New York Jets Defensive Film Breakdown: Week 13

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

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

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

Week 13 Top Defensive Performers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defensive Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New York Jets – The Other Guys

A look at the other New York Jets who played yesterday besides the quarterbacks

Lost in the shuffle of the ongoing quarterback controversy surrounding the New York Jets is that other players actually took the field yesterday…and many performed well for a refreshing change of pace. These last four games remain critically important for many young players on the team’s roster who will be expected to be key parts in 2013 and beyond. Here is a recap of a few who stood out –

Bilal Powell – His role is growing every single week and he is taking advantage of it. Yesterday Powell finished with 58 yards on 12 carries, finishing with a 4.8 YPC. He broke a 17 yard run that helped propel the team’s only touchdown drive. Powell has good vision and is both shiftier and quicker than Shonn Greene. There is no reason that Powell can’t be a capable 1B option and 3rd down back for the team next season. On the year, Powell has 70 carries for 278 yards for 4.0 yards per carry. Hopefully, he can finish the season getting 10-15 carries each week and maintain that average at over 4 yards.

Stephen Hill – It has been a rough year for the rookie but yesterday was a step in the right direction. Hill had 5 catches for 40 yards and drew a penalty. What was encouraging is that many of the catches Hill made were difficult ones in traffic. He is going to be the team’s starting split end next year, so he must build momentum heading into 2013. Now that Hill looks like he is gaining confidence in the shorter passing game, it would be nice to see the Jets hit a big play down the field to him which is the primary thing he was drafted for.

Jeremy Kerley – It wasn’t a gaudy statistical game (3 catches, 37 yards) but Kerley made difficult catches in tight coverage. Most notably pulling down a key third down conversion with elite cornerback Patrick Peterson draped all over him. This has been a terrific all around season for Kerley who still has an outside shot of having a 1,000 yard season in one of the league’s worst passing offenses which is pretty damn impressive. If Hill develops alongside him and Santonio Holmes comes back healthy, the Jets have the makings of a very good group of receivers in 2013.

Muhammad Wilkerson – This isn’t anything new but Wilkerson is maintaining his play at a Pro-Bowl level. The 2nd year player is one of the few recent draft picks Mike Tannenbaum can really hang his hat on. If the Jets ever find an outside linebacker who can get into a quarterbacks’s zip code, watch for an explosion of stats by Wilkerson who will finally get to deal with less double teams. Put it this way, if you were playing the Jets wouldn’t just triple Wilkerson and let Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas and their 7.8 forty yard dash times run free at the quarterback?

LaRon Landry – Not a “young player” but somebody who is making a strong case to be brought back in 2013. Landry isn’t without his flaws (occasional lapses in coverage and missed tackles) but on the whole he has brought a needed playmaking element and physical attitude to the Jets backend.

New York Jets Fact or False: Week 13 Edition

Chris Gross with his weekly Fact or False, previewing Jets vs. Cardinals

My, what a wild year it has been in Jets land (what else is new?). After a strong showing at opening day at MetLife Stadium back in September, when the Jets romped the Bills 48-28 to begin the 2012 season (Yes, that game actually occurred in the same season as this), the New York Jets have progressively fallen far from grace. In week 2 the Jets went into Pittsburgh without their All-World defensive back, Darrelle Revis, and despite coming out strong on the opening drive, ultimately fell to the Steelers at Heinz Field 27-10. Since then, New York hasn’t mustered up one convincing win, while being blown out 3 times at home. Although the Jets have had to deal with injuries to two essential players (Revis and Wide Receiver Santonio Holmes), this team’s total lack of depth and talent has put their fans in an uproar, and rightfully so. Sure, the Jets held their own against two of the AFC’s top teams when they hosted the Houston Texans in week 5 and when they took the Patriots to overtime in Foxboro in week 7.

However, the games the Jets have been able to win this season have been against far inferior opponents. Buffalo, Miami, and St. Louis have a combined recored of 13-19-1. Indianapolis came to New York with their rookie quarterback Andrew Luck having to face a Rex Ryan defense for the first time in his career. Luck will be great, but it is a daunting task for a rookie to solve the puzzle that is Ryan’s defensive scheme on the road. To put it into perspective, the 2012 Jets, although not horrendous, are simply a poor football team.

This column has been dedicated to making a handful of predictions based on past games, tendencies, and matchups for each week – predictions that have often failed to come to fruition. Last week, we observed what the Jets needed to do against the Patriots on Thanksgiving in order for them to upset their longtime foe. Looking back, they really failed to do any of these things.

Since it has become nearly impossible to predict what this team will do in terms of game plan (see Tebow, Tim; week 12…actually all season), execution, and outcome, this column will now focus on key points, all of which the Jets must achieve to have any chance of reigning victorious again this year.

This week’s New York Jets Fact or False will focus primarily on how the Jets need to attack their upcoming opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, what matchups will be crucial, and who needs to come to play, in order for New York to put patch one of the holes of the sinking ship that is their 2012 season. This team is all but guaranteed to not reach the playoffs this season, but the Jets can certainly do their best to salvage what is left of this mess and head into 2013 on the right foot. Whether or not they can do that, however, will depend on how they perform from top to bottom in these remaining five weeks. Let’s take a look at Arizona.

The Jets’ active rookie wide receivers need to step up big this week. Fact. As depleted as this team’s receiving corps has been all season, think about this for a second: Clyde Gates has been ruled out for Sunday’s contest, creating a serious issue at wide receiver. Wow. After week 1, would you have ever thought that this is what we’d be analyzing heading into week 13? Unfortunately for New York, however, that is exactly where the Jets stand. Aside from Gates, Chaz Schilens is questionable with concussion symptoms, and Jeremy Kerley (the only receiver who has been somewhat productive this season) is still hampering a leg injury.

While it is a scary thought that the Jets could potentially be starting a receiving corps led by Kerley and rookies Stephen Hill and Jordan White, this could be a blessing in disguise. While no one should expect this group to be world beaters, it is essential to see if Sanchez can develop some chemistry with his young passing options. Stephen Hill started 2012 with a bang, hauling in 5 balls for 89 yards and 2 touchdowns in the season opener against Buffalo. Since then, however, Hill has hit the growing pains that we all expected him to heading into this season. All is certainly not lost for the promising rookie with tremendous upside out of Georgia Tech, so getting him touches the rest of the way this year will be crucial to his development.

Jordan White is a player who has been on the radar here at Turn On The Jets since New York selected him with their final pick in this year’s draft. A highly productive college player, White stood out in our post draft evaluation due to his high football IQ, strong route running, and ability to catch balls in traffic. It was expected that he may take a bit to come around, but on a team in need of hope in week 13, White could start his campaign to give some promise to this team’s depleted group of skill players.

Now, it would be foolish to think that White is going to come out in his first game and light up Arizona, prompting a surplus of waiver wire claims from fantasy football league owner’s heading into their respective playoffs. However, White is fully capable of catching anywhere from 2-5 passes this week, while beginning to gain some momentum in an attempt to be a long term asset to this roster.

Regardless, the Jets need these two to not play like wide-eyed rookies this week, but instead play with a certain level of confidence and reliability, so they can provide some security to Mark Sanchez, who desperately needs it. If Kerley and Schilens are a go, they will likely start, but do not be surprised to see Sanchez target the youngsters to gauge where they are at as he tries to find some continuity in these final 5 weeks. If this offense looks to have momentum heading into next season, it starts with these young players at receiver stepping up and asserting some kind of presence this Sunday.

The Jets need to get Mark Sanchez airing it out on Sunday. False. While the Jets do need to see some signs of life from Sanchez, following one of his most horrific performances,in terms of ball security, last week, the key to being successful on offense remains the same as it has been since Sanchez arrived in New York – a strong running effort, with a limited amount of drop backs. Look at the Jets two most convincing victories this season, against Indianapolis and at St. Louis. Sanchez was 11 for 18 for 82 yards and 2 touchdowns and 15 for 20 for 178 yards and 1 touchdown, respectively. What do you notice about those numbers? That’s correct, no turnovers.

