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.

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Training Camp Battles: Cornerback Power Rankings

Connor Rogers ranks the New York Jets cornerbacks based on their performance so far in training camp

Last week we took a pre-training camp glance at the cornerback competition and a lot has happened since. Let’s jump right into the action and see how the cornerback competition is shaping up in Cortland. Continue reading “Training Camp Battles: Cornerback Power Rankings”

64-Day New York Jets Warning – The Old & Wise Antonio Cromartie

Counting down the reasons to be excited for the 2013 New York Jets season…old and wise Antonio Cromartie

Here at Turn On The Jets, we decided to take a page out of Robert Mays book over at Grantland (a polite way of saying rip his article idea off) by counting down the 115 days until the New York Jets kick off, with a daily reason to get excited about their return. Mays has the whole NFL to work with, we only have the Goddamn Jets…now there is a challenge, step your game up Mays!

We continue today with a look at the old and wise Antonio Cromartie (NOTE you can see entire series right here)

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Welcome to AlCrotraz Island: New York Jets DB Cromartie’s 2012 Season

A detailed breakdown of New York Jets defensive back Antonio Cromartie after the Darrelle Revis injury

“He might have as much talent as any player I’ve ever been around at the corner position. He’s got everything. He’s got the size, the height, the length, the speed, the recovery speed, probably as good ball skills as any corner I’ve been around.”- Rex Ryan, at NFL owner’s meetings in 2010.

A 6’2, 210 pound cornerback out of Florida State goes in the first round, 19th overall, to the San Diego Chargers in 2006. This happens despite the cornerback missing his entire junior season after tearing his ACL during voluntary workouts. Said cornerback enters the NFL Draft after only playing 25 collegiate games and, a year removed from tearing his ACL, runs a 4.3 40 yard dash with a 42 inch vertical. During his second year in the NFL, the aforementioned cornerback becomes the first player ever to intercept future Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning multiple times in a game, and set a franchise record for interceptions in a season with 10.

Continue reading “Welcome to AlCrotraz Island: New York Jets DB Cromartie’s 2012 Season”

Film Room – Antonio Cromartie Lacks Shutdown Cornerback Ability

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

Note – This was written by former TOJ employee Steve Bateman

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

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

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Picture 1

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

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Picture 2

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

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Picture 3

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

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Picture 4

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

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Picture 5

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

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Picture 6

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

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Picture 7

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

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Picture 8

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

New York Jets: The Revis Debate

Revis

Outside of NFL Draft Prospects and potential free agent additions, the hottest debate topic circulating the New York Jets at the current time is undoubtedly the recent news that the Jets will look into trading Cornerback Darrelle Revis. When discussing a team’s best player, one who is arguably the best defensive player in the entire league, debates are destined to gain intensity. Unfortunately, there will not be much clarity on this situation until the new league year begins in March. However, there are certainly strong arguments that can be made both in favor of and against trading Revis. Here, the Turn On The Jets staff gives their take using three basic points –

1.) Position value vs. Contract Terms/Salary

2.) Possible Trade Compensation 

3.) Are Cornerbacks vital to success in today’s NFL?

Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments thread below or by giving us a shout on Twitter!

Chris Gross

1.) Position value vs. Contract Terms/Salary – It is surely difficult to argue against the value of a dominant cornerback in today’s NFL considering how offenses in the league have evolved over recent years. Darrelle Revis is surely more than just a cornerback, he is a player who consistently takes 1/11th of opposing offenses away on a weekly basis. When preparing for a Revis-led secondary, teams often need to adjust their game plans accordingly, taking away from time that would normally be spent on overall preparation against a team with two cornerbacks who are simply considered to be “good.”

Having said that, New York has two top tier cornerbacks on their roster. While Antonio Cromartie surely isn’t in the class that Revis consistently reminds us is occupied solely by number 24, he is a more than capable player who can be successful with money spent across the board to provide a better supporting cast.

The question here isn’t really whether or not the Jets should trade away their best player because, unfortunately, it runs much deeper than that. Speaking solely from a football standpoint, making Revis a Jet for life is a no brainer, something that 31 other teams would love to do, as well. However, this goes beyond what Revis can provide on the field. While it is easy to subscribe to the notion of “just pay the man,” the Jets would be foolish to commit $16 million per season to a cornerback, even if that cornerback has the potential to be among the greatest to ever play the position.

As noted above, offenses in the NFL are evolving into the most complex passing attacks that the sport has ever seen. The Jets, on the other hand, are well behind in this evolution. There is no denying how putrid New York’s offense was last season. In a nutshell, the Jets have been trying to invent the wheel while the rest of the league is nearing NASA like technology.

