left something to be desired. The lack of speed at linebacker position allowed the Jets to be taken advantage of on checkdowns and screen passes.

The Jets solution to the problem this off-season was to completely re-tool their safety position (signing Yeremiah Bell and Laron Landry, and drafting Josh Bush and Antonio Allen) and adding linebacker Demario Davis in the third round.

Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry will be a more athletic starting duo than Jim Leonhard and Eric Smith, with substantially more size. However, both players are strong safeties, not free safeties. It will be on Bell to spend more time at the free safety position than he is accustomed to. Landry has the ability to be a highly productive player inside the box but can he stay on the field? As defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman said, Eric Smith is good at 300 reps but not necessarily 900 reps and he might be at the number if Landry isn’t healthy.

The Jets did add two rookie safeties in the late rounds with Josh Bush and Antonio Allen. Bush will get the chance for immediate playing time because he is the only natural free safety who will make the active roster but how much can the Jets really expect from a rookie sixth round pick? Allen is built to play inside the box and for now just provides depth behind Landry and Smith.

The 2012 schedule is going to provide plenty of challenges from the tight end position, including Vernon Davis in week 4, Owen Daniels in week 5, Gronkowski/Hernandez in weeks 7 and 12 and Antonio Gates in week 15.

It is going to be on Bell to handle free safety responsibilities when they are handed to him and on Bush to grow up faster than most 6th round picks. Landry and Demario Davis should be able to help slow down the releases tight ends are getting but you don’t want them running with them past 5-7 yards. Their presence should also help contain running backs shaking loose for big gains on checkdowns or screen passes.

Kerry Rhodes certainly couldn’t tackle but the Jets haven’t found a free safety since he was traded. Bell could be a stopgap and maybe Bush is the future. If not, the Jets will once again be looking to retool a position they haven’t seemed able to get right since Rex Ryan has taken over.

New York Jets: Unconventional Approach At Safety

The New York Jets have taken an unconventional approach to solving their issues at safety

The weakest part of the New York Jets defense in 2011 was the safety position. The bulk of reps were taken by Eric Smith, Brodney Pool, and Jim Leonhard. Smith has thrived as a role player in Rex Ryan’s defense but is overextended as a full time starter because of his limitations in coverage. Pool was never able to distinguish himself in either run support or in pass coverage, along with being prone to mental lapses. Leonhard suffered a season ending leg injury for the second year in a row and prior to that was struggling in coverage similar to Smith.

After a failed pursuit of Reggie Nelson in free agency, the Jets shifted their focus and signed LaRon Landry. If healthy, Landry is a very good in the box safety who is built more like a linebacker. Rex Ryan should make him a major factor in stopping the run game and going after the quarterback. His durability is a major, major question mark however.

In the draft, the Jets added two more safeties. In the sixth round they selected Josh Bush from Wake Forest. Bush is a hybrid corner/safety who is built to play the centerfield position on passing downs. In the seventh round they took South Carolina’s Antonio Allen who fell much further than expected. Allen’s game is very similar to Landry, in that he plays more like a linebacker than a safety and hopefully projects as a long term answer at strong safety.

Finally, the Jets signed veteran Yeremiah Bell, likely passing over bringing Leonhard back in the process. In comparison to Leonhard, the Bell signing is a good move. He is more durable, athletic, and has better size than Leonhard. Even if he is a traditional strong safety, he fills the free safety void better than Leonhard would have. Bell also provides depth behind Landry at strong safety if he misses time due to injury. Similar to Landry, Smith and Allen, Bell is an in the box safety who excels in run support but has questions in coverage.

On the whole, the Jets have collected four players with similar skill sets at different positions of their career. Bell is 34 years old but is probably the most reliable. Smith is 29 and has the most experience in the defense. Landry is 27, has the highest ceiling but the most question marks and Allen is a rookie. The only player who projects to being a true free safety is the rookie sixth round pick, Josh Bush.

The reported plan is for Landry and Bell to start together, while using Smith in the role he excelled at off the bench during the 2009 season. Bush should have every opportunity to play in nickel and dime situations in the centerfield position.

