In what was essentially a meaningless game for the team (unless you want to get really caught up on them worsening their draft position), the Jets got a win that most certainly was important for certain individuals on the roster and the coaching staff.
I enjoyed the win and, more importantly, enjoyed the effort. Also, the fans at the game did a great job. That’s enough analysis for now, though. BGA Extra will be published on Boxing Day, so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for supporting BGA this year and wish you and your families all the best for the festive season (whether or not you celebrate Christmas). Drive safety, drink responsibly and enjoy the company of loved ones and any time off you get.
We hope you are continuing to enjoy the new BGA format. There are links to each BGA article or the option to read the offensive and/or defensive BGA in full after the jump.
To re-read the offensive BGA in full, click here
Geno Smith turned in another solid performance yesterday, accounting for 262 yards and three touchdowns through the air and on the ground. The biggest difference, something which I pointed out following the Oakland game where his fortunes started to change, is that he’s getting the ball out on time. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this three game run and his willingness to trust his receivers to make their break as the ball is in the air has corresponded with the return of his top three targets.
It looks like Smith will make it to 16 starts, making him the first quarterback in Jets history to start every game in his rookie season. That’s an impressive achievement, even though there were people calling for him to be replaced at one stage. He’s done well to push through since then.
Smith still had some inaccurate throws and questionable decisions, but the Jets converted 12-of-18 third downs and he strung together three touchdown drives, finishing each of them off himself, with two touchdown passes to David Nelson and the game-clinching 17-yard run with just over three minutes remaining.
While two of the three games were against poor teams at home, I’d still suggest that this is the best three-game stretch of his rookie season. Statistically, the Bills/Titans/Falcons stretch earlier in the year was better, but the Titans performance was misleading because he padded his stats late in the game and did lose a fumble for a touchdown.
Smith’s ball protection has been one area where he has unquestionably improved. He’s lost just one fumble since that Titans game in week four. Aside from the getting the ball out on time which I mentioned, I’ve also been increasingly impressed by his willingness to trust his protection and sit in the pocket, giving routes sufficient time to develop.
Smith did make some good downfield reads (and throws) yesterday and did a good job of smartly throwing the ball away when nothing was on, instead of trying to force it. However, there was one play where he may have missed an opportunity. Yet again, this came on a play where Rich Gannon told the viewing audience that nobody was open and actually criticized the Jets’ skill position players for their inability to win one-on-one matchups. And, yet, here’s the image he was basing that on:
At the top of the screen, Santonio Holmes blew by Joe Haden with an inside release and the Jets drew the deep safety far enough out of the middle of the field that Holmes was wide open. As you can see, he has a step on Haden and an accurate throw over the top would have been a touchdown. Maybe Smith was reluctant to test Haden – one of the league’s better quarterbacks – or lacked confidence in himself to make that deep throw. Maybe he just saw it too late and knew he didn’t have time to plant and get enough on the throw. (As you can see, he seems to be staring down his targets to the left). As for other options, the underneath checkdown was smartly doubled by the Browns, illustrating the kind of thing teams have been doing to try and force Smith to take risks. However, towards the bottom of the screen, Jeff Cumberland would get enough separation from TJ Ward that he could have been a potential target too.
I’m criticizing Gannon here more than Smith though. There weren’t many other opportunities I saw that Smith missed and it’s yet another example of someone in the media saying something (eg Dierdorf’s “Look at Ed Reed taking a bad angle”) and everyone else taking it at face value. Gannon is just wrong here – and he’s done this several times over the past two seasons in an effort to confirm some preconceived notion which obviously isn’t as clear-cut as everyone thinks.
I know it’s sacrilege to compare Smith to Mark Sanchez, but I’m going to anyway because their rookie season numbers make for a pretty interesting comparison. They’re two different players, whose careers might go in different directions, but this is still informative in terms of putting into context how well Smith has performed as a rookie.
Obviously Smith has one game to go, but Sanchez did miss a game (and half of another game) through injury. Of course, Smith was benched a couple of times too. Ultimately, Geno has played 935 snaps and Sanchez played 960 (in the regular season), so it more or less washes out.