Yes, Tony Sparano proved to be a poor hire. The recent acquisition of Marty Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator has given some ray of hope for the Jets to begin to catch up with the remainder of the league in terms of offensive relevancy. Unfortunately, however, the Jets still lack vital components in their offensive personnel that can give them an offense capable of having success in today’s game. Paying that type of money to a cornerback would even further prohibit the Jets from acquiring the necessary players to put a competitive offensive unit on the field. The salary cap space that a long term contract like that would eat up would be crippling to a team that all but needs an entire offensive overhaul, outside of about 3-4 players.

When looking at the position value vs. money spent, consider the fact that only two quarterbacks, a position that is unquestionably the most important in the NFL today, make over $16 million per season, on average. Outside of Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, both of whom have won Super Bowls, Eli Manning (2 Super Bowls), Tom Brady (3 Super Bowls), Ben Roethlisberger (2 Super Bowls), and every other signal caller in the league make less money per year, on average, than what Revis is asking for. Tying up so much money at a position that, although important, could certainly be won with above average players at, would set this franchise back even further than the 6-10 mess that was on display this past season.

2.) Possible Trade Compensation – The notion that Revis’s value will be hindered by his ACL injury last season is a valid concern. However, the reality of the situation is that, with so many holes all over the roster, the Jets simply cannot afford to have two top tier cornerbacks eating up so much cap space.

The idea of trading Antonio Cromartie has been floated for a few reasons. First, it is easy to look at the numbers for next season and realize that Cromartie counts more toward the cap than Revis does. This is true. However, beyond 2013, Revis’s number will grow astronomically if given the salary he is reportedly seeking.

Look at some of the biggest contracts around the league and consider how much those annual salaries counted toward the cap last year. Peyton Manning had a 2012 base salary of $18 million, all of which counted against the cap. Drew Brees had a base salary of just $3 million, but counted for $10.4 million against the cap, a number likely to jump significantly next season. Eli Manning’s base was only $1.75 million, but counted for $9.6 million against the cap, a number that will likely increase as he enters the years of his contract with a larger base salary. Simply put, there is no way around the cap hit of a contract similar to the one Revis is looking to land. Terms can be altered and adjusted so some years are less than others, but the bottom line is that, at some point, that cap number is going to be a problem for whoever ends up paying Revis when they’re looking to spend money on the other 52 roster spots. If you’re a well balanced, strongly built team, this is not as significant of an issue. Unfortunately, the Jets are anything but.

Beyond the cap number, a growing desire to trade Cromartie seems to be out of the idea that, with Revis coming off of an ACL injury, the two players will have equal trade value. This could not be further from the truth. While Cromartie is certainly coming off one of the best, if not the best, years of his career, no team would be willing to part with more than a 2nd round pick for him. An injured Revis will likely garner not only a 1st rounder, but multiple other picks, and possibly players as well. As one General Manager has reportedly claimed, the interest in Revis could be “one of the biggest potential trade markets for a player ever.” Regardless of the season Cromartie had, it was in no way, shape, or form comparable to what a healthy Revis could provide. It is capable to win with a cornerback like Cromartie on a roster where money is spent to improve other positions, but alone, there is simply no way that his market is equivalent to that of Revis.

The amount of compensation that the Jets will get in return for Revis is surely a big factor in this decision, regardless of how anyone looks at it. Unfortunately, however, without a long term solution to keeping Revis, the trade needs to be done. The Jets can absolutely not allow Revis to enter a contract year, return to form, and then walk at the conclusion of the season, leaving them with nothing but a compensatory pick in return.

Revis is surely a once in a generation type player, but in terms of the current situation, that is a double-edged sword. Yes, it would be a tough decision to trade a player of his caliber. But at the same time, for a team looking to completely restructure their roster over the course of the next few years, there is no better trade piece to use outside of an elite quarterback or pass rusher.

Consider history for a moment. Prior to the 2009 season, then New England Patriot Richard Seymour found himself entering a contract year with the team that used the 6th overall pick to select him, only a few years prior. With no long term solution in place, and fear of losing him to free agency following the season with nothing in return, the Patriots traded the 3 time Super Bowl Champion, 5 time Pro Bowler, and 3 time 1st team All-Pro to the Oakland Raiders for a 1st round draft pick. Seymour was a player in his prime who had been a vital piece to the championships that New England had won earlier in the decade. How could the Patriots trade him away?

The answer is simple. New England had a long term vision for the overall well being of the franchise. The situation with Seymour was no part of that plan in anyway. For the Patriots, it was either let him play out his remaining year, let him hit the open market, and sign with another team, for absolutely nothing in return, or resign him to a long extension, and allow the one position to eat up a tremendous amount of salary cap space (Remember, Seymour was made the highest paid defensive player in the league in 2011 when the Raiders gave him a 2 year $30 million extension). To New England, there was really no positive solution to keeping Seymour, regardless of how vital he had been to the team’s past success. Instead, Bill Belichick and the Patriots front office jumped on such a significant offer from Oakland without blinking.