How will the Jets stop tight ends? The most logical approach remains to keep their safeties out of man to man situations. Ryan will have to get creative about bracketing them with a linebacker with speed, perhaps rookie Demario Davis or with Landry or Smith underneath. Bell will likely see more time playing over the top than he did in Miami and then Bush will also be lined up deep off the ball when he is on the field. Also don’t be surprised to see Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, or Kyle Wilson used to help slow down tight ends in certain situations. Wilson and Cromartie in particular could line up at safety in select packages.

New York Jets Rookie Camp – The Path To Playing Time

How can the 2012 New York Jets draft picks find themselves playing time this season?

The New York Jets eight draft picks and a large collection of undrafted free agents and tryout players will gather for a mini-camp this weekend. Focusing down on the eight draft picks, what will it take for each of them to receive playing time this season? Who will be their primary competition? Let’s take a closer look –

Quinton Coples – Regardless of whether Coples starts at defensive end or not, he is going to see substantial reps on the defensive line rotation particularly on third downs. In a way Marcus Dixon, Kenrick Ellis and Mike DeVito are competing for playing time with him but in reality Coples has a much different skill set than all three and will likely be used in many unique ways by Rex Ryan. Ideally, at a minimum Coples is a pass rushing specialist this year and then sees the rest of his game develop in the coming years.

Stephen Hill – Unless he bombs out in the pre-season, Hill will be the opening day starter at split end. He has too much speed and size to keep on the bench. Chaz Schilens and Patrick Turner will be competing to be his backup but shouldn’t see anywhere near the amount of playing time Hill does this season.

DeMario Davis – Outside of Aaron Maybin, Davis will be the fastest of the Jets linebackers. While I do not think we will see him in a starting role this season unless there is an injury, he should fill in for Bart Scott at inside linebacker in certain packages and could also line up at outside linebacker for Bryan Thomas to utilize his ability to cover the tight end. He will be competing with players like Josh Mauga, Nick Bellore and Garret McIntyre but considering his skill set and where the Jets drafted him, I’d look for Davis to both make the roster and be a regular contributor on defense.

Josh Bush – Bush’s skill set make him the most natural free safety on the Jets roster. Unless he is beat out by Tracy Wilson or DeAngelo Smith, he should immediately contribute in a handful of defensive packages and be the top backup to Eric Smith who is technically the team’s free safety even though he is miscast in that role.

Terrance Ganaway – He will be competing with Bilal Powell to be active on a weekly basis and then competing with Joe McKnight and Shonn Greene for playing time. His comfort of playing in an option offense makes him an immediate candidate to be a factor on offense when Tim Tebow is under center. Don’t be surprised if Ganaway ends up contributing a few hundred yards of offense this season.

Robert T. Griffin – As our breakdown later in the day will show, Griffin has a long, long way to go before becoming a contributor on a NFL team. This season he will compete with Caleb Schlauderaff and Austin Howard for a spot on the active roster. However, it is much more likely he will end up on the practice squad.

Antonio AllenMake sure you click the link to read Chris Gross’ full breakdown of Allen, who should end up being LaRon Landry’s backup this season, a contributor as a blitzer and play special teams. I’d be surprised to see a journeyman like Tracy Wilson or DeAngelo Smith beat him out.

Jordan WhiteMake sure you click the link to read Chris Gross’ full breakdown of White. He will compete with Patrick Turner and Eron Riley for a roster spot and projects to backing up Jeremy Kerley in the slot if he can make the roster.

New York Jets Draft Pick Analysis: Safety Antonio Allen

Chris Gross breaks down New York Jets seventh round draft pick, safety Antonio Allen

Chris Gross will be in the film room for Turn On The Jets breaking down all eight of the New York Jets draft selections. Today we look at 7th round pick, safety Antonio Allen. (At the bottom of the article, I offer a brief commentary on White from the film I have watched). – JC

When watching game film of New York Jets seventh round selection Antonio Allen, one thing is obvious; he is very much a true Strong Safety. Having played the “Spur” position during his collegiate career at South Carolina, Allen was a rover type safety for the Gamecocks, a position that is almost a strong safety/outside linebacker hybrid. Very rarely was he ever lined up as a true safety, and often times he was placed right in the box alongside the linebackers. Allen’s experience here has allowed him to develop many qualities that should assist his play at the next level.