So, let’s compare:
Completion percentage – Smith 55%, Sanchez 54%
Yardage – Smith 2856, Sanchez 2444
TD/INT – Smith 12/21, Sanchez 12/20
Yards per attempt – Smith 6.9, Sanchez 6.7
Sacked – Smith 43 times, Sanchez 26 times
Fumbles – Smith 8 (lost 4), Sanchez 10 (lost 3)
Rushing – Smith 62-322-5TD, Sanchez 36-106-3TD
The passing numbers are more or less the same and each of them had a strong start, an extended midseason slump and then an end of season resurgence. One difference is that Smith was sacked a lot more often. Another difference is that Smith was more productive as a runner (which we said he would be all year, although many people are still operating on the “not a running QB because of his college stats” fallacy, which fails to take into account that college rushing stats deduct negative yardage from sacks). This was true again yesterday, with Smith smartly making some key first downs and the clinching touchdown with his legs.
When Smith rushes for over 20 yards, the Jets are 5-1 and it’s no coincidence that Smith’s QB rating in those six games is much higher (89.3) because when he runs, he isn’t forcing throws and making mistakes. He’s done that three games in a row now and has just two interceptions in that three game stretch, the first time he’s managed that all season. Smith averages 33 rushing yards when the Jets win and 11 when they lose. I’m not saying they should introduce more designed runs for him – this has more to do with him taking what the defense gives him instead of taking undue chances. The fact he’s started to do that remains encouraging, because it’s integral to his potential effectiveness and continuing development.
It was fun to watch the Jets running game rack up over 200 yards yesterday, with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell accounting for 110 yards after contact between them. Ivory broke eight tackles, a season high, on his way to his third 100-yard game of the season. Powell’s 54 yards – 39 of which came on the burst before half time that set up the game-tying field goal – came on just seven carries and were the most yards he’s had in a game since Brian Winters moved into the starting lineup in week five.
The pair have combined for almost 1,500 yards with each of them having a career year. Ivory is likely to fall just short of the 1,000 yard mark (he needs 176 in his last game), but Powell might have a shot at 1,000 yards from scrimmage (he needs 103). Having lost Mike Goodson early in the season and suffered through some run-blocking struggles on the line, Ivory and Powell have established themselves as a solid one-two punch that could be a foundation of the offense next season.
The Browns run defense has been pretty good this season, so managing to rack up so many yards on them is an impressive feat. They did it consistently too, with over 100 yards in each half. While Geno Smith’s scrambling did boost those numbers artificially, they also used their receivers on a couple of gadget plays, with mixed results.
The Jets had some nicely designed plays that got their backs into space, but the bulk of the yardage came from them breaking tackles in the hole to get out to the second level. Ivory in particular showed terrific burst and power all day, with seven runs of at least seven yards (although one of these was called back for a holding penalty).
Other than his long run before half time, Powell did convert a couple of short first downs and also caught four passes, one of which went for a 31-yard gain that was also called back due to a holding penalty down the field. They were both effective when called upon to pass protect too.
Ivory did miss one block in the running game and still only has two pass receptions on the year, but we’ve never doubted his ability to carry the ball effectively and he’s been extremely efficient over the second half of the season in particular.
At fullback, Tommy Bohanon had one bad missed block, but otherwise was mistake free. He was targeted once on an incomplete pass.
Alex Green was used as a decoy again on a couple of wildcat-type plays. He hasn’t carried the ball since week eight.
The image below sums up the Jets’ approach to pass protection over the past few weeks:
Five men rush, six stay in to block, everyone blocks their man effectively and Brian Winters is the spare man ready to double team if required. On this particular play, the protection was superb. Smith had time to survey his options before hitting the obviously open Kellen Winslow on a crossing route underneath for a first down. What the image doesn’t show is that protection held for 3.5 seconds before Smith – sitting in the cleanest pocket you’re ever likely to see – released the pass to Winslow before any of the pass rushers got off their block or drove their man back into him.
The end result? No sacks and no quarterback hits, as the Jets surrendered just eight pressures all day and Smith threw the ball away safely four times and otherwise completed three of four attempts under pressure. That’s perhaps the best pass protection we’ve seen all season.
However, the image doesn’t tell the full story, because for much of the game, the Jets actually allowed Winters to block one-on-one and he actually acquitted himself pretty well.