So, how did it work out? Since acquiring Seymour, Oakland has gone 25-39 over four seasons, while sacrificing a significant chunk of cap space and money to him, depriving other spots throughout the roster. Although Seymour was selected to 2 Pro Bowls as a Raider, the team never finished better than third in the AFC West since the trade was made.

The Patriots, on the other hand, used the 1st round pick sent from Oakland to select Nate Solder, a young offensive tackle who has been a key part to an offensive unit that has been among the best the league has seen in recent years. Since shipping Seymour to Oakland, New England has gone 49-15 with 4 divisional crowns and 1 Conference title. At the present time, the Patriots remain a few pieces away from a return to the Super Bowl, while Oakland will likely allow Seymour to walk as a free agent this year, with nothing to show for it outside of a third place divisional finish.

This is not to compare Seymour to Revis. Was Seymour the caliber of player that Revis was at the time of the trade? No, but he is certainly no slouch. Seymour had 3 championships, 5 Pro Bowl appearances, and was selected to 3 All-Pro teams. Unfortunately for him, however, his demands were not in the best interest of the franchise. New England sold high, and it paid off significantly. Coming off a serious injury, trading Revis now may not return the same compensation that trading him following the 2009 season would have, but with no long term solution in place, this is the highest his value will be while under contract with the Jets.

3.) Are Cornerbacks vital to success in today’s NFL? – Yes and no. With how the league is trending, having an elite, shutdown cornerback would presumably give any team a monstrous defensive advantage. This is certainly tough to argue, but in relevancy to other vital positions, cornerback ranks 4th behind quarterback, offensive line, and pass rushing defensive front 7 personnel.

Look to the final four team’s of this year’s playoff tournament. Not one of them sent a cornerback to the Pro Bowl, nor did anyone of them see a cornerback reach the All-Pro team. Conversely, when lumping quarterback, offensive line, and defensive front 7 personnel into one category, the Ravens, 49ers, Falcons, and Patriots collectively sent 13 players to the Pro Bowl, including 5 to the All-Pro 1st team, and 6 to the All-Pro 2nd team.

Is this to say team’s with quality cornerbacks are not successful? Of course not. Champ Bailey, a Pro Bowler and 2nd team All-Pro selection, was part of a Denver Broncos team that finished with a regular season record of 13-3, earning the AFC’s top seed. Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks, who made the Pro Bowl and was a 1st Team All-Pro selection, was a vital piece to his team’s success that included a divisional crown and finished one poor defensive drive short of reaching the NFC Championship Game. Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings of the Chicago Bears were both voted to the Pro Bowl, and received 1st and 2nd team All-Pro accolades, respectively. Chicago was tremendous at taking the ball away this season, and finished a respectable 10-6 in a tough division, but fell just short of the playoffs before seeing Head Coach Lovie Smith receive his pink slip.

So, on the question of whether or not cornerbacks are vital to success in today’s NFL, the answer depends on how an organization defines success. Is success a top seed in the playoffs, a divisional title, or a winning record? Or is success conference championships and Super Bowls? The majority of those employed by NFL teams will surely choose the latter.

Looking at recent Super Bowl champion teams, even the most dedicated football fan will have trouble naming each team’s starting cornerbacks. Conversely, when asked to name the quarterbacks or pass rushers on those teams, that same fan will rattle off names like Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Ben Roethlisberger, along with Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan, Clay Matthews, Will Smith, James Harrison, and LaMarr Woodley, among others. In fact, a 1st team All-Pro cornerback has not won a Super Bowl since Ty Law did it with the New England Patriots in 2003.

The bottom line is that while Revis is undoubtedly one of the best players in the NFL, his price tag is simply going to be too much for the Jets. This isn’t a matter of being too cheap to pay him. Woody Johnson has been bashed by countless fans and analysts over the past year for caring only about ticket sales and revenue. Why then, would he trade away his biggest attraction, rather than paying him his price? It is because this is a cap space issue. Simply put, Revis is worthy of some type of big pay day, there is no doubt about it. Will some team give him his record breaking contract? Probably. But that team will likely have nowhere near the amount of holes on their roster that the Jets do.

New York has been criticized for not investing enough into the offensive side of the ball, something that has been widely viewed as being the sole factor that has held them back from being consistently competitive over the past decade or so. For the Jets to end their streak of offensive ineptitude, they need to trade Revis and receive the proper compensation and salary cap relief that is needed to build a strong 53 man roster. The Jets have been top heavy in terms of player salary over the past few seasons, leading to average at best and very poor players occupying the remainder of the roster. New York cannot fix this by giving out the largest contract for a defensive player in the history of the NFL. Even if that player is Darrelle Revis.