The Jets ground attack during those two games, however, was on point. Although the total rushing yardage against St. Louis was not eye opening – 124 total yards – the Jets stuck to a successful formula of a running back by committee approach. Bilal Powell was able to record his first two career touchdowns in that contest, primarily because Tony Sparano took some risks in obvious passing situations in the red zone by giving Powell the carries, and it paid dividends.

The bottom line is, the more Sanchez is asked to throw, the more likely it is for him to commit a mistake and turn the ball over. New York needs to give him a strong running effort once again, while allowing him to make some high percentage throws on slants, play action passes, and designed roll outs. If the Jets can limit him anywhere between 20-25 attempts, while running the ball 35-45 times, not only will they be helping Sanchez regain some much needed confidence, but they will also be putting themselves in the best position to win. Is it ideal to have to game plan like this with a fourth year quarterback? Of course not, but at this point the reality is that Sanchez has performed poorly, and has a depleted group of receivers to throw to. If the Jets can stay grounded this week, they will control the clock and field position, while keeping their defense off of the field.

The Jets defense needs to come up with a surplus of quarterback sacks and hits. Fact. New York’s pass rush has been absolutely horrendous over the past five seasons, mostly because they have done a poor job of outside and self scouting at vital pass rushing positions during that time. However, Arizona ranks dead last in sacks allowed throughout the entire league this season, and they will be starting a rookie quarterback on Sunday. Remember what we said about that Andrew Luck guy? Ryan Lindley isn’t anywhere near the type of player that Luck is, but he does have a solid group of wide receivers to throw to against a very shaky Jets secondary. If he is given ample time to throw the ball, he will make plays.

Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples will be licking their chops when they line up against this poor offensive line on Sunday. However, they will need support from the linebacking corps in order to establish a strong pass rush. All season long, these two have been hampered as a result of facing a vast amount of double teams, due to the complete lack of a pass rush from the outside and inside linebackers. Whether it is the dinosaurs that are Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas, Garret McIntyre, or DeMario Davis, the Jets need to find a way to get Arizona’s attention off of Wilkerson and Coples, so they can be put in man blocking situations. If New York can rattle the cage of Lindley early, and throughout the course of the game, this offense should not be able to move the ball. If they let him sit in the pocket and gain comfort, however, it will likely be another week of excuses, pouting, outrage, and turmoil heading into week 14.

The Jets need to focus primarily on Larry Fitzgerald to shut down Arizona’s passing attack. False. Aside from getting to the quarterback, the Jets need a strong game plan against the Cardinals’ number 2 and 3 receivers. Andre Roberts has been very productive for a team with the poorest quarterback situation in the league this season, accounting for 50 receptions, a team high 639 yards, and another team high 5 touchdowns. Michael Floyd and Early Doucet are two players who haven’t had the productivity of Roberts this year, but are highly skilled. Each of these receivers have the ability to exploit the embattled Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster. Aside from getting to the quarterback, New York needs to figure a way to neutralize these two, primarily from scheme. If the Jets expect to put Wilson and Lankster in man coverage on Sunday, without generating a pass rush, they will not win this game., plain and simple.

Dustin Keller needs to establish a veteran presence and allow Sanchez to lean on him. Fact. Lost in the disaster that has become the 2012 Jets is the player that Mark Sanchez became comfortable looking toward in previous times of struggle. Although Keller is second on the team in receptions, that number is a mere 26. 26 catches from a player who was thought to be Sanchez’s go to guy. While he has been hampered by injury for the majority of the season, Sanchez is usually the most efficient when Keller gets going. Look at the first matchup against New England. Many will refuse to admit this, but Sanchez played one of the best games of his career, prior to overtime, that week. A lot of that success has to do with Keller’s strong day of catching all 7 passes thrown his way for 93 yards and a touchdown.

Now, it is unfair to blame this lack of production on Keller. The lack of receiving threats on this team makes him an easy focus of opposing defenses. However, he needs to find a way to get open and give Sanchez that much needed security. If Keller can get going with some early catches to move the chains, Sanchez’s confidence will only grow as the game progresses. As of right now, aside from the run game, Keller is the straw that stirs the drink on this team’s offense. If he can get some early receptions, Arizona will be forced to shift their coverage toward him, allowing ample opportunity for those young receivers to get open and make plays. Sanchez, in the meantime, will only be able to grow on all accounts because of this. Yes, he should be limited to no more than 25 passing attempts, but each of those 25 will be critical. The Jets’ quarterback has no margin for error anymore. Most people are ready to write him off as the New York’s signal caller. Whether or not this is just, it is the harsh reality of the NFL and particularly of professional sports in New York. Dustin Keller can help Sanchez slowly climb out of the abyss with a strong performance this week.

The Jets cannot afford any more Special Teams blunders. Fact. There is no need to explain this one. The Jets’ Special Teams has been horrendous for the majority of the season. With a struggling offense and a defense that has had its troubles getting off the field on third downs, special teams mishaps are a recipe for the perfect disaster. This needs to be turned around immediately. Period.

 

New York Jets: Don’t Give Up on Rex Ryan Just Yet

Chris Gross on why Rex Ryan shouldn’t be the fall guy for the New York Jets struggles this year

Over the past few weeks, the New York Jets have seen their season come undone in front of their very eyes. The Jets have lost 4 out of their last 5 games, 2 of which came in blowout fashion in their home stadium. Many have attributed this to poor coaching. Analysts, fans, writers, and even casual football observers have suggested that perhaps Rex Ryan is not quite head coaching material yet, that maybe he is better served as a coordinator. The same groups of people have also suggested that the Jets need to go after a former head coach with championship pedigree, someone like Bill Cowher or John Gruden.

However, the issues with the New York Jets go far beyond the coaching staff. The front office of this franchise has put this team in hole that could likely set it up for another year of poor play and mediocrity. General Manager Mike Tannenbaum and those who work within the department have maliciously restructured and back loaded a surplus of player contracts, guaranteeing the salaries for this season and beyond to guys who would have likely been released due to their dip in performance over the past two seasons. Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, and even David Harris have all played mediocre at their best this season, and absolutely horrible at their worst. Yet, Scott and Pace, who began to slide last year, had guaranteed salaries for 2012, so they were not expendable for the Jets. Remember when Tannenbaum supposedly gave Scott permission to seek a trade this past offseason? Other teams likely laughed at the notion. Who would be foolish enough to take on the guaranteed salary of a player past his prime, clearly on the downside of his career?

Fortunately for the Jets, Scott and Pace can be released next season without any serious financial repercussions. Harris, on the other hand, is guaranteed just over $9 million for 2013; so unless the Jets can do what the Yankees did to David Justice when they traded him to Oakland, don’t expect Harris to be playing elsewhere next season. The reason these guaranteed contracts are tied into the current state of affairs with the Jets is because they limit the money that can be spent elsewhere throughout the roster. This is why you are seeing this team, who was an AFC Championship contender just two seasons ago, fall so far from grace that they are the laughing stock of the league. So poorly General Manager Mike Tannenbaum has constructed this roster, that the Jets are stuck starting players who likely would not see the field, or possibly make the active roster, on some quality teams around the league.

The Jets have lost a total of 7 games so far this season. While people continue to point to the coaching as the primary reason for these losses, many are forgetting just how depleted and shallow this roster really is. Let’s take a look at how the Jets talent compares to the teams that they have lost to this season, starting with the offensive personnel.

The information in green in the above chart represents the Jets offensive season statistics up until this point in the year. Based on the team’s depth chart, players are inserted into their proper position (Sanchez at QB, Greene at RB1, Powell at RB2, and so on and so forth). The information on the right side of the chart (in white) represents the season average of all of the Jets opponents’ statistics at their respective positions. The idea here is to give a representation of how truly overmatched the Jets have been, in terms of talent, against the teams that they have lost to this season.

Let’s start by looking at the quarterback. Mark Sanchez is performing statistically below average, in comparison to his opponents that have defeated him, in every single category. His completion percentage is nearly a full 9 points lower than the average completion percentage of that group, while his turnover ratio is much higher, touchdowns are much lower, and QBR and passer rating aren’t even comparable.

