With each Jets loss this season, I find myself sitting down at my computer and harping on the fact that the Jets’ pass rush was once again essentially sabotaged by the declining play of the secondary. It’s become a pretty regular occurrence this season, as opposing offenses have adjusted their game plans to limit the Jets pass rushing opportunities.
And while it wasn’t as prominent in Sunday’s loss at Baltimore as it has been in other losses this season, the issue did rear its head in a couple of extremely unfortunate situations.
So instead of just talking about it again this week, I figured it best to actually show it.
On this particular play early in the second quarter, the Ravens are facing a first-and-10 from their own 18 yard line. It looks like a good pass rushing opportunity for the Jets’ front four–which on this play includes Muhammed Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples–as the Ravens come out in a shotgun formation with an empty backfield.
As has been the case over and over this season, some miscommunication, combined with bad decisions on the back end, essentially handicap the Jets chances to get to the quarterback. On this play, the Jets’ pass rush has less than 2.5 seconds to get to QB Joe Flacco before he gets rid of the ball. The Jets aren’t able to immediately create pressure, which gives Flacco enough time to look off safety Ed Reed, before hitting wide receiver Torrey Smith for a 60-yard completion down the sideline.
The Jets come out in man coverage across the board, with free safety Ed Reed (circled black) playing his customary “centerfield” role. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie is playing press coverage against wide receiver Torrey Smith (circled yellow) and the Jets are sending four rushersHere is where things start to go wrong. While the defense does a pretty good job in coverage –despite some confusion between cornerback Kyle Wilson and safety Dawan Landry (circled yellow)– Reed (circled black) appears to get caught staring in the Ravens’ backfield with his back to Smith–Baltimore’s most potent deep threat. Flacco, who is standing in a clean pocket, stares down his TE (circled yellow), holding Reed in the middle of the field.
The next few pictures show the result of the previous errors. Reed quickly realizes that he’s been baited by Flacco and unsuccessfully tries to retreat. Smith is able to gain some separation from Cromartie, and is on his way to a 60-yard reception. While it’s unrealistic to ask the secondary to provide perfect coverage 100 percent of the time, the truth is, they just have to get better. The acquisition of Reed has yet to really provide the help that many hoped as Rex is still putting his cornerbacks on islands, and the cornerbacks are still struggling to defend the deep ball. This clearly is a real concern for this team.
On Sunday, Flacco finished 17-of-26 for 273 yards and one touchdown. Of those 17 completions, two went for 60 yards or more, as Flacco hooked up with Torrey Smith for 60 yards and Jacoby Jones for a 66-yard TD (the Ravens only TD of the day). Those two plays accounted for almost half of the QB’s total passing yards.
But issues defending the pass aside, this Jets defense, for the most part, has been pretty impressive through three quarters of the season. The defense, which is still ranked No. 1 against the run, held Baltimore to just 67 yards on the ground and an abysmal 2.2 yards per carry. It’s gotten to the point where it’s almost comical watching teams try to run against the Jets this season, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.There are a decent amount of positives to this Jets team–despite what you may read on Twitter or hear on the radio. With some offseason tweaks, this defense has a chance to be one of the best all-around defenses in the league in 2014.
To The Grades:
Muhammed Wilkerson: 61 Snaps (95%)
- 6 Total Tackles (5 Solo)
- 2 Sacks
- 1 Tackle For Loss
Dominance has become expected week in and week out from Wilkerson, who racked up two sacks on Sunday, bringing his season total to a career-high 10 sacks through 12 weeks. Wilkerson is the first Jets player to record 10 sacks since John Abraham finished the 2005 season with 10.5.
Think about that. Not only does Mo have five more games to raise his total, but he’s also done it as an interior pass rusher who, at times, actually lines up at nose tackle. That’s pretty impressive, and one of many reasons that Wilkerson is considered one of the best defensive lineman in the NFL.
Sheldon Richardson: 51 Snaps (80%)
- 9 Total Tackles (7 Solo)
- 1 Sack
- 3 Tackles For Loss
Richardson, who was recently named AFC Defensive Rookie for the month of November, recorded his second-consecutive nine-tackle game and raised his season sack total to 3.5 You could argue that Richardson was the Jets best defensive lineman on Sunday, as the rookie displayed his ridiculous speed and athleticism often, on his way to three tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Here’s some proof:
Richardson, who is used normally as an interior defensive lineman, shows off his speed and athleticism by lining up at outside linebacker with Baltimore using its backup QB Tyrod Taylor at option QB. When Taylor attempts to run outside, Richardson is there to set the edge and bring him down for a loss of six yards.
Damon Harrison: 30 Snaps (47%)
- 5 Total Tackles (2 Solo)
Big Dame has emerged as one of the best defensive lineman in the NFL against the run. At this point of the season, that’s just a fact. ProFootballFocus.com graded him at +29.2 against the run through 12 weeks, giving him the second best grade in the league behind Houston Texans’ stud, JJ Watt. That’s quite the compliment, especially considering the fact that Harrison came into the league as an undrafted free agent.
‘Snacks’ continued his stellar play in Baltimore, and has really started to emerge as more than just a big body that can clog up the gaps and take on blockers. While he may not rack up the same stats as his two counterparts on the defensive line, his presence is just as important both against the run and against the pass.
Leger Douzable: 18 Snaps (28%)
- 4 Total Tackles
Douzable had one of his more productive days in his rotational role on the defensive line, wrapping up four total tackles in limited snaps, and is really showing a strong presence against the run. He’s been a nice surprise for Rex Ryan’s Jets, providing the team with a solid level of depth that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Kenrick Ellis: 15 Snaps (23%)
- 5 Total Tackles
Ellis continues to make the most of his limited opportunities this season, as he finished with five total tackles despite only getting 15 snaps. He’s proven to be an animal against the run, and while he was flagged for a facemask penalty on the play, showed off his incredible power on Sunday in Baltimore (below).
Here, Ellis (93) gets off the line of scrimmage in a hurry and pushes the Ravens’ guard, all the way back to the quarterback. In the end, Ellis’ “sack” is nullified by a blatant face mask penalty, but this is just an amazing display of sheer power from the former third round draft pick. This aspect of his game basically what has everyone so ridiculously excited about his potential.
With Harrison playing so well, Ellis’ snaps will remain in the 20 percent range. But like Douzable, the depth he provides to this defense shouldn’t be overlooked.