Mike Donnelly

First, let me start out by saying I am firmly in the #KeepRevis camp, and I think John Idzik and the Jets brain trust should do everything in their power to keep their best player wearing the green and white in 2013 and beyond…like, until the day he steps into Canton as a Hall of Famer-type beyond. Let me tell you why.

1.) Position value vs. Contract Terms/Salary – I don’t buy into the whole “You can’t pay a CB that much money” line of thinking because to me, Darrelle Revis is far more than “just a corner”. He is not only the best corner in the league, he may very well be the best player in the league, and as such, he has a tremendous impact in each and every game he plays. I think he’s completely justified asking for a contract in line with what the top defenders are getting paid. I’m not saying to write him a blank check and break the bank to keep him, but with all the terrible contracts on this team, I think the front office should look to make changes elsewhere and find a way to keep the GOOD players, like Darrelle.

Currently, Mario Williams is the highest paid defender in the NFL. It’s not unrealistic for Revis to get paid in the same ballpark, because he does more for a defense than a guy like Williams. Offenses have to completely game plan around Revis each week and know where he is on every play. It’s not easy going into a game knowing that throwing to your best wide receiver isn’t going to be an option that day, but that’s exactly what #24 brings to the table. Remember in the 2010-11 playoffs when the Jets played the Colts? Peyton Manning refused to even look in Reggie Wayne’s direction. That’s a Hall of Fame QB-to-WR connection, and it was completely erased from the game. Again, he’s not just a corner. He’s an elite player and does things for a team that nobody else in the league can match. He deserves to get paid, and with a ton of money able to come off the books in the next two years (Pace, Scott, Harris, Holmes, Po’uha, Sanchez), there’s no reason Revis can’t be kept while the team is rebuilt around him by drafting and developing players.

2.) Possible Trade Compensation – I think this is where a lot of Jets fans are getting jaded. Many seem to think that trading Revis is going to bring in this great haul of draft picks that will allow the team to rebuild right away and build a dynasty like the Cowboys did by trading Hershel Walker. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no Walker-type haul coming our way. The best we can hope for is a mid-to-late-1st round pick and a mid-round pick thrown in. Revis is coming off a torn ACL and is going to demand huge money from his new team, which will severely limit his trade value. I’m not an economist or anything, but I’m pretty sure the “sell while value is lowest” strategy isn’t going to get us very far. Oh, and for the people kicking around trade proposals involving established players (I’ve seen Elvis Dumervil mentioned), that’s not going to happen either. If you’re going to trade for a guy who is going to get paid handsomely, why not just keep Revis?

Here’s another newsflash: Trading away Revis isn’t going to magically get us a franchise QB who is going to lead the team to prominence. Having extra picks is good, but the draft is a major crapshoot, where more players fail than succeed. More than likely, that extra 3rd or 4th round pick we pull in will at best give us a useful role player, while the 1st round pick will give us a good player that will hopefully one day grow up to be HALF as good as the guy we are giving away.

3.) Are Cornerbacks vital to success in today’s NFL? – I’m not going to say that if you were building a team cornerback would be the most important position to fill, but what I will say is that you would probably want a superstar defender who terrifies even the best quarterbacks in the league, and that is exactly what Darrelle Revis brings to the table. He shouldn’t be viewed strictly as a corner, but rather as a superstar defensive player who makes everyone around him better. Look what happens when he’s on the field: the #2 CB never has to worry about facing the other team’s best receiver; there’s no need for safety help, which enables the safety to come up and defend against the run more (something we lacked this year), or help out against tight ends and slot receivers since Revis is on his Island; the D can send an extra blitzer if need be.

I keep hearing “There are no Pro Bowl Corners in the Super Bowl” as a reason to trade Revis, and I don’t understand that at all. There’s a major difference between “great corner” and “Revis corner”, so it’s basically a moot point. The last corner to play on Revis’s level was Deion Sanders, and last time I checked, he had a few rings on his hand and nobody was trying to trade him for pennies on the dollar. I don’t see any All-Pro receivers playing in this year’s Super Bowl either by the way, does that mean the Lions should trade Calvin Johnson too? Players who perform at that high of a level transcend their position, and should be viewed as more. In my mind, when you have a Hall of Fame-type player, you keep him and do whatever it takes to build around him, even if he’s “just a cornerback”. The Patriots win every year not because they don’t invest big money in cornerbacks; they win because they have Tom Brady. We don’t have Tom Brady, and like I said, trading Revis isn’t going to magically fix that. It’s just going to make the defense–and the team–worse.

