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.
Next up…the special teams and a look into the failed fake punt.