For the game as a whole, Winters will still grade out poorly – several runs were (or should have been, but for a missed tackle) blown up because he missed or failed to sustain his block and he was called for a holding penalty on a play where he got beaten on the inside, negating a 10-yard Chris Ivory run. However, he managed to stay in front of his man in pass protection for most of the game, despite getting more one-on-one work that he’s seen in recent games. He was beaten twice on consecutive plays in the second quarter, but otherwise didn’t give up any pressure and did have an encouraging series of run blocks late in the first half, including a couple of extremely effective second level blocks where he not only found a man in space but also blocked him out of the play (by driving him backwards on the first one and turning him away from the runner on the second). That’s the best he’s looked all season.
Winters is still woefully inconsistent, but there are signs here and there that he is developing. Whether he has the potential to be an effective player in his second season remains to be seen, but it’s worth remembering that Matt Slauson was good in his second season and he barely played as a rookie (and presumably would have struggled if he did).
One sign that Winters is developing is the fact that Nick Mangold’s impact over the last month has been much more significant. Mangold has now gone three straight games without giving up a pressure in pass protection and was excellent in the running game, opening up lanes and never getting beaten. He did have one bad snap, but other than that, he looks like he’s back to his old self and the fact he’s not having to watch Winters’ back as often is likely a primary factor.
Willie Colon allowed just one pressure, but had a good impact in the running game where he and Austin Howard had some punishing double team blocks, including one where they drove their man several yards diagonally out of the play, sweeping up a couple of other players in the process to create a huge lane behind them. The two of them are developing really good chemistry and I would hope that bringing back the two would-be free agents is high atop the list of John Idzik’s priorities during the offseason.
Howard had a couple of breakdowns in pass protection, getting beaten inside twice and once on a stunt. However, he’s done enough this year to establish himself as an above average starter, without being so good that he’s going to command a top-level salary. Hopefully, they can get something done before he hits the open market.
D’Brickashaw Ferguson is finishing the season strong too. He gave up just one pressure, when he was beaten by a spin move, but has gone three straight games without surrendering a sack or quarterback hit. In the running game, he had some positive contributions too, including one play where he opened up a huge lane. On one play, his block on the outside was not particularly effective and the run was bottled up, but he peeled off to knock Craig Robertson on his backside with a monstrous pancake block, so at least he’s playing hard to the whistle.
Finally, Vladimir Ducasse was on the field for five snaps, two in relief of Colon who got dinged up and three as an extra tight end.
David Nelson continues to establish himself as a potential keeper, as his first career multiple-touchdown game helped spark the Jets to their 24-13 win. Nelson has pretty good chemistry with Geno Smith, who also hit him for two first downs, one of which saw Nelson drag his man to the marker. In addition to catching over 60% of his targets, Nelson has been good as a blocker and did have another good downfield block in this game.
By contrast, Smith and Santonio Holmes are still struggling to find (or re-establish?) any chemistry. Holmes has caught the ball on fewer than 40% of his targets and the amount of time he missed both in camp and during the regular season has got to be a factor in that. As noted earlier, Smith didn’t see Holmes when he beat Joe Haden deep down the sideline and there were four occasions when his throw to Holmes saw him get nailed as the ball arrived. Holmes only managed to hang onto one of these, as one was overthrown, one was a drop and one was broken up on a physical play by Haden. The two did connect nicely on a third down conversion, although Holmes had to dive to grab that one. I can’t fault Holmes’ effort though. Even when blocking he was working hard to the whistle, doing a good job downfield on two plays in particular. It’s got to be difficult for him to hide his frustration though.
Jeremy Kerley is a different story as he and Smith seem to have had great chemistry all year. Kerley had five catches for 70 yards (and another eight yards on a running play). He was targeted 11 times though. Kerley might have had a touchdown if he didn’t slip over on a short third down conversion in the red zone, but Smith did hit him in stride nicely a couple of times. They had success on a couple of slant routes, which is not something the receivers have seen much success with this season.
Kellen Winslow played 28 snaps – the most since his suspension earlier in the year. I’m not sure I understand the logic behind increasing his playing time at this stage of the season, so I wonder if this could be a sign that Rex Ryan has been given more freedom to maximize his chances of winning these last two. (Whether that’s with a chance to save his job or just an opportunity to polish up his resume for the next one remains to be seen.) On the other hand, maybe it’s just a case of burning rubber and using up all the fuel in a rental car that’s about to go back.