Some may say that there being no star CB’s in this year’s Super Bowl proves that Revis is expendable. I look at it the other way and see two excellent defenses battling it out, and I don’t think there’s any reason the Jets defense can’t be just as good or better than them in the coming years, like it was in 2009 and 2010. And the number 1 reason for that being possible is Darrelle Revis. Pay the man. #KeepRevis.

TJ Rosenthal

1.) Position value vs. Contract Terms/Salary

A healthy Darrelle Revis will make the Jets entire team better. Except if he holds out for, and obtains the type of money that will hurt John Idzik’s chances to gain a plethora of affordable useful pieces as a result.

The Jets defense can hold teams to under 23 (23.4 avg in 2012) points or so often enough without him, that it makes the notion of dealing him at least understandable. This, if Idzik believes he can help boost the Jets 17.6 scoring average by sending him elsewhere. If the new GM can add offensive guys who can contribute to one more TD a game, to a 24.0 scoring average in 2013, imagine what the Jets win loss record could be then.

Those are the numbers that we care about the most when it comes to the notion of Revis: Points scored and points given up. Will his exit help the Jets score more?

2.) Possible Trade Compensation 

Revis on two strong knees, if the Jets also throw a few perimeter guys in along with him, is worth a few first rounders..or a first and second rounder, and some vets in return. As it stands now, he’s worth less.

Maybe a club gambles away a first on Revis before seeing hos he looks in July, but we are looking more likely at a second and fourth or so for him right now. Which we believe is not enough to pull the trigger.

The bigger question comes down to, what does the Revis team want? What are they willing to fight for? We hear the “100 million dollar long term deal” rumors, but what is the truth? Once that is made known to the front office, then a clearer view can be had as to what is the more prudent path for Gang Green to take.

3.) Are Cornerbacks vital to success in today’s NFL?

Considering the type of style that Revis employs on the field Yes. Revis is not a clutcher, or a grabber. He’s a WR shadow thanks to great instinct and footwork. A guy who shuts down top threats outside, and who doesn’t get flagged for headhunting, or PI’s at all.

We are now entering a finesse phase of defense in the NFL, as the league tries to adapt to the increase of size and speed in it’s players, while concussions are being treated with the utmost caution.

Revis fits seemlessly into this new modern world that is built for passing games to succeed. He is one of the few who owns the skill set to slow it down.

He should not be dealt solely to alleviate a future cap issue. He should be dealt first and foremost, to reverse that seven point scoring differential we previously mentioned. Any other benefits of dealing him should be secondary.

We hope Revis stays, and that other solutions as to how to attack the personnel issues on offense are taken. We fear that they will not be. We worry on top of that, that Woody Johnson remembers the last two holdouts and is not in the mood for another one from the same player. Even if it is the great Revis Island.

Steve Bateman

1.) Position value vs. Contract Terms/Salary – If you want the top players you have to pay top dollar – that may sound blindingly obvious but it really is the bottom line in this whole debate. But here’s where it gets tough, because what applies to cornerbacks applies equally – if not moreso – to running backs, wide receivers, guards, and the myriad other offensive positions where the Jets need to reinvest during this off-season. So for me it’s not so much a question of can we afford to keep Revis, it’s more a case of whether or not we can afford to keep shovelling so much of our salary cap into a position which has become fundamentally devalued in the modern NFL (more of which later).

2.) Possible Trade Compensation – This is a team in transition. Or at least I hope to goodness that it is. If the Jets are going to become competitive again they have to address so many position needs that it would take a miracle for it to be achieved in one season through free agency. Consequently draft picks are going to be valuable beyond all measure over the coming years, and although I wouldn’t expect much more than maybe a third-rounder in 2013 with a conditional first in 2014, it’s sensible to look at the situation logically and build for the future by saying farewell.

3.) Are Cornerbacks vital to success in today’s NFL? – Darrelle Revis is way beyond great. In fact, he’s better than most people realize, because not only is he one of the three genuinely elite modern-day cornerbacks who can lay claim to the title of “Shutdown Corner” (add Rod Woodson and Deion Sanders) but he’s also plying his trade in a league where the odds have been stacked against him. Quite honestly, I find it hard to convince myself that he’s not one of the greatest players to have ever set foot on a gridiron.

But ironically, what makes him great is what also makes him expendable. In the modern game there’s a growing trend towards sacrificing cornerbacks at the expense of developing an effective pass rush. Why? Because with recent changes to pass interference rules, any team that tries to defend the pass by relying on its secondary is fighting a losing battle from the outset.

Therefore my preference – and the path I think the team will in fact take – would be to ditch Revis in order to bring in a couple of pass-rushing OLBs who are able to capitalize on the awesome two-gapping work of Mo Wilkerson. If Quinton Coples also continues to develop as a 3-4 defensive end – and there’s no reason to think that he won’t – then this is by far the Jets best chance of building an effective pass defense going forward.