Now, the obvious argument here is that he has faced Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks who alter the average because of their inflated numbers. Well, that assertion is false. Also included in that group are two rookies in Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson, a quarterback in Alex Smith who has just been replaced in San Francisco, and Matt Schaub who is good, but is certainly not the next Joe Montana. This is an average based off of two great, one decent, and 3 below average quarterbacks. An argument could certainly be made if these numbers were somewhat close, but for the most part they aren’t even comparable. Sanchez’s QBR isn’t even half of the average of that of his opponents, and his passer rating is nearly a full 20 points lower, as well. The level that he has played at for Rex Ryan and the Jets this year, would surely render him a backup if placed on any of these teams, and possibly in a third string role in some cases (New England, San Francisco, Seattle, and perhaps even Miami). The NFL is a quarterback driven league, as everyone is well aware of, and when you’re quarterback is performing well below the average of his competition, it is a miracle that you are able to win any games, never mind four.

Onto the running back situation. It’s no surprise that Shonn Greene is below the average of opposing starting running backs. This is an assertion most people who have observed the Jets this season have come to terms with. Greene is not a feature NFL back. He would be most productive in a stable of effective backs, primarily as a downhill runner late in games, as he was in the early stages of his career.

Unfortunately, though, Greene clearly is not in a solid stable of backs with the roster currently in place in New York. Take Bilal Powell for example. Although Powell has gotten one carry less than the average of RB2 on the teams the Jets have fallen to this season, he is still well below in total rushing yards, and is averaging nearly a full yard less per carry. His 24.4 yards per game and 0 carries of 20 or more yards are just not the numbers of a solid number two back capable of spelling a solid lead runner. His 3 touchdowns are impressive by comparison, but remember two of those came by clever play calling by Tony Sparano in St. Louis. Powell can be better if given a bigger role, but he has not performed to the average of his counterparts thus far.

Joe McKnight is, not shockingly, the only back outplaying his roster spot in comparison to RB3 on teams New York has lost to. Turn On The Jets has been a McKnight advocate all season long. His 22 carries are almost 5 less than the average at his position, however he has attained over 25 more yards than the average third back has. His yardage per game is only slightly above average, but remember, as the weeks continue to pass without him getting carries, that number is out of his control. By comparison, this position is the only one on the Jets offensive depth chart that they hold an advantage to over their opponents – the third running back spot.

As far as the wide receivers on this team go, the numbers speak for themselves. First, note that Santonio Holmes, who has been inactive since week 4, is still second among this group of receivers in receiving yards, and third on the team, overall. Now, let’s break into the current depth on the active roster.

Jeremy Kerley has been solid for the Jets this year, as the only real viable option in the entire corps. Unfortunately, though, Kerley just simply isn’t a number one receiver, a role he has been forced to take on due to injury and (what do you know) a lack of depth. As the chart displays, Kerley would be a solid number 2 receiver by comparison to the average of those opponents. As a primary target, though, he is, like his teammates, well below average. With nearly ten fewer catches, over 67 fewer total receiving yards, and just about 10 fewer yards per game, Kerley is a number 2 option that has been forced into a number 1 option due to poor roster depth.

Now, observing the remaining three receiver spots, you will find that New York has three players that play to the level of the average third wide receiver on those opponents. Gates is slightly below that average, but slightly above the average of the fourth receiver, outside of yards per catch and yards per game. Schillens and Hill would both be decent third receivers at this point, which Schillens basically is, but neither are even close to being an average number 2. In other words, the Jets have one number 2 and three number 3’s or 4’s on their roster. Combine that with the QB play that is well below average by comparison, and again, it is a miracle that this team is able to accumulate any type of passing offense.

The Tight End numbers are a bit altered because of injury, with Keller missing reps and Cumberland having to fill the void of TE1, but what you’ll see is New York is, once again, far below average at the position. It his hard to judge whether or not Keller would be better, statistically, and Cumberland worse, if Keller never missed time due to injury, but the bottom line is, neither of these Tight Ends are playing up to par at their respective positions.

Offensively, this team’s lack of talent is a true display of how hard it has been for the Jets to scratch out four wins so far. You have below average starters at every position, many of whom aren’t even playing at the level of opposing backups. Look at the opponents on that list and go through their rosters position by position, comparing them to the players on the Jets. Many players on this roster would not make some of those teams – Clyde Gates (who actually didn’t make one of those teams), Cumberland, and perhaps even Dustin Keller (NE, SF). When observing this personnel and the level each player has performed at thus far, is it really surprising that the Jets have lost seven games, or is it shocking that they have won four?

Onto the defensive side of the ball – Below is a chart similar to that of the one that represents the Jets offensive personnel in comparison to the opponents that they have lost to, position by position. The numbers in the orange represent the average numbers of the top three players at each position on opponents the Jets have lost to, with the exception of defensive tackle, where the average has used the top two spots on the depth chart from each of those teams. In the green, each defensive player on the Jets is represented. The number of players used coincides with the number of players used to determine the average of the opponents, to give you an accurate representation of where each player stands.

First, let’s observe defensive end. It should come as a surprise to no one that Muhammad Wilkerson is playing far above the average of opposing defensive ends. Wilkerson is superior in every statistical category, with the exception of sacks. Coples is only slightly below in terms of tackles, but is well above in tackles for loss. Sack wise, unfortunately, is where he, like Wilkerson, is below average. DeVito, is well above the average number of tackles, but again, lacks in sacks and even tackles for loss.

At defensive tackle, Sione Pouha has performed slightly above average, despite missing time, while Kenrick Ellis has been hampered by injury, causing his numbers to be below average. Taking the two of them into account, the Jets have had fairly average to slightly below average play at the NT position this year, a position that is vital to a successful 3-4 defense.

Another vital position in this scheme is outside linebacker. Here, the play is below average in nearly every statistic, at every spot on the depth chart. As far as sacks go, it isn’t even close. The defensive line is hampered by the inability to rush the passer from the OLB position. Often times, as our film breakdowns have revealed, teams can easily block one of these player using only one lineman or back, resulting in a great amount of double teams to Wilkerson and Coples. In other words, the OLB’s inability to rush the passer is preventing the defensive line from rushing the passer. This is a vicious cycle in this scheme, but a true representation of why this team has struggled so mightily in the area.

To finish out the front seven, we move to inside linebacker. David Harris is well above average in his run support, but far behind against the pass (only 2 PD vs. the average of 4, and 0 INT vs. the average of 0.7). This should come as a surprise to no one, considering how Harris’s struggles in coverage have been noted throughout the season. Behind Harris is Bart Scott and rookie DeMario Davis. Scott is clearly a well below average LB at this point in his career, and is making a strong push for the “poor” category. Scott likely doesn’t make the active roster in San Francisco, New England, Miami, Seattle, or Pittsburgh. Davis is promising as a rookie, but clearly he hasn’t performed up to par as well. Basically, this team has four starting linebackers who would be backups at best if placed on one of these opposing teams.

In the secondary, Landry and Bell have played excellent in run support, as the numbers indicate. Landry has performed better than Bell in the coverage area, but is still slightly below average, which tells you what you need to know about Bell’s play in coverage thus far. Eric Smith has been in and out of the active lineup because of injury, but considering he is the third safety on the roster, he hasn’t played insanely bad.

As far as the corners go, the only player worthy of any type of recognition is Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie has three more passes defended than the average opponent, and nearly 2 more interceptions. His touchdown separates him from a majority of the group as well. Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster have been decent in terms of tackling, both still below average, but not necessarily horrible. However, in terms of coverage, it is rather embarrassing. Wilson has defended less than half of the average number of passes than his opponents, and he is a starter. Lankster isn’t quite as bad, but remember he has a lot more passes thrown his way when in the game, so that number is likely inflated.

In Short, this defense is solid at about 3 positions – defensive end, strong safety, and cornerback. You have about three players on the entire unit that are playing above the average of those players on opponents that have beaten the Jets. Combining this lack of talent, with the clear lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball, is a clear indication of how poorly this roster has been built.

Most people want to put the blame on Rex, and their motives are certainly justified. Rex is far from perfect as a head coach. His lack of holding players accountable, particularly Mark Sanchez, needs to be altered if he wishes to have any success as a head coach in this league. However, Tom Coughlin altered his coaching style from a pure disciplinarian, with little personal connection to his players, to more of an emotional coach, back in 2007. This slight tweak in his coaching philosophy has led to two Super Bowl wins. Now, no one here is comparing Ryan to Coughlin. Coughlin is surely the superior head coach, and will be for some time. The point is, coaches can adjust and achieve success. Rex is more than capable of this adjustment. The true question is whether or not he is willing to do it.