Winslow had three catches for 35 yards and showed some good open field moves, almost getting in the end zone in the second quarter after slipping the underrated TJ Ward’s tackle just before Nick Folk’s last second field goal. He was only targeted once in the second half, though. As a blocker, he allowed penetration on a run that was blown up and had a downfield hold to negate most of the yardage on Bilal Powell’s 31-yard screen play.
Jeff Cumberland has struggled recently as a blocker, but did a much better job yesterday. He had a couple of good kickout blocks and a good block on the edge, only letting his man get off his block to stuff a run once. He also had two first down catches.
Zach Sudfeld and Greg Salas got some playing time but were not targeted. Youngster Saalim Hakim was in for three plays, one of which saw him taken down for a big loss on an end-around.
To re-read the defensive and special teams BGA in full, click here
The Browns picked up 115 yards on the ground, although their running backs were held to a respectable 72 yards on 18 carries (with the balance of the yardage on Jason Campbell scrambles and a big gain on an end around by Josh Gordon). However, it was in the passing game where the defensive line made their biggest contributions, sacking Campbell three times and combining for 25 pressures.
Muhammad Wilkerson had a pretty quiet first half, but the Browns’ pass protection couldn’t cope with Quinton Coples in the first half and once they adjusted to that, Wilkerson was freed up to do more damage. That’s exactly what he did, with all but one of his six pressures coming in the second half. Wilkerson was also credited with half a sack and was in on three tackles close to the line. Perhaps his most impressive play of all saw him chase down a running back on a screen pass to hold that play to a six yard gain when it could have gone for much more.
Leger Douzable deserves some credit here too. He got into the backfield to flush Campbell out of the pocket and force a throw away in the first half and then had a half-sack on two consecutive snaps in the second half. Douzable has been an underrated pickup by John Idzik, playing over 20% of the snaps and grading out positively. When your starters are so strong, it’s often difficult for a backup to come in and prevent any kind of drop-off, but Douzable has managed that most of the time. Having said that, he did replace an injured Sheldon Richardson in the second quarter and the Browns blocked him out of the play to score on a touchdown run on the very next snap. Still, Douzable – who is having a career year as a pass rusher – has played well enough for the Jets to consider re-signing him.
Another backup that has done well all year is Kenrick Ellis and he stuffed one run for no gain and got some good penetration on two other plays. He did, however, jump offside once.
The Jets haven’t missed a beat whenever Ellis has entered the game for the excellent Damon Harrison. Harrison had a quiet game statistically with no tackles, but was still an immovable force in the middle most of the time and did help bottle up a couple of runs. In this game, he instead made contributions as a pass rusher, flushing Campbell from the pocket on one play and batting down a pass at the line on another. Harrison also jumped offside once.
Finally, Sheldon Richardson was called for a seemingly bogus roughing the passer penalty after he fell on Campbell following a hit in the red zone. I’m not sure how he could have prevented that. Perhaps that should be re-classified as “Illegal use of the laws of gravity” or something. He went on to compound the “mistake” by removing his helmet and getting called for an unsportsmanlike penalty. You have to admire Richardson’s desire, but he must ensure he keeps his emotions under control, because it would be disappointing to see him called for something similar in a more critical situation.
Richardson did have a couple of pressures and was credited with six tackles, including one at the goal line on the snap after his roughing penalty. He’s had a remarkably productive season and currently holds a lead of four over JJ Watt for the most combined tackles for 3-4 defensive ends around the league. It would be good to see him maintain that.
As I noted in the defensive linemen section, Quinton Coples was a disruptive force in the first half, causing the Browns to adjust and freeing up Muhammad Wilkerson to do more damage in the second half. It’s similar to what happened earlier in the season when Wilkerson had been quiet while Coples was out, but then really started producing once he returned to the lineup.