In cap terms the Jets are down to their bare bones, and like it or not, Revis is a luxury that they simply can’t afford.

Initial Reaction – Buffalo Embarrassment, Fitting End to 2012

bag

The New York Jets final regular season game, a 28-9 embarrassing loss to the Buffalo Bills, was an accurate microcosm of the entire 2012 season. Mark Sanchez looked as pitiful as he has all year. While he finished 17/35 with 205 yards, the player once viewed as the franchise quarterback for this organization represented exactly what he has become through 4 seasons in the NFL. A first quarter interception returned for a touchdown, over looking wide open receivers down field, badly missing open targets, and an overall demeanor that sums up what has become a sorry excuse for a career. Shonn Greene ran very hard, but finished with his typical 3.9 yards per carry average, Bilal Powell was under utilized, receiving just 12 carries while averaging 4.7 YPC, and Joe McKnight continued to be ignored as a member of the roster, as he had just one touch on offense.

Jeremy Kerley finished his impressive season at wide receiver with a strong effort, considering the circumstances, finishing with 3 receptions for 88 yards. Braylon Edwards continued to highlight the poor decision by Mike Tannenbaum to let him leave following the 2010 season, as he hauled in 4 balls for 42 yards, while more importantly establishing a leadership presence that was clearly absent from this team throughout the duration of the past two years.

Defensively, the Jets were stout against the run, limiting CJ Spiller to just 2.5 YPC, and allowing only 109 total rushing yards. However, New York witnessed a first hand account of irony as former Jet Brad Smith scored a fourth quarter touchdown out of the wildcat formation, surpassing Tim Tebow’s season touchdown total out of that very formation in a single play. The Jets secondary seemingly mailed in the final game of 2012, allowing Ryan Fitzpatrick to pass for 225 yards and a touchdown, with wide receiver Stevie Johnson leading Buffalo’s receiving effort with 6 receptions for 111 yards. Fitzpatrick was hit 4 times, but was never sacked, representing the pass rush woes that have haunted the Jets since Ryan took over in 2009.

While the outcome of this game was basically meaningless due to the fact that neither team was alive for postseason play, the effort that the Jets turned in today leaves no one within the organization with any sense of job security. Heads will begin to roll as early as Monday. Offensive Coordinator Tony Sparano will reportedly be fired after just one season in New York. General Manager Mike Tannenbaum is sure to be relieved of his duties, but it is still rather unclear whether he will be outright fired or reassigned to a salary cap management role. Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine’s future is extremely uncertain, as he has already turned down a contract extension offered to him earlier this season. Rex Ryan has been believed to be safe for the majority of the year, but after such an uninspiring loss to finish his second consecutive season of missing the post season, there are absolutely no guarantees that he will be retained as of right now.

Lisa Zimmerman of CBS Sports has reported that owner Woody Johnson has hired Jed Hughes of Korn/Ferry International to assist in leading New York’s search for a new General Manager, assuming Tannenbaum is officially removed from the position. Hughes has a background in coaching and scouting, having served under five Hall of Fame coaches throughout his 20 years of prior coaching experience. Hughes is no stranger to leading efforts to install officials into leadership positions for football teams at the professional and college level, as he has previously played a significant role in the hirings of current Jets President Neil Glat, Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy, and the University of Michigan’s head football coach, Brady Hoke. Changes are sure to be made within this organization, likely as early as tomorrow, and you can rest assured that there are absolutely no guarantees with this team as of right now.

Woody Johnson has a history of making knee jerk reactions, and following a two year post season drought, there is no doubt that significant pieces of this organization will be replaced. The rumor mill has been extremely active over the past few days, but outside of the firing of Sparano, and the potential firing of Tannenbaum, the majority of these rumors can be dismissed until the powers that be are sorted out. There has been plenty of discussion about Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow being moved this offseason. While these are likely scenarios, there are far too many pieces that need to fall into place before decisions like these will be made. It will surely be a hectic week in Jets land, but make no mistake, an overhaul is coming in some way, shape, or form.

Heading into “Black Monday,” plenty of activity is on the horizon. The most likely departures include Sparano, Tannenbaum, Sanchez and Tebow at some point, and a surplus of other players including, but not limited to, Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, Eric Smith, Bryan Thomas, Sione Pouha, Dustin Keller, Shonn Greene, Brandon Moore, Matt Slauson, Jason Smith, Clyde Gates, Lex Hilliard, Mike DeVito, and LaRon Landry, to name some. Depending on what changes are made, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie certainly do not have a clear future with this organization either.

Where this team is headed from here on out depends largely on the approach that will be taken by Johnson and the newly appointed Hughes. If they decide to take the rebuild approach, expect the entire coaching staff to be relieved, along with efforts to move any high priced players on the roster. If the retool approach is taken, many players will still be let go, but Ryan could remain as the Head Coach of a roster that will likely look nothing like what was on the field in Buffalo today.