One thing that stands right out about the 2011-second team All-American is his willingness to tackle. Allen is certainly not afraid to make a big hit, and fills the gap just as good, if not better, than most linebackers do. He seems very comfortable in the box, and is excellent against the run, a vital need for a strong safety in the NFL. He is no stranger to physicality, as on some formations at South Carolina he would line up right on the line of scrimmage, even in a three point stance during some goal line situations. His ability to shed blocks is elite for his position, and he is very aggressive when taking on lead blockers and pulling lineman, one of the reasons he led his team’s defense with 88 tackles. Allen is a tough kid who plays a very physical brand of football.

While his play against the run is very good, his pass coverage skills will most likely be more important to his success in the NFL due to the style of football that is most prevalent around the league. The majority of teams are moving toward pass-oriented offenses, many of which are using two tight end sets, especially in the AFC East with New England leading the charge. Allen’s play in this area during his collegiate career was not necessarily elite, but impressive.

Early in the 2011 season, Allen seemed much more raw in his coverage skills than he did later on in the year. The primary flaw in his game was that he seemed unsure of what he wanted to do. He would repeatedly fail to engage the offensive player, whether it was a slot receiver or tight end, as he would hesitate and allow them to initiate the contact. He would then have to rely on his long frame (nearly 6’2”) and strength to compensate. Allen would frequently be indecisive at jamming players, waiting until the last possible second to do so, often causing him to lunge at his target. This would usually throw off his balance and leave him a step or two behind in coverage. Because of this, Allen had to rely on his excellent range and closing speed to make plays. Although he was successful at this at the college level (second on the team in interceptions with 3), receivers in the NFL will be faster, and he will have to be much more fundamentally sound in his technique to avoid falling behind in coverage.

As the year progressed, though, Allen seemed to become much more polished with his hand speed and coverage ability. Later in the season, he became confident in what he wanted to do, whether it was jam his player or run with them, making him very effective in this area. He is a tremendously strong player, and when he uses his hands violently on his jams, he has a great ability to throw off the route of the offensive player, including the tight ends that he was often times manned up on. This will be key to his success with the Jets, as New York is desperate for players who cannot only cover the tight end, but also players who can disrupt what they want to do. Allen will benefit greatly from the Jets’ defensive coaching staff, especially with their planned intent to emphasize schemes and technique on how to defend tight ends during the offseason.

One of the brightest spots in Allen’s game is his blitzing ability. He is excellent at timing his blitzes, making him a serious threat to rush the passer. Sometimes, he comes in a bit recklessly, causing him to miss some tackles and run by plays, but for the majority, he is fantastic in this area and excels more often than not.

Allen’s role with the Jets will likely be limited this season if LaRon Landry can stay healthy. However, his aggressiveness and superior blitzing ability should get him into some packages that will allow Rex Ryan to send him after the quarterback or disguise various blitzes and coverages. For his rookie season, I’d expect New York to use him much like it used James Ihedigbo a few years ago, primarily as a blitzer, with a heavy role on special teams. Allen will provide good insurance in the event that Landry does get hurt, and should benefit greatly learning underneath the former first round selection out of LSU. Allen certainly has the potential to develop into a very important piece of New York’s secondary in the coming years. How he progresses in his coverage ability will be the key to his success.

Editor’s Notes – Allen is built to be the edge blitzer that Rex Ryan loves using his defensive backs for. The James Ihedigbo comparison makes sense but I think Allen has more potential in pass coverage. By that I mean, he can be utilized to jam tight ends off the line and help in short to intermediate coverage. Even if the Jets add another veteran to the safety position, Allen should stick on the roster because he fits in perfectly as a backup to LaRon Landry. Unless Landry gets banged up this season, I would only expect to see Allen in a handful of select packages on defense and on special teams where he has the physical skills to be an immediate asset.

The Jets got great value with Allen in the 7th round and he could very well be their long term strong safety if he reaches his potential and is utilized properly.