In the first half, Coples terrorized Mitchell Schwartz but – more impressively – also gave Joe Thomas problems. Coples used his speed to get the edge on a number of occasions, but whenever he was blocked off, he had his man on his heels and was driving them back into Jason Campbell to collapse the pocket. Campbell was forced to get rid of the ball early plenty of times, but Coples still had five pressures and was credited with a half-sack. Over the past month or so, he’s overtaken Wilkerson as the Jets’ most disruptive pass rushing force, although what happens in the second half suggests that it generally comes down to how the other teams gameplans to stop them both.
Calvin Pace has also been benefiting from the resources opposing teams are having to dedicate towards stopping Wilkerson, Coples or both of them. He picked up his 10th sack of the season, joining Wilkerson as the first pair of Jets players to each have double-digit sacks since Mark Gastineau and Joe Klecko in 1981. CBS said this was the first time that had happened in Jets history (because the sack wasn’t an officially recognized statistic until 1982), but as commenter DarrolRayJetsFan astutely pointed out earlier today this is like saying JFK was the first president to be assassinated because there was no TV back in the 1800’s.
Other than his sack, Pace had three other pressures and made a good stop off the edge. He did lose contain on one run though, jumped offside once and got lucky when the receiver dropped a pass when he was too far off in zone coverage. Coples blew up one run in the backfield for a loss, but also had a missed tackle in the backfield leading to a big gain on an end around.
On the inside, David Harris and Demario Davis were more consistent this week. Harris was blocked out of a couple of plays in the second quarter, but made some positive contributions with a handful of run stuffs, a couple of pass breakups and a quarterback hit. He also made a third down stop to force a punt, but did miss one tackle. Davis pressured Campbell on the blitz twice and was in on one run stuff, but did get blocked out of a play at the second level and jumped offside once. With the lack of weapons at the tight end and slot receiver positions, it’s perhaps not surprising that Harris and Davis had better numbers in coverage this week. They gave up 19 yards on five combined targets.
Garrett McIntyre played 14 snaps off the bench but made no real impact. On one play, it looked like he was going to pressure Campbell, but he inexplicably stopped a few yards short of him.
Entering this game, I was pretty sure that we’d see Josh Gordon light it up. In recent weeks, Gordon has been unbelievable for the Browns, so holding him below 100 yards and without a touchdown on the day is impressive stuff from the Jets secondary.
I had an inkling the Jets might put Dee Milliner on Gordon and this proved to be something they stuck with all day. Milliner ultimately gave up over 115 yards through the air on 10 catches, but that’s not actually too bad considering he was targeted 18 times per PFF. While Gordon got separation on a number of occasions, Milliner had blanket coverage on a couple of plays and earned Gordon’s respect. We were always anticipating that Milliner would struggle throughout most of his rookie season, but that he’d turn the corner at some point. Maybe we are finally at that stage, because Milliner’s breakout performance had already been preceded by some encouraging displays in recent weeks showing signs of improvement.
The unsung hero in all this was actually relegated to the bench and played less than 50% of the snaps this week though…
Earlier this week, Ed Reed went into a tirade* about the media’s perception of his performance with the Jets so far this season. (*Actually, it was kind of a measured and reasoned explanation, but whatever). Naturally, the media’s response to this was not to actually attempt to educate themselves by getting him to elaborate on some of the things he felt they were misinterpreting, but instead to claim he’s deluded and doesn’t realize how far his play has dropped off. Any time you challenge the media on something like this, you end up getting more negative things written about you than you already were. (See: Chad Pennington’s “covering an NFL team is a privilege” rant*, Santonio Holmes’ “why aren’t you more supportive of the team you cover?” rant* or any of dozens of other pertinent examples).
Ed Reed has been good since arriving here in New York (says the guy who actually watches the footage, makes an effort to understand the scheme and even took the time to scout his performances from before he arrived). Maybe he’s not the Ed Reed of old and, sure, there were a couple of plays where he missed a tackle or collided with a teammate. However, on the whole, he’s contributing well, showing outstanding range and really helping the Jets secondary now that he’s settled into his role. Milliner’s development is the main benefit to have come from his arrival.
Milliner just looks like a completely different player than he did earlier in the season. He appears so much more confident, his technique is light years ahead of where it was in September and he’s jumping routes and showing good ball skills. A massive part of that is that Reed has been giving him safety support and I would imagine has been working closely with him so that they both know their responsibilities. Virtually every time Milliner made a play on Sunday, Reed was not far behind – ready to clean up if Milliner made a mistake or potentially intercept a pass that was overthrown or tipped into the air.