It is certainly a dark time for the New York Jets, who have just posted their worst overall record since 2007 when the club finished 4-12. There will be plenty to discuss in the coming days, and Turn On The Jets will be bringing you updates and analysis every step of the way, so be sure to stay with us. Until then, there is no need to lose sleep speculating the changes that will be made due to the high level of uncertainty as explained above. 2012 was as bad as it gets for New York, but one positive we can all take from this season is that change is on the horizon for an organization that desperately needs to rid themselves of the immense amount of drama and overall abysmal play that have plagued this once promising team since 2010. Rest easy, Jets nation. Changes are on the way.

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.

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.

 

New York Jets Defensive Film Breakdown: Week 7

Chris Gross breaks down the defensive game film from Jets/Patriots

Week 7 saw the New York Jets face a familiar foe in the AFC East. New York traveled to Foxboro to take on their divisional rival New England Patriots. While New York came up short in a hard fought, over time loss, this team played well, defensively, for the majority of the contest. There were certainly some lapses that led to 3rd down conversions, long drives, and touchdowns, but outside of about 2 total drives by New England, New York put together a very impressive effort against the Patriots’ high octane, hurry up offense.

Schematically, New York did an excellent job of putting themselves in the best positions possible to succeed against Tom Brady and his plethora of weapons. However, this game revealed some serious issues with this defense. Issues that, if not fixed in the future, will prevent this team from ever truly having a dominant defense in this league.

For this week’s film breakdown, we will take a different approach than we have in the past. Since the effort in the front 7 was much more about the cohesion of the unit and the scheme, there was not necessarily any individual performances that stood out. This week, the play of the defensive line and linebackers will be much better explained if their evaluation is grouped together. This will allow for a better understanding of exactly what the Jets were doing in the box to defend Tom Brady and Co, as well as how the Patriots responded to each of the Jets adjustments. The secondary, as usual, will have its usual mention. Let’s get into it:

Defensive Line/Linebackers: The defensive line has been extremely strong over the past 2 weeks prior to facing New England, showing very solid efforts against Houston and Indianapolis. Quinton Coples is beginning to come into his own as he grows with each and every rep he gets. Muhammad Wilkerson is starting to build a little more each game toward becoming the type of defensive lineman this coaching staff expects him to be. However, as previously noted in our earlier film breakdowns, the remainder of the defensive line, without Kenrick Ellis and Sione Pouha, are extremely average, and vulnerable.

The vulnerability of the depth behind Coples and Wilkerson are going to begin to damper this defense until Ellis and Pouha can return. The issue is, without a true nose capable of being an every down player, the Jets have been forced to play Mike DeVito a heavy amount at the 0 and 1 technique. We have discussed DeVito being a poor fit at this position, as he is much more of a 3 technique player, but due to injury, New York has felt that he is still their best option to play there until this unit returns to full health. DeVito’s struggles at this spot are beginning to become magnified and problematic, not just for his own play, but for the play of the rest of the defensive line.

Since DeVito is not a true nose, he does not garner the respect from offensive line that a true nose would. In New England, the Patriots offensive line left DeVito to be blocked by one man, whether it was the center or guard, unlike someone like Ellis or Pouha who command a double team about 99% of the time. By using only one man to block the nose, New England was then able to block the remainder of the line (in the base 3 man front) using two separate double teams on both Coples and Wilkerson. This was a very intelligent scheme by the Patriots, as they were able to neutralize the Jets two best playmakers on the defensive line, without skipping a beat. Due to this, Rex Ryan was forced to get creative with his blitzes and pressure packages to get penetration and pressure on the quarterback. What is most worrisome for New York is that New England’s blocking scheme may now be the blue print for offensive lines moving forward. Until Ellis and Pouha get back, the Jets need to find a way to neutralize this type of scheme, possibly by working in more true 4 man fronts, without the use of a nose guard.

The problem with the 4 man fronts the Jets were using in New England on Sunday were basically the same as the problems they were running into using the 3 man fronts. Rather than bring in an extra defensive tackle, and sliding DeVito to a 3 technique, with Wilkerson and Coples at the end spots, New York would slide either Wilkerson or Coples inside, and put Calvin Pace at the other defensive end spot. Unfortunately for them, the Patriots gave Pace about as much respect as DeVito, as they were able to block him with just one man as well. Therefore, Coples and Wilkerson were either left in a 2 on 3 scenario, or more double teams, if a back or tight end was left in to block. It is extremely hard to get sacks in this league as it is, but when constantly facing double teams, the numbers are likely close to being statistically impossible.