Aside from this flaw, Rex is the right man for this head coaching job, at least for the next year. Among the head coaches in Jets history, Ryan ranks second in winning percentage behind only Bill Parcells. Ryan also has the most playoff victories of any of these coaches. Is this more of a reflection of how poor the coaching has been in this franchise’s history? Perhaps, but the point is, when you get a guy who has shown that he can win games, you don’t kick him out the door at the first sign of struggle. All coaches struggle at some point; it is part of the business.

Now the next argument that is often made against Ryan is that he inherited a loaded roster in his first two years, which is the only reason for his early success. This is another assertion that is very narrow-minded. Remember, there were only 4 new starters from the 2008 roster during Rex’s first year. Brett Favre, who made the pro bowl in ’09, was replaced with a rookie from Southern California who had only one year of college starting experience under his belt. Braylon Edwards was brought in after the team had already won three games, and proved to be a useful weapon to the rookie Sanchez. Defensively, the only two additions that were made to the starting unit were two free agents in Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard, who happen to have been previously coached under Ryan in Baltimore. With these minor additions, Ryan propelled this defense from 16th to 1st in a year. Offensively, Ryan’s strong rushing philosophy kick started a run game that jumped from 9th in 2008 to 1st in 2009.

Most importantly, though, Ryan changed the culture of this franchise. For years, the Jets had accepted mediocrity, often hovering around .500, or sneaking into the playoffs and being bounced in the first or second round. No one in the league seriously feared the Jets, but when Ryan arrived he installed a bloodthirsty attitude throughout his team. Suddenly, the Jets went from the hunted to the hunters. In 2009 we saw a Jets team that displayed a higher sense of urgency and team bond than he had seen in years, for some of us, a lifetime.

Ryan came in and did what no other coach in the history of this franchise has been able to do – win 4 playoff games. Never mind the fact that he did this in his first two seasons; that number currently ranks first in playoff wins by a Jets head coach, as previously noted. Unfortunately for the Jets, after 2009, the personnel department slowly began to dismantle the roster, resulting in the current lack of talent and depth that we have gone over.

In 2010, the Jets drafted Kyle Wilson in the first round. Wilson has played at the level of about a 4th rounder for the majority of his career. Many people want to blame Rex for this pick, but remember this decision was made in anticipation of a Darrelle Revis holdout. The front office likely wanted to have insurance and leverage over the looming Revis extension. So while it is easy to think that Wilson was Rex’s choice, remember that Mike Tannenbaum likely wanted to cover his rear end in the event that he could not structure a new deal for Revis.

Since then, the front office has done its best to dismantle this team. They have let key pieces leave, while replacing them with far inferior players. Tannenbaum has given guaranteed contracts to players in the tale end of their careers, who haven’t lived up to their ends of the bargain. Blame Ryan all you want, but don’t forget that the General Manager has the final say in all personnel decisions. Is it a surprise that teams run by Jerry Jones and the late Al Davis have had so much trouble keeping a head coach and finding adequate talent? This isn’t to compare Tannenbaum to either of those two, but the point is that head coaches are there to coach the players given to them by their front office, and that is exactly what has happened with the Jets.

Rex Ryan, although flawed, is not at fault for the troubles of this season. He has been given a well below average roster, and has still mustered up 4 wins, while coming very close to beating two of his conference’s best teams. The 2009 and 2010 teams, although talented, did not really have any superior players, other than Darrelle Revis, and Ryan brought each of those teams within a play or two from the Super Bowl. Rex has what it takes to get this team its first championship in over 40 years, but based on the numbers and clear lack of talent, not even the best of coaches could get this team above .500.

The front office of this organization is to blame for the misfortune you have all witnessed, not the coach. Based on the information presented here, Ryan has exceeded the talent on this team, and at only four wins, that tells you all you need to know about the poor work done by the front office in recent years. The common desire is for New York to bring in a head coach with championship pedigree, like Gruden or Cowher, as mentioned above. But remember this very true statistic – no coach in the history of the NFL has ever won a Super Bowl with two different teams.

Rex has the ability to lead this team to a championship, and most importantly he has the hunger to do so, as well. Give him average talent, not even great, and this team will be able to compete for a championship. As the roster stands now, the Jets are not only below the top performers at each position, but they are well below average. No coach is winning with what Rex has to work with. Changes need to be made, but Head Coach is the one spot that needs to remain intact for the Jets to get where they want to be in the quickest manner.

 

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.

New York Jets Defensive Film Breakdown: Week 3

Chris Gross breaks down the New York Jets defensive game film against the Miami Dolphins

For the third edition of our weekly defensive film breakdown, we unpack all of the positives and negatives from this past week’s overtime victory in Miami. While the Jets obviously did enough to win the game, their defensive effort was rather lackluster in comparison to how this unit has played in the past, particularly in the front seven. Now, with All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis out for the season with an ACL tear, it is more imperative than ever that this unit gets it together and plays the way they are capable of playing. The Jets pass rush will need to become extremely ferocious to compensate for the loss of Revis in the back end of the defense, something that they have clearly been anything but. However, for the time being, let’s breakdown last week’s game and see where and how they need to improve to remain relevant without their star player.

Just as the previous editions of this column have done, we will first start by evaluating each defensive lineman as individuals, while focusing on the linebackers and secondary as whole units.

Muhammad Wilkerson – We’ve been singing the same tune with Wilkerson for three weeks now – he needs to be more consistent. There are plays when Wilkerson looks comparable to some of the best defensive lineman in the league, while there are other plays where he looks like a glorified role player.

Against Miami, specifically, Wilkerson started out playing very hesitant. Rather than coming off of the ball fast and hard, he was demonstrating a mortal sin of defensive line play as he was playing with a tendency to stand straight up, engage the offensive lineman, and peak in the backfield for the ball carrier. Defensive linemen cannot afford to look for the ball. That is what the linebackers are for. A defensive lineman’s number one priority is to initiate the contact with the opposing offensive lineman, gain leverage, and maintain gap responsibility while reacting to the play. The only thing defensive linemen should be reading is what type of block the offensive lineman is giving them. Often times, that will take them directly to the ball.

For example, if Wilkerson is playing as a 5 technique on the outside shade of the tackle, and there is no tight end to his side, he would normally have outside contain. Now, if the ball is being run outside, the tackle will likely attempt to reach block him by getting his head to the outside of Wilkerson, and sealing him to the inside, in order to create a running lane for the back on the outside. By reading the tackle’s head, Wilkerson would realize that he is attempting to seal him to the inside, so would likely fight across his face to maintain his outside contain. This would ensure two things. First, Wilkerson is fulfilling his assignment by occupying the area that the defense is designed for him to occupy, and it would also take him directly to the ball carrier, where he would either make the play, or force it back inside to his 10 teammates in pursuit.

However, when Wilkerson does not read his opponent, but rather peaks his head into the backfield, not only does he find himself out of position, but he forfeits all leverage, allowing himself to be driven off the ball. Perhaps this had something to due with the threat of the elusive Bush, but as a defensive lineman, you must trust the defense and fulfill your role only, to the fullest extent.

Wilkerson fortunately did not make too much of a habit out of this practice in Miami. By the second half, he began to rely on his technique and instincts, rather than his eyes, to dictate his play, and it clearly showed on film. On one particular play in the third quarter, Miami ran Daniel Thomas off tackle at All-Pro Jake Long, who was matched up one on one with Wilkerson. Wilkerson came off the ball extremely fast and low, established leverage, drove Long about two yards into the backfield, shed the block, and made the play on Thomas. As you can see below, he maintains leverage on Long with his outside arm, while keeping the rest of his body free to make the play. Absolute text book play by Wilkerson.

In terms of pass rush, the Jets like to slide Wilkerson all over the line. Sometimes he will rush from a zero technique, lined up on the center, while also seeing time at both the three and five technique spots. It is certainly hard to gain some type of pass rush rhythm in constantly being moved, but clearly New York has confidence in Wilkerson’s ability to do so. He needs to develop a little more of a push and some creative hand work to improve in this area. In a four man rush, however, Wilkerson is usually the one to be doubled, so in fairness to him, opposing offensive lines certainly seem to account for him regularly.

