New York Jets – Week 2 Secondary Breakdown

Ben DiNapoli breaks down the New York Jets secondary performance through two weeks…

Fresh off the heels of a dominant week 1 win, the Jets entered their home opener with an early chance to prove this year’s team is legit. Unfortunately, the team came out flat and fell victim to the classic trap game, falling 20-12 against the Dolphins. While the offense never got going, the defense played well enough to win, limiting Miami to 20 points and pitching a shutout in the second half. Surprisingly, the secondary had more difficulty forcing stops against the Dolphins’ pedestrian group of pass catchers, but overall it was a somewhat quiet afternoon in coverage. There were, however, a few critical mistakes that helped seal the Jets’ fate in what turned out to be an ugly loss.

In a game where Ryan Tannehill was limited to 168 yards passing on 23 attempts, the first question that comes to mind is how did the Dolphins win this game? Well, while it’s true the Jets’ pass defense limited big gains through the air, Miami’s offense dinked and dunked its way up the field throughout the afternoon. The Jets didn’t have an answer; they continued to play off coverage and allow underneath passes, seemingly content limiting throws downfield. The coaching staff deserves some blame for failing to adjust to Miami’s game plan, but there were also some instances of sloppy tackling and the Jets caught a couple breaks on overthrows by Tannehill that should’ve been touchdowns.

A week after New Jack City debuted with 3 interceptions, the unit was unable to force Tannehill into any errand throws, which, in addition to the aforementioned short passing attack, led to some long drives. Although there were no interceptions, Jamal Adams had a forced fumble and there were some solid individual performances. However, penalties came back to haunt the secondary as the Dolphins continued to capitalize on the extra opportunities.

With that being said, let’s take a look at some studs and duds from the secondary in week 2:

Stud: CB Trumaine Johnson

After a rough game against the Lions, Trumaine Johnson responded with a bounce back performance in week 2. Even when covering Kenny Stills, he was barely targeted and didn’t shadow any receivers, but instead stayed mostly on the left side of the field. Although he wasn’t heavily involved in the action, Johnson’s presence was certainly felt; he consistently locked down a section of the field, allowing extra time for the pass rush to get to Ryan Tannehill. This is the kind of performance I expected to see from someone with Johnson’s talent and hopefully he continues to have this type of impact on the defense.

Dud: CB Buster Skrine

We’ve seen this performance from Buster Skrine too many times. He paced the Jets with 7 tackles but struggled in coverage and was called for 2 costly penalties. During an ugly series in the 2nd quarter, Skrine got flagged for a facemask when attempting to tackle Jakeem Grant. On the next play, he was burned by Albert Wilson and also missed a tackle on what ended up a 29-yard touchdown. To make matters worse, just when the Jets started to show some fight in the second half, Skrine was called for defensive holding, erasing a Brandon Copeland sack on 3rd down.

Stud: S Jamal Adams

Jamal Adams continued his strong start to the season after yet another impressive showing. As usual, Adams lined up all over the field and was tied for the team lead with 7 tackles, one of which was a crowd electrifying strip sack. One knock against him was a misplay on the 3rd and 19 conversion to Frank Gore that effectively ended the Jets’ hopes for a comeback. Adams should’ve realized Gore was slipping out for a pass and stayed home rather than blitzing. However, for the second week in a row, Adams looked much improved when matched up with tight ends in man coverage. Although he hasn’t had to face too much stiff competition, Adams has looked more comfortable covering pass catchers thus far. Keep an eye out Thursday night to see if he lines up against someone more challenging like David Njoku.

Dud: CB Morris Claiborne

Talk about Jekyll and Hyde performances. Following one of his better outings as a member of gang green, Claiborne had a game to forget. He was getting beat in coverage all afternoon and his day would’ve looked a lot worse had Ryan Tannehill not overthrown a long pass to Albert Wilson, who had Claiborne burned by a few steps. Additionally, in what turned out to be a big play in the game, Claiborne was called for defensive holding on a 3rd down sack late in the 2nd quarter. The Dolphins wound up scoring two plays later to increase their lead to 20-0.

Dud: S Doug Middleton

Through two games, Doug Middleton has mostly been a serviceable replacement for Marcus Maye. However, after allowing a score on a missed tackle against the Lions, he gave up another touchdown this week but in coverage. On the play, Middleton was matched up with tight end A.J. Derby and seemed to be expecting help from the inside. Even if someone blew an assignment, Middleton has to show better awareness and stick with Derby through the end of the route, especially when there’s that much open space.

The Jets have to prepare for a quick turnaround in week 3 — they travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns on Thursday Night Football. The fact that Cleveland is starting Tyrod Taylor at QB should bode well for Todd Bowles and the secondary considering they’ve faced him many times before. Because of their familiarity with Taylor’s tendencies, I’m expecting New Jack City to shut down the aerial attack. However, they also have to play a clean game and limit extra opportunities to extend drives. Here’s to hoping the Jets are hungry to prove last week was an outlier rather than a regular occurrence…