Against the run, the front 7 was generally solid. Coples and Wilkerson continued to face a good amount of double teams, but this ultimately helped the linebackers get through and make plays. DeMario Davis, although making mistakes at times, was very effective against the run, and proved to be lighting quick in getting down hill and stuffing the running lanes. Comparatively speaking, he is an upgrade over Bart Scott. While Scott may not make the cerebral mistakes that Davis will, Davis’s speed and athleticism alone make him more effective than Scott, even with his mental errors. He should see the majority of the reps at linebacker down the stretch.

New England ran the ball a surplus of times out of a heavily unbalanced package. In these packages, the Patriots would line up not just two, but three tight ends to one side of the line. Yes, this package makes it obvious where the ball is going most of the time, but against the hurry up, the Jets struggled to make adjustments to the formation, and were repeatedly gutted for positive yards. That is, until Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine did finally get to making the adjustment of bringing LaRon Landry down into the box who proved to be far to fast for any of the tight ends or offensive lineman to get out on in space. His presence in the box alone assisted in shutting this formation down, and New England used much less of it down the stretch.

David Harris was generally solid in this one, however he continues to look sluggish for his position. He does a good job of filling runs that are directed right toward him, however, he has struggled to scrape sideline to sideline this season, a trend that continued on Sunday. He was also too slow to beat offensive lineman at times, as he got sealed with a lane block on more than one occasion. The hope with Harris is that now with Davis getting a vast amount of reps, he will be able to complement the speed of the rookie with his size and tenacity.

The pass rush on this defense is obviously the most concerning issue, probably on the entire team, even more so than the quarterback position. As touched upon earlier today by TJ Rosenthal, the Jets defense lacks a true closer that can get after the quarterback late in games and cause sacks or bad throws. As much as we have praised Calvin Pace’s technique in this column all season, it is clear at this point that it will not be enough to propel him into recording a surplus of sacks. Aaron Maybin, on the other hand, regressed tremendously from his solid performance against the Colts. Perhaps Maybin got caught up in the moment of a big game, trying to make the big sack, but he reverted to his old ways of sprinting directly up the field, and ending up 5 yards directly behind the quarterback.

New York needs true pass rushing outside linebackers in the worst way possible. Bryan Thomas, Pace, and Maybin are all in contract years, and unless something drastic happens with their play, it would be shocking to see anyone of them resigned next season. With a rather depleted and aging 2013 free agent class, look for New York to target two OLB’s in next April’s draft. Combining a vicious edge rush with this very young and talented defensive line could finally put the Jets over the hump, and give them a truly dominant defense for the future.

Secondary: This was arguably the best game the secondary has played all season. Considering Isaiah Trufant’s lack of experience, he did a fantastic job on Wes Welker, who’s box score lies with regard to how well he was defended by Trufant. Two of Welker’s catches came on long catch and runs off of screens. Welker also hauled in a couple of overtime passes. However, these were obtained after a very questionable adjustment that moved Trufant over to Branch, and DeMario Davis on Welker. Brady recognized the switch, and did an excellent job of taking advantage of the mismatch, the linebacker on the speedy wide out. As much as Rex’s defensive mind is respected throughout this league, this could go down, with his conservative defensive approach late in the game, as the most questionable decision he and his staff have made all season. Why take Trufant, who was quite effective on Welker for the majority of the game, and move him on Branch, who was a non-factor? More importantly, why replace him with a linebacker to cover the fastest wide receiver on the team? A true head scratcher.

Antonio Cromartie continued to be a dominant force, holding Brandon Lloyd to just a single reception, further cementing his status as an elite cornerback in this league. Cromartie did drop a late interception that could have changed the landscape of the game, but played excellent regardless.

Kyle Wilson is continuing to grow as well. We have watched Wilson go from a heavily criticized nickelback, to a very capable starting cornerback. The pass interference penalty he was called for in overtime on Aaron Hernandez was very questionable, but his ability to bounce back the next time Brady went at him and break up the attempted pass proved that he has a short term memory, something vital for the position.

The safeties were generally effective as well. Landry was excellent against the run, and made some very nice plays in coverage. Bell continued to be solid, despite not putting up any flashy numbers or making any highlight reel plays. Antonio Allen did a very good job jamming the tight end, but was often caught trailing in coverage. In fact, the pass to Danny Woodhead that set up the game tying field goal in the fourth quarter was a result of Allen missing him as he came out of the backfield. Allen has struggled in coverage, but has proved to be effective as a blitzer, as well as being very physical, which is exactly what we expected out of him this season.

Watching the film of this matchup was truly remarkable. Ryan’s defensive mind against New England’s offensive coaching staff resulted in constant checks and adjustments throughout the entire game, a true chess match if their has ever been one. Hopefully, for the sake of New York, it is Ryan and Co that force New England into checkmate on Thanksgiving when the two teams meet for the final time this season.