Sione Pouha – The performance by Pouha against Miami was certainly not what Jets fans have become accustomed to. In his matchup against the Dolphin’s interior line, Pouha was flat out dominated for the better part of the game, specifically by Miami Center Mike Pouncey. Pouha, who is likely still nursing a back injury, looked hesitant, slow, and weak against the run. He struggled mightily against the double team, something he has done a tremendous job of in the past. He could not seem to gain penetration at all, even when he was single blocked, and his ability to move down the line of scrimmage in either stunts or pursuit was virtually non-existent. He served absolutely no purpose in the pass rush, as he was repeatedly stalemated at the line. Whatever Pouha’s issue may be, whether it injury or confidence, 2nd year pro Kenrick Ellis will likely begin to eat into his reps if he does not improve his play soon.

Mike DeVito – Mike DeVito is the same defensive lineman Jets fans have been watching for the past few years. Like in the previous two games this season, DeVito didn’t do anything that would warrant an exclamation point against Miami, however he remained very solid against the run. He gives a consistent effort, hardly ever gets driven off the ball, and is rarely, if ever, caught out of position. DeVito is the prototypical blue collared lineman, something that is essential to the depth of any defensive unit.

Unfortunately, that is where the praise for DeVito ends. In terms of rushing the passer, DeVito continued to show absolutely no ability to get to the Quarterback. When he is in the game on passing downs, the Jets are essentially playing a man short. Why Quinton Coples is not seeing more reps in these situations remains a mystery.

Quinton Coples – Coples, again, saw very limited action against Miami. His first few plays were somewhat irrelevant, as the ball was run to the opposite side of the field. However, what stood out most in these situations was Coples’ backside pursuit. For a player that has been criticized to have motor issues, I have yet to come across any valid evidence of such a fault.

Coples does, however, find himself lost at times. A few plays early in the game, he seemingly had no idea what his assignment was, as he would engage the opposing offensive lineman, then begin to look around as if he was unsure if he was making a mistake or not. Knowledge of the scheme could be one issue keeping the first round draft pick off of the field for now.

That being said, Coples needs to be used more on passing downs, period. The Jets cannot afford to keep arguably their most athletic defensive lineman on the sidelines on third downs while Mike DeVito continues to run straight into tackles and guards, serving virtually no purpose. Coples is extremely quick and elusive off the ball, particularly when he is on an inside stunt matched up with less athletic guards and centers. In addition to his athleticism, Coples also continues to display great strength and leverage. In his sole QB hit against Miami, Coples stunted inside, got underneath the opposing guard, and drove him into Ryan Tannehill’s face just before the Dolphins Quarterback got the ball off. 

As shown here, Coples has great position on the right guard as he continues to work up field, pushing the pocket into Tannehill’s face.

Coples finishes in the face of Tannehill with his hands in the Quarterback’s line of sight, forcing an incompletion. With the need for a pass rush even greater now with the absence of Darrelle Revis in the secondary, it would be a crime for New York to keep Coples on the sidelines in passing situations.

Kenrick Ellis – Ellis continues to play as if he is the best defensive lineman on the team. No one has been more consistent through three games than he has. Aside from showing great explosiveness and tenacity, Ellis has proved that he simply cannot be moved from the line of scrimmage. Whether it is a straight drive block, or a double team, Ellis often gains penetration into the backfield, while at the very least, maintaining his ground. His work in the passing game is miles ahead of any other interior lineman, as he continuously gets a strong push up the middle, noticeably making the quarterback uncomfortable. One specific play that stood out on Ellis, that was easily the most impressive play he has made to date, was a tackle for loss that he made after splitting a double team between Jake Long and Miami guard Richie Incognito. Like Coples, it would be a travesty for Ellis not to see more playing time. Do not be surprised one bit if he surpasses Pouha as the starter at some point in the coming weeks.

Calvin Pace – We continue to beat the same drum with Pace week in and week out. He does just about everything right technically, but he continues to show a lack of speed that is prohibiting him from being a difference maker. Like the previous two games, Pace did nothing to stand out against Miami, however there is not one instance where he made a drastic mistake. His veteran savvy is easily noticeable, and he remains one of the toughest players in the front seven. Pace will continue to be solid, but anything more than 4 sacks this year will be an over-achievement.

Aaron Maybin – Maybin continues to baffle by showing absolutely no sign of improving his pass rush moves. Week in and week out, Maybin continues his trend of sprinting upfield, out of control, more often than not past the quarterback. On one play in particular this past week, Maybin sprinted upfield past Jake Long, who simply rode him right past Tannehill into, what looked like, a chokeslam. Maybin ended up on his back, and Tannehill got rid of the ball unscathed.

The biggest concern about Maybin’s lack of improvement is the apparent lack of influence by defensive line coach Karl Dunbar. Dunbar was praised all offseason as a key piece in revitalizing this team’s pass rush woes, after his previous success in Minnesota. However, with Maybin seemingly making no changes in his game, one has to wonder exactly what Dunbar is coaching him on.

Garrett McIntyre – It was a nice story in Pittsburgh, but the Garrett McIntyre experiment has reached its peak. Miami continuously left McIntyre singled out, both on run and pass plays, and he could not break single blocking to save his life. A few times, he was even lined up over Jake Long, something the Jets should never have subjected him to. There is nothing to knock about McIntyre’s work ethic and effort, however he is simply overmatched, physically, far too often.

One play in particular that stands out, is on one of Reggie Bush’s early runs in the first quarter. Down inside the Miami 20, Bush’s run was stonewalled on the front side. The back changed directions, to meet McIntyre in the open field about two yards behind the line of scrimmage. Bush effortlessly made McIntyre look like he was on ice skates, resulting in a gain, rather than a tackle for loss. Now, in fairness to McIntyre, there aren’t many people that can get to Bush in the open field, however the seamless move made by Bush proves that McIntyre does not belong on the field in an every down, defensive role.

Marcus Dixon – Anyone who has been following this column through the first two weeks should not be surprised by the release of Dixon this week. He was certainly not the same player that he was in the past, a trend that continued in Miami, leading to his release. A class act, we can only hope Dixon finds his game and catches on somewhere else. For now, we move on.

The Linebackers – David Harris and Bart Scott were not particularly impressive this week. While they made their plays when it mattered late in the game, they each made a number of mistakes throughout the duration of the first 60 minutes. Harris, in particular, repeatedly attempted to arm tackle Reggie Bush in the first half, something that a back like Bush clearly shakes off with ease. On a 12 yard run with 3:56 left in the 1st quarter, Bush broke through to the second level. Harris, struggling to shed his block, attempted an arm tackle which Bush easily ran through. What should have been a 4-5 yard gain, resulted in a 12 yard gain due to poor tackling.

Harris and Scott also seemed out of sync on their blitzes at times. On a play in the first quarter, the two inside linebackers ran a twist stunt in their blitz that was poorly timed and led to a cluttered middle, which Bush easily averted and advanced to the Jets’ 3 yard line, setting up the first Miami touchdown.

What concerned me most about Bart Scott was his lazy technique at times. A few plays on which he was cut blocked down field, Scott, instead of shooting his hands and keeping the lineman off of his legs, merely lowered a shoulder, rendering no defense to the block whatsoever, taking him completely out of the play. For a veteran like Scott, there is no excuse for technique like this.

DeMario Davis and Josh Mauga each saw limited reps. Mauga was not impressive, and the sample of Davis was far too small to evaluate. He looked fast in his coverage breaks, however on the sole play that he was assigned to cover Tight End Anthony Fasano, Fasano fell down and was immediately overlooked by Tannehill.

The Secondary – Obviously, losing Darrelle Revis is as bad of a blow to any unit that could be imagined. Prior to the injury, Revis was the best player on the field, without question. While he was hardly thrown at, he showed a great ability to tackle in the open field on Reggie Bush, something that, as previously discussed, is no easy task. Revis will be sorely missed by this defense, but the remainder of the guys on the roster must elevate their play.

