Grading the New York Jets 2014 Lineup Changes (Defense)

Mike Donnelly of TurnOnTheJets breaks down the New York Jets lineup changes on defense heading into 2014.

It’s no secret that the New York Jets defense has been the backbone of the team since the day Rex Ryan arrived. In 2013, the unit was able to rebuild on the fly as they had seven new starters, including two rookies, and still managed to field a very good defense. The stats are somewhat skewed thanks to an offense that constantly turned the ball over and put them in bad situations, but they still finished 11th overall with 334.9 yards a game. With a more experienced unit heading into 2014, how are they shaping up compared to last year’s squad? Let’s take a look. Continue reading “Grading the New York Jets 2014 Lineup Changes (Defense)”

New York Jets – The Coples Conundrum

Frank Giasone on the struggles of New York Jets defensive lineman/outside linebacker Quinton Coples

There have been a lot of questions and concerns surrounding New York Jets OLB/DE Quinton Coples this season, as expectations for a breakout second year have been tempered following a slow start for the former first round pick out of UNC.

The last time we saw the “real” Quinton Coples, he was manhandling Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert in the preseason, forcing a fumble as he threw the quarterback to the MetLife turf. That was the same play, in fact, where we saw Coples go down with a hairline fracture in his ankle.

I’d be kidding myself if I said I had a definitive answer to what has sent Coples seemingly into the Witness Protection Program. Truth is, this early season “slump” is likely a combination of a number of factors. But I wanted to take a closer look to try and pinpoint what issues specifically are contributing to a complete lack of production.

Continue reading “New York Jets – The Coples Conundrum”

New York Jets Fact or False: Hits & Misses of 2012 Edition

Chris Gross brings back New York Jets Fact or False with a look at our biggest hits & misses from the 2012 season.

Welcome back to another season of New York Jets Fact or False! Last year, we introduced this column to provide some entertaining predictions throughout the entire season, with topics beginning from OTAs in early May all the way through the end of the season when we just began to predict whether or not Mark Sanchez could last an entire series without doing something idiotic.

For our return edition of Fact or False, we take a look at our biggest hits and misses from the 2012 season. While there were plenty of issues we predicted with pinpoint accuracy, there are probably more we completely whiffed on. Today, we will look at the three biggest points we hit on the head, and the three biggest points we couldn’t have been more wrong about.

Continue reading “New York Jets Fact or False: Hits & Misses of 2012 Edition”

New York Jets Defensive Line: Nucleus In The Making

Chris Gross with a look at the Jets building a defensive foundation on the defensive front.

Over the past few weeks, there has been a great amount of discussion about what type of scheme the Jets are moving toward on the defensive side of the ball. First, the Sheldon Richardson selection fueled speculation that the team was working toward moving to more of a 4-3 base look as opposed to the 3-4 base defense that Rex Ryan has been so successful with throughout his coaching career in the NFL. These ideas were partially debunked last week when the Jets announced that second year defensive end Quinton Coples would be making a positional change to outside linebacker, the thought process being if New York was, in fact, moving to a base 4-3 front, they would not be moving Coples from what seems to be his natural position to a position he has much less experience at for the sake of the scheme.

So what is New York planning to do on defense for 2013 and beyond? The answer, which may be surprising to some, is nothing too different from what they have done since the arrival of Ryan in 2009. But why then, would the team use a first round selection on Richardson, who is at his best as a penetrating 3 technique, rather than selecting a player like Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, who spent nearly his entire productive collegiate career as a 3-4 pass rushing outside linebacker and who would seemingly be a better fit for such a scheme than a player like Richardson? The answer lies in what the Jets have done, and the vision that Ryan seems to have for his defense moving forward.

Continue reading “New York Jets Defensive Line: Nucleus In The Making”

New York Jets – An In-Depth Look At DT Antonio Garay

Despite not making any big splashes in the first week of free agency, New York Jets General Manager, John Idzik, has been seeking low cost, low risk veterans with versatility and potential upside. So far, Idzik has signed RB Mike Goodson, Guard Willie Colon, Defensive Tackle Antonio Garay, and most recently Outside Linebacker Antwan Barnes.

While Goodson, Colon, and Barnes each have a high chance of earning a starting job when the Jets meet in Cortland for training camp this summer, Garay will more likely be asked to serve as a backup in the defensive line rotation, with Quinton Coples, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Kenrick Ellis poised to be the starters on the defensive front.

Continue reading “New York Jets – An In-Depth Look At DT Antonio Garay”

Quinton Coples: Believe The Hype?

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

Note – This was written by former TOJ employee Steve Bateman

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

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

Continue reading “Quinton Coples: Believe The Hype?”

New York Jets Defensive Film Breakdown: Week 14

Chris Gross goes inside the New York Jets defensive game film

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

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

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

Week 14 Top Defensive Performances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defensive Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York Jets 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.