Tellingly on some of the bigger plays Milliner did give up, they happened when Reed was not giving him support. Josh Gordon had two 24-yard plays – one where Dawan Landry shifted the coverage over pre-snap and left Milliner completely isolated one-on-one and another where Reed was on the field, but he was over the other side and it was Josh Bush offering the support. Milliner looked less comfortable on those two plays. Other than that, Gordon was targeted 10 times with Milliner on him and caught just three passes for 25 yards. That’s impressive stuff from the rookie, who was credited with nine tackles, five passes defensed and his first career interception. He still whiffed on a couple of tackles, which has been an issue for him over the second half of the season, but his work in coverage has improved leaps and bounds.
Reed did intercept a wayward pass to ice the game, his second as a Jet, and made one other good play in coverage support, but his contributions go beyond where he is directly involved.
On the opposite corner, Antonio Cromartie was hardly targeted for the second game in a row. He gave up 10 yards on four targets and broke up a pass in the end zone. There was one play where there was a mix-up between Cromartie and Dawan Landry, but that pass was dropped anyway.
Landry was targeted three times and all three fell incomplete, although he got a little lucky on two of those that could easily have been completed. He did get one pressure as a pass rusher. Interestingly, there were a couple of plays where he was on the sideline, which has been rare this season. The Jets ran a three safety set with Antonio Allen, Reed and Bush. Jaiquawn Jarrett seems to have dropped to 5th on the depth chart because he played just two snaps.
Bush was in for six snaps and there was one play near the goal line where he got lucky. Jason Campbell rolled out and Bush and David Harris each initially followed MarQuies Gray into the flat, leaving Gary Barnidge open momentarily at the back of the end zone. Campbell failed to see it in time and Bush recovered, forcing the throw away.
Allen was back in the starting lineup and played 47 snaps – the most he’s had since week seven. He had five tackles, including two in run support, and broke up a pass on his only target.
Finally, Kyle Wilson gave up two short catches, one for a first down, but was in good position on a throw to the end zone. He did have one missed tackle.
It looks like Nick Folk will miss out on going to the Pro Bowl after all, due to the recent heroics of Justin Tucker and the ongoing consistency of Stephen Gostkowski. Folk had his first “proper” miss of the year when his 49-yard field goal in the third quarter doinked off the right upright. His only other miss was a kick that went straight down the middle before being swept wide by a freak gust of wind.
For Folk, it has been easily his best season as a Jet and should earn him a bigger contract at the end of the season. I’d imagine the Jets would like to bring him back, but it remains to be seen how much of a financial priority the special teams unit is.
That unit was depleted because their top coverage guy and primary gunner, Ellis Lankster, was inactive having been listed as probable with a jaw injury. We are told this was injury-related and not a strategic decision. With Lankster out, the Jets gave up a 50-yard kickoff return and a 29-yard punt return. His absence was felt on the punt in particular as Isaiah Trufant got down there first, but missed the tackle, allowing Jordan Poyer to break into the open field. Josh Bush, Alex Green and Saalim Hakim were all guilty of missing tackles and Jaiquawn Jarrett was blocked out of the play on one return.
Hakim did make up for his missed tackle with a saving tackle from behind on the long kickoff return and Green did also have a special teams tackle earlier in the game. Nick Bellore stepped up in Lankster’s absence with a couple of special teams tackles.
The most memorable play from a special teams standpoint was the fake punt. Tanner Purdum’s snap went directly to the upback who was then going to throw it to one of the gunners. Perhaps more by coincidence than design, Joe Haden dropped off into the right flat just at the exact moment Purdum snapped the ball. Bush looked right and saw Haden dropping off (to his credit) and then reverted to the second, open option, which was Isaiah Trufant in the left flat. This should still have been an easy first down, but Bush (who did play quarterback as a high school senior) underthrew it badly and Trufant slipped over. Like most fakes, that play had a good chance of working. If only they had an established quarterback to put back there as punt protector…
Ryan Quigley had to punt just three times, with the long return knocking him down to a 33.0 net average. In the return game, Darius Reynaud was back, but had zero return yards.
Here are the links to each of this week’s BGA articles:
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