That includes Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie. Wilson looked better in man coverage this week, except for the fade caught by Fasano inside the Jets 10, where he was caught horribly out of position, as if he was not expecting Tannehill to target Fasano on the play. Cromarite played like he does. He had lapses in coverage that either led to penalties or big plays, but did enough to get it done. Both of these players are going to be very much under the gun throughout the remainder of the season, so it is imperative that they elevate their play.

Ellis Lankster filled in for Wilson as the Nickelback after the Revis injury and was not particularly impressive. On a 19 yard catch by Davone Bess in the fourth quarter, Lankster bit extremely hard on a double move, causing him to fall to the ground while Bess effortlessly ran by him and caught the ball on the sidelines. 

As you can see at the top of the screen here, Ellis is on the ground looking at Bess, who is wide open just before the 40 yard line. While Bess is no slouch, he certainly is not as good as some of the slot receivers Lankster will face throughout the remainder of the year. He will have a daunting task all season, beginning this week with 49ers’ Mario Manningham. New York will likely need to give Lankster as much help as possible.

As far as the Safeties go, both LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell played well, other than a few lapses in run defense. A few times, Bell and Landry were caught taking bad pursuit angles, none of which resulted in large gains. They did a good job covering Fasano for the most part, and Landry had the play of the day with his interception returned for a touchdown.

Eric Smith was called for two personal fouls, neither of which seemed legitimate, but when will this veteran stop putting himself in situations like this? Smith was also terribly out of position on Jorvorskie Lane’s one yard touchdown run. As shown below, Smith turns his back to the sideline in his gap, rather than staying square, and gives up an enormous running lane, which allowed the Miami fullback to walk into the endzone untouched.

Bell, the player furthest to the left of the screen, is seemingly playing outside contain and simply cannot make it back in time to make up for Smith’s mistake.

While this defensive performance was certainly nothing to write home about, there are some encouraging signs. The safety play, for the most part, was very solid, and if not for the play made by Landry, the Jets may not have won the game. Muhammad Wilkerson can absolutely be a pro bowler if he can play consistently, and Ellis and Coples show flashes of brilliance, they just need to see the field more.

With Revis out, there is no doubt that everyone on this unit needs to elevate their play. The next 13 weeks will tell us a lot about the guys on defense, as well as Rex Ryan’s coaching ability. It certainly will be a daunting task to dominate, defensively, without their best player, but make no mistake that the Jets still have the pieces to have a very good defense. The keys will be consistency, cohesion, and most importantly, a ferocious sense of urgency.

New York Jets Defensive Film Breakdown: Week 2

Chris Gross breaks down the defensive game film from the Jets week 2 match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers

If you missed our first edition of the New York Jets Defensive Film Breakdown, a season long series devoted to evaluating the play of everyone on the defense, with a focus on the defensive line, you can check that out here. For this week, we will look at what was a rather abysmal performance from a Revis-less New York Jets defense that allowed 27 points in Pittsburgh. While the run defense was much improved from week 1, allowing only 66 total yards on the ground to a stable of less than average Steelers backs, there is still much to improve on that would make this unit far more productive. As for the secondary, obviously losing the best defensive player in football is critical. However, that is not an excuse for the poor play of both Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson. All will be touched on throughout this piece, but for now, let’s start with this column’s priority, the defensive line.

Muhammad Wilkerson – Wilkerson remains very hot and cold in his play. On some plays, he looks to be the best run stopper this defense has had in years. He is extremely fast off the ball, while his reaction time is second to none. This past week, there were numerous plays where Wilkerson clearly got a pre-snap read on the offensive lineman lined up over him, as he seemingly knew exactly what block was coming at him on that particular play, whether it was a double team, down block, drive block, pull, or pass set. On one specific play, with Wilkerson lined up as the three technique over the guard, he read the pull, got in the guard’s hip pocket, screamed down the line, and made the tackle three yards in the backfield. Textbook technique and reaction time by the second year pro out of Temple.

Wilkerson also flashes tremendous awareness at times. With 5:58 seconds to go in the first half this past Sunday, Wilkerson altered his pass rush lane after he noticed Calvin Pace jump inside of him. Rather than continuing to work upfield on the inside of the tackle, Wilkerson kept his outside arm and shoulder free, while maintaining leverage with his inside arm. This prevented Roethlisberger from being able to scramble out of the pocket, where he had would have had room to run for an easy first down. Unfortunately, this play resulted in a first down completion, but only because Pace once again struggled to close the gap on the Quarterback. An outside linebacker with any type of relative game speed would have come up with a sack in the pocket, which would have been a direct result of Wilkerson’s heads up play.

While Wilkerson certainly did a lot of good, as demonstrated by the praise above, he still has miles to go before he can be considered elite, particularly in the run game. Similar to week one, Wilkerson once again displayed a poor habit of peeking his head into another gap, causing a massive running lane to open. This past Sunday, these instances led to medium gains of 10-12 yards, but against a back like Reggie Bush, who the Jets will see this upcoming week in Miami, mistakes like this will surely lead to big gains, and possibly touchdowns, as displayed by the long runs of CJ Spiller in week 1.

As you can see below, Wilkerson begins this particular play in the opening quarter in excellent position. He maintains good leverage on the left tackle, while controlling his gap, ready to make a play if the ball comes to him, with Bart Scott sitting behind him, reading which gap the back will choose.

If Wilkerson stays home, Redman would be forced to run to the inside of the tackle. Bart Scott, reading the back, is patiently waiting to see which direction he will choose, ready to react and stop the play from either side.

However, as displayed below, once Redman steps to the inside, Wilkerson cheats and peeks his head that way, placing himself and Scott in the same gap, while leaving his unattended, resulting in a massive lane being opened, and a 13 yard gain, one that would have been much greater if facing a back with home run speed.

What should have been a gain of 1-2 yards, results in a gain of 13 and a Pittsburgh 1st down. Wilkerson cannot continue to make mistakes like this, particularly this week when facing Miami and Reggie Bush, who would have likely turned this play into a touchdown.

Marcus Dixon – Unfortunately, Wilkerson is not the only defensive lineman to practice this poor habit. Marcus Dixon was also very guilty of making the exact same mistake on Pittsburgh’s first touchdown drive. In the second quarter, with the ball at the Jets’ 13 yard line, the Jets had the opportunity to hold Pittsburgh to a field goal by stopping them in the red zone, heading into the half. However, on 1st and 10, the Steelers ran for a seven yard gain, setting up a nice 2nd and 3 from the six yard line, eventually leading to the Heath Miller touchdown. How did this happen? Take a look.

Here, just about everyone in the front seven, other than Dixon, is maintaining perfect gap leverage. However, Dixon is clearly struggling to maintain his ground. Instead of continuing to fight to his outside and hold his gap, he takes the easy route by ducking inside, in an attempt to get a cheap tackle. This opens up yet another massive running lane, leading to the seven yard gain that led to a Pittsburgh touchdown.

The closest person to making the play here is Yeremiah Bell, who, at this point, is about 12-13 yards away from the ball carrier.

Dixon remained very unimpressive in this contest. He more often then not gets knocked off the line of scrimmage, causing problems for the linebackers and creating large running lanes. Dixon has been caught out of position numerous times in the first two games, something that, if not fixed, will certainly begin to cost him playing time.

Kenrick Ellis – To me, Ellis was the most impressive defensive lineman on the field this past Sunday. He plays with unbelievable leverage, something that, when combined with his fantastic size and strength, makes him virtually immovable. Ellis proved to be technically sound, explosive, quick, and relentless. Expect him to begin to see more and more playing time as the season unfolds. A solid two man rotation at the nose tackle position could be a very dangerous weapon for this defense.

Garrett McIntyre – McIntyre, the man of the hour, delivering two sacks and a tackle for loss in his debut as a starter, certainly surprised a lot of people by his performance in Pittsburgh this past Sunday. However, take caution when anointing him the next leader of the New York Sack Exchange. Yes, McIntyre played very hard, and was certainly thrown to the wolves by having to face a Ben Roethlisberger led offense in his very first career start, but when observing the film, McIntyre hardly did anything spectacular.

His first sack was a direct result of a well designed, well timed line stunt. The Jets ran a loop with Quinton Coples, who was lined up on the interior of the defensive line. What this means is that Coples drove up field extremely hard for two steps, fooling the offensive line into thinking he was taking his normal pass rush lane, just before he bailed out to loop around to the end of the line to occupy the outside rush line. Meanwhile, McIntyre was sent like a bullet direct inside at Steelers Center Mike Pouncey, who never saw him coming as he was paying attention solely to Coples on the play. As a result, McIntyre ran Pouncey over from his blind side, and had a clear shot at Roethlisberger in the pocket. While McIntyre certainly deserves credit for coming in so aggressively, this sack was a direct result of Rex Ryan’s defensive genius and the respect commanded by Coples. Still, a sack nonetheless.

On McIntyre’s tackle for loss in the second half, he came off the edge completely unblocked and made the tackle on the back about 2-3 yards behind the line of scrimmage. To his credit, he made the offense pay for not accounting for him. However, it is not very difficult to make plays when not a single person lays a finger on you.

McIntyre’s second sack was his most impressive play of the game. He came upfield very hard on the left tackle, gaining leverage on the edge, and split the attempted chip by the back, taking him right to Roethlisberger for the takedown.

As far as coverage goes, McIntyre is a complete liability. On more than one occasion, he can be found running around in coverage like a chicken with his head cut off. He even warranted an unpleasant reaction from Kyle Wilson on one play early in the first quarter.

Based on his performance, McIntyre should not be a full time starter, however, his effort level lead to the majority of his execution. That alone, should continue to earn him some limited reps, with the hope that he continues to grow and develop into a decent contributor.

Quinton Coples – It remains a mystery as to why Coples is seeing such limited action. For a team that clearly has pass rush issues, one would think that this team would be eager to get one of their most athletic players in the game to get after the Quarterback. In this particular contest, Coples saw a fair amount of his reps on the interior, where he was a clear mismatch to the center and guards due to his superior athleticism. In order to establish a respectable pass rush, New York needs to get their first round selection on the field more.

Calvin Pace – Pace continues to be the most technically sound, disciplined player on the Jets defensive line. The veteran OLB/DE plays very, very tough, and is arguably the most consistent player the Jets have up front. However, his problem remains the same, and was displayed yet again this past week in Pittsburgh, in that he is just a step too slow at this point in his career. With his form and tenacity, if Pace had the speed and explosiveness of a 25 year old, there is a good chance he would be playing in a pro bowl due to how well he fits within the Jets’ defensive scheme. Expect him to remain solid, but not extraordinary, for the remainder of the season.

Mike DeVito – DeVito remains as one of the best run stoppers on this team, and arguably in the entire division. Time and time again this past week DeVito displayed that, although he will never jump off the stat sheet at anyone, he rarely gets caught out of position, or beaten by his opponent. He is certainly a fundamental piece up front, and his presence is surely missed when he is spelled by Marcus Dixon.

Sione Pouha – Pouha looked decent in his first start back from injury. He was very solid, as he has been in the past. He remains very strong as the anchor for the Jets in the middle of the defensive line, and his experience and knowledge of the game is very noticeable on film.  He commanded several double teams, which is certainly something to be said about a player who has been troubled by back issues. Pouha and Ellis together should give everyone else on this defensive line the ability to become playmakers due to the large amount of double teams they both command.

Aaron Maybin – Maybin was virtually non-existent yet again. He continues to show poor body control, as he repeatedly will fly upfield with no regard for where the pocket or Quarterback is. It seems as if the league may be catching onto his tactics, as the tackles in Pittsburgh, like Buffalo, used his own momentum to ride him past the Quarterback on his pass rushes. Maybin needs to display an expanded arsenal of pass rush moves and a much greater sense of awareness if he plans on building on his fairly strong 2011.

The Linebackers – David Harris was extremely solid, and remains a fundamental cornerstone of this defense. What really jumped off the tape was the athleticism and explosiveness displayed by Bart Scott. Scott was extremely impressive last week, particularly against the run. He is so fast in his reads and reaction time that his first two steps make up for whatever straight ahead speed he may have lost at this point in his career. He undoubtedly looks to be back to the Bart Scott of old.

The Secondary – The play of the Safeties was generally average and similar to week 1. Both Bell and Landry remain solid against the run, while both are still seemingly trying to get comfortable in coverage. Each of them were caught trailing the Tight Ends a few times, and Landry even came up with a couple of personal fouls.

Bell seems to play much more poised than Landry, who find himself out of control at times. He had more than one clear shot at Roethlishberger for a sack, on well designed blitzes, however, like Maybin, he came in so fast and uncontrollable, that Roethlisberger was able to easily avoid him in the pocket.

The Cornerbacks obviously took a serious hit this week, losing Darrelle Revis to injury. However, that is no excuse for how Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson played.

Cromartie in particular, displayed no ability to finish a play. Numerous times, he started out great in coverage, but would lose the receiver he was matched up on by the end of the play, as displayed by the Mike Wallace touchdown. It is quite embarrassing that an inability to finish is a critique of a veteran like Cromartie. He is much better than how he played this past Sunday, and must start playing to his potential for this defense to succeed.

Kyle Wilson, on the other hand, was no match for Antonio Brown. The Steelers went after Wilson, and rightfully so, as they knew Brown held the clear advantage in the match up. To me, Wilson is seemingly a much better zone coverage corner, than he is man coverage corner. Perhaps it is a confidence issue because one would think a former first round selection would be able to match up, athletically, with someone like Brown, a former sixth round pick.

So, the obvious question that remains from Sunday is the same one that has been prevalent since Rex Ryan took over in New York – Where was the four man pass rush? Once again, the Jets relied on scheme to get pressure on the Quarterback. Well, at least for this week, the Jets’ four man rush was schemed against to perfection by Pittsburgh. The Steelers knew that Garret McIntyre would be seeing the majority of reps filling in for Bryan Thomas, and drew their protection around this perfectly.

Most of the time, when the Jets rushed four, Pittsburgh kept an tight end or back in to help in pass pro. This resulted in the following:

By leaving in an extra blocker, Pittsburgh allowed themselves to set up two mismatches. At the right of the screen, you can see a 3 on 2 matchup with a guard, tackle, and tight end on Ellis and Wilkerson. In the middle, the center and right guard are assigned to doubling DeVito, leaving the right tackle on an island with Garrett McIntyre, a matchup they were willing to take all day. While McIntyre finished with two sacks, only one came on a straight four man rush. Pittsburgh was smart to play these odds, as they clearly paid off, displayed by the Jets lack of pass rush with a four man front.

There is certainly much to be excited about when it comes to the Jets defense. It is still extremely early in the season, and most of the issues discussed above should be ironed out as the year progresses. However, make no mistake, this defense is far from dominant. The potential is there, but there is an abundance of things that need to be worked on before reaching it.

Turn On The Jets Stock Watch 6/19 – Wilkerson, Schilens, & Braylon

Mike Donnelly with his weekly Stock Watch. Who are we buying and selling this week?

Mike Donnelly is back with his weekly Stock Watch, make sure you give Mike a follow on Twitter and Turn On The Jets a follow on Facebook – 

It’s Tuesday so you know what that means: Time to combine the two things that take up most of my time and write a column! What are those two things you ask? Well, there’s sports of course, and specifically Jets football and then there’s boring financial work (Boo!). When put together we have the Stock Watch, where once again we’ll be buying and selling sports players, teams, ideas, and whatever else we see fit as if such things are able to be bought and sold. What’s that sound? It’s the Opening Bell! Let’s get started…

BUY

Mo Wilkerson – I put big Mo in the inaugural Stock Watch, but after seeing him up close at Jets Camp last week and reading the effusive praise rained on him by coaches, players, reporters, fans, analysts, and everybody in between, it’s time to double up and go in big on Big Mo. After coming out as a Junior from Temple, Wilkerson had a very strong rookie season (Had he stayed in school an extra year, he probably would have gone much higher in the draft this year).

By all accounts, he worked out extremely hard in the offseason to improve his strength, and he appears poised for big things. In fact, he, along with Quinton Coples, are going to be extremely important parts of the Jets new 46 defense. Mo’s athleticism and versatility will be the key to opening everything up up front. He can line up at any spot across the defensive line and that allows the Jets to shift in and out of different looks without having to change personnel. By the end of this year, Mo is going to be one of those guys that a few smart analysts and sites like ProFootballFocus.com will be raving about, while the uninformed general public will probably be late to the party and scoff when Rex Ryan raves about him. Thats fine by me. I’ll be watching, and I’ll be loving what I see — That’s why I’m doubling up this stock.

Robert Allen Dickey – More commonly known as R.A, Mr. Dickey has been absolutely dominating baseball lately. He’s riding a 42 and 2/3 inning wave where he hasn’t allowed an earned run. In his last 6 starts, he’s pitched 48 and 2/3 innings, allowed just a single earned run, gone 6-0, allowed just 21 hits and 5 walks, and struck out a ridiculous 63 batters. Ho. Ly. Crap. On the season he’s 11-1 with a 2.00 ERA and is hands-down the best pitcher in baseball. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t even able to make an awful Mets team out of spring training two years ago. R.A Dickey has been so awesome he makes me want to go outside and start practicing knuckleballs, and that’s enough to make me buy this stock.

Chaz Schilens – An under-the-radar type signing this offseason by the Jets, Schilens was pretty impressive at Jets mini-camp. In fact, he was so impressive that the Jets decided not to pursue Braylon Edwards any longer (more on that later). Schilens has always shown flashes of his great ability, but injuries have always popped up to derail any momentum he got going. The Jets brought in new receivers coach Sanjay Lal this year from Oakland where he happened to coach Chaz. Obviously Lal felt Schilens had talent and was worth bringing here, so now he’s a Jet. It’s hard to rely on a rookie like Stephen Hill from the get go, so look for Chaz to play a big role this year, especially early in the season. If he can stay healthy, this will be a nice stock to own.

My meeting with Manish Mehta being chronicled on Deadspin – Perhaps this is a stock that interests only me, but oh well. For those that missed it, I suggest giving it a read, if only for the part about Gary Myers’ hilarious fashion choices. As some of you know, I reported on my day at Jets Mini-Camp last week as well, but make sure you check back tomorrow for this week’s Jets Power Rankings, where there will be plenty more to discuss.

SELL

The Buffalo Bills Hype – I was all prepared to write up a paragraph about how this Bills hype is getting out of control and there’s no way they are better than the Jets, but Joe put that baby to rest yesterday. Make sure you give that a read, as he covered all the bases and totally derailed the Bills Hype Train.

Braylon Edwards – It’s hard to believe that two years ago, Braylon was entering the 2010 season as the Jets co-#1 receiver and the front office was rumored to be struggling with who to sign long-term: Edwards or Santonio Holmes. After a very good season in which he approached 1,000 yards and played an integral role in the Jets playoff run, the Jets decided to go with Holmes and let Edwards go. He then allegedly got involved in a bar brawl — which was not what teams wanted to hear after his early season DUI arrest –and signed a one-year contract with the 49ers, injured his knee, barely contributed, and then get released mid-season. Now he can’t find a job. Yikes. Braylon was one of my favorite players, so I hope things turn around for him, but it sure doesn’t look too good right now.

Jets #2 TE Spot – I touched on this in my Day at Jets Camp piece, but man oh man is this spot a black hole right now. Jeff Cumblerland, by all accounts including my own, was absolutely awful last week. He dropped a ton of passes and got chewed out by Tony Sparano often. Hayden Smith has potential, but doesn’t seem ready. Josh Baker is not a true tight end. They need to really look into picking up a veteran, preferably one who can block. Perhaps Daniel Graham? The only positive here is that Matt Mulligan was hilariously snatched up by Brian Schottenheimer and the Rams this offseason (that explains a lot) so he won’t be in that role, and that’s something we can all be grateful for.

Idea that the Jets need another RB – Joe wrote a great article about this last week which was very convincing, but I respectfully disagree. I just don’t see the point in bringing in someone like Cedric Benson, paying him, and giving him carries over Joe McKnight, Bilal Powell, and Terrance Ganaway. I know this idea has picked up steam amongst fans lately, but why not see what the young guys can do? Benson hasn’t averaged over 4 yards per carry since 2009, isn’t a good receiver, the Bengals couldn’t wait to dump him, and he doesn’t offer anything on special teams — and yet he’s actually the best option still available. I’ll pass on the veterans. The Jets have invested draft picks on these young guys, and it’s time to see what they can do.

James Harden – I tweeted about this during and after Game 3 of the NBA Finals, but when was the last time you saw a supposed “star player” not named LeBron James have such a bad NBA Finals performance? He was brutal and single-handedly cost the Thunder a 2-1 advantage. Hopefully someone got him a new bed in the past few days because he completely shit the bed all over his old one (By the way, is there a funnier term for failure than “shit the bed”?). If the Thunder are going to have a chance to win this series, Harden is going to have to do better than 2-10 shooting, but quite frankly, I’m not so sure he’s going to bounce back. I’d sell my Beard stock.

A Closer Look At The New York Jets 46 Defense

A closer look at what roles individual players will play in the New York Jets 46 defense

This video on NFL.com provided an encouraging look at the New York Jets 46 defense, which has repeatedly been talked up by the coaching staff as a major part of their scheme for 2012. The decision to hire Karl Dunbar and draft Quinton Coples only reinforces that. We already discussed the 4-3 looks the Jets could use this season, so let’s take a closer look at how their personnel could be deployed in the 46:

NT – Sione Pouha is going to receive the lion share of the reps here. Ideally, Kenrick Ellis could provide quality reps off the bench this season but he is far from a proven commodity. The Jets also still have Martin Tevaseau behind Pouha, who does have some experience. Finally, Mike DeVito does have the ability to slide into this spot if there was an emergency.

DT – Surrounding Pouha up front, the Jets will likely have Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples starting out, with DeVito and Marcus Dixon rotating in off the bench. Obviously, Coples is a better option on passing downs and DeVito is a better presence against the run at this stage of their careers.

DE – Calvin Pace could see the majority of reps here because of his ability to set the edge and occasionally get after the passer. He also has a good amount of experience with his hand in the dirt. Aaron Maybin could also line up here on passing downs, where he could utilize his speed.

LB (On Line) – The LBs you see diagrammed lined up alongside the defensive line will likely be Bart Scott in the interior and Bryan Thomas on the outside as starters. Scott can utilize his run stopping ability here and Thomas has proven he can set the edge against the running game. However, Demario Davis should replace either Thomas or Scott in passing situations, where the Jets could use him to either cover the tight end or get after the quarterback. Finally, the Jets could also line up one of their many strong safeties on the edge occasionally, whether it is LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell, or Eric Smith.

LB (Off Line) – Lined up alongside the strong safety, David Harris will be the primary player in this spot. He will have the ability to roam free and do what he does better than anybody on the defense, make tackles. In certain passing situations, I could see the Jets putting Yeremiah Bell or Eric Smith in this spot, alongside LaRon Landry at strong safety.

SS – LaRon Landry’s skill set fits best to this position. However, we could also see him and Bell be interchangeable in this spot, along with E. Smith occasionally seeing reps there, particularly if the Jets line up Landry up on the line in certain situations.

CB – Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie get the opportunity to take advantage of their man to man skills in this scheme. Could the Jets deploy a formation where Cromartie drops to FS and Kyle Wilson comes in at corner? I wouldn’t put it past Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine.

FS – The Jets lack a proven one on their roster. You could see Bell or E. Smith getting reps here, along with rookie Josh Bush or maybe even Cromartie as previously mentioned. Ideally, Bush picks up the defense quickly and becomes a capable centerfielder because he has the best skill set for this spot.

There is plenty of versatility with this formation. For example, the Jets could opt to take advantage of their collection of strong safeties by putting Landry on the line as the outside LB, putting Bell at the off the line LB and having E. Smith as the strong safety. Demario Davis has the speed to set the edge on either side or line up as the off the line LB in passing situations. Calvin Pace can play on either side of the formation, with his hand in the dirt or standing upright.

What is nice about the 46 and the Jets personnel is the ability to mix and match the player’s positions, which is something Rex Ryan loves to do and will keep offenses on their toes.