BGA: Defensive Line – Harnessing the beast

For a change, the Jets defensive line wasn’t quite so dominant this week. Oakland racked up 150 yards on the ground and the Jets didn’t register a sack until midway through the fourth quarter.

However, they still won the battle in the trenches overall. 63 of those rushing yards came on one play, with Marcel Reece breaking a touchdown run up the middle. Other than that, the Raiders’ running backs gained just 63 yards on 20 carries, much more in line with the usual output of a Jets opponent in 2013, and Matt McGloin was ultimately sacked three times and under pressure 13 times in 35 dropbacks.

The Raiders offensive line has been poor all year under the tutelage of Tony Sparano, but the recent return of their best lineman, left tackle Jared Veldheer, seems to have helped a lot. It therefore perhaps wasn’t as unexpected as you might think that the Jets’ line weren’t their usual dominant selves.

Perhaps the biggest factor was that Muhammad Wilkerson had probably his quietest game of the season. The Raiders specifically avoided running the ball at him and double teamed him constantly in pass protection. This is an approach some other teams have taken, especially early in the season, but Wilkerson had still been able to mix in a couple of impact plays. On this occasion he was limited to one pressure and two tackles. Of course, we have to take into account that he was nursing an injured wrist and perhaps this limited his ability to get off blocks, which may be his greatest asset.

Whenever Wilkerson is being taken out of the game as he was yesterday, this tends to open things up for his linemates to make plays and yesterday was no exception. Sheldon Richardson had a couple of pressures, but it was in the running game where he made an impact. He span off a block to assist on a run stop and blew up two runs with penetration, including one at the goal line. It’s hard to believe he’s still a rookie and next week’s battle featuring arguably the league’s two best rookies (Richardson and Star Lotulelei) should be a fine one for trench battle junkies.

After the game, Damon Harrison sent out a tweet apologizing for letting everyone down. I would have to assume he’s referring to the Reece touchdown, where he span off his blocker and had a chance to make the stop in the hole, only to miss the tackle allowing Reece to break into the open field.

However, Harrison is the last person who needs to apologize for anything. He’s developed into one of the most consistent players on a team and its incredible that he’s already a player we take for granted despite being an undrafted rookie from a small school who had to fight just to make it onto the roster last August. Harrison has had a sensational season, without which the Jets likely wouldn’t have been competitive and certainly wouldn’t boast the league’s best run defense.

He’s one of the main reasons Jets fans are looking ahead optimistically to next season and beyond and can legitimately claim to be an elite nose tackle, just like Sione Po’uha before him.

Despite that play – where although Harrison missed a chance to make the tackle, it was poor play from his teammates at the second level and downfield that turned it from a modest gain into a touchdown – Harrison still put forward another great effort, bottling up several runs, getting in on a number of tackles close to the line and even making contributions as a pass rusher and in coverage.

I can also recall a similar tweet that Harrison sent out during his rookie year following a preseason game where he again didn’t play that badly on balance. It’s great that he sets such high standards for himself and that’s a sign of how ambitious he is, which has fostered a drive that has him continuing to defy the odds. I also love the fact that immediately before he tweeted about his own (perceived) poor performance, he had sent out a tweet saying that it was a great team win! That sums him up.

When Harrison goes to the bench, the Jets don’t lose anything, because Kenrick Ellis is doing a great job too (and would probably be starting on 25-30 other teams around the league). Ellis got into the backfield for a pressure, stuffed two runs and blew up another run with penetration. All that in just 14 snaps.

Finally, Leger Douzable did get forced inside on one run, but also had one play where he penetrated to stuff the runner and another where he helped bottle up a run for a short gain. He’s been a consistent rotation player all season.


Next up…Coples continues to make strides, while Pace quietly goes about his business.




30 comments
NYCPEinGermany
NYCPEinGermany

"Kenrick Ellis is doing a great job too (and would probably be starting on 25-30 other teams around the league). "


Do you think he'd be as effective if he were playing the majority of snaps, or might it be a case of him being very fresh and well-rested when he does play?

Rich
Rich

Hey Bent,


Great job as usual. I know this type of complaining isn't what the BGA extra is for, but I have to say, the officiating in the trenches for this game was horrible. There were a number of egregious holds on Jets rushers that weren't called, and I was left screaming at my TV for it.  I forgot to note a timestamp for some of the incidents in the first half, but right before the 9:03 mark in the 3rd quarter on I think Demario Davis and before the 2:30 mark in the 4th on Mo were some particularly offensive non-calls, and there were a bunch of others. 

BDarc23
BDarc23

There were some blatant holds but the Jets lineman seem to try to "sell" the hold to often and give up on plays. I think this hurts them getting calls.

jaym
jaym

Offensive lines always look good when the ref allows holding on almost every play. I recall 1 Jets D Lineman (I think it was Wilkerson) had his man beat and the O Lineman stuck out his arm and pulled him down. It really seems the NFL is allowing O Linemen to get away a lot so we can have 52 - 48 games. Some fans enjoy defense but looks like everything is done for fantasy football.

Brendan
Brendan

Ellis got a +2.1 PFF grade on 14 plays. That's silly. 


Boss Hogg beasting as we've come to expect. What a great player he's turning out to be. 

SackDance99
SackDance99

The insanity of this argument is in the criticism of Rex, who gets more out of his defensive linemen than any coach I've seen since his father coached in Chicago.  Pouha and DeVito were afterthoughts in 2009 because everyone assumed that Big Jenks would hold down the fort.  Then, with his season-ending injury, everyone assumed the Jets run defense would go in the tank.  Instead, IT GOT BETTER!  Rex got more out of Pouha and DeVito than anyone thought possible, despite their limited upsides.


Now, with real interior talents, like Richardson, Harrison and Ellis, the Jets had (and may still have) an NFL-best run defense.  Your theory that Rex's DL just goes for the QB is demonstrably wrong.  If that were the case, then why as or is the defense leading the NFL against the run?  Moreover, Rex is considered by his peers and the top defensive mind in the NFL.  I really like Harrison, but your criticisms of Rex have always been wrong-headed and against the weight of the evidence.  Too bad Rex wasn't the HC in 2008 because Rex knows how to rotate his DL and maybe could've kept Big Jenks healthy.  Mangini ground up Big Jenks and ruined his career.  A guy with knee issues shouldn't have played as much as Jenks did as the NT...he also used up Jones on offense.

a57se
a57se

It is getting a little silly, especially when they call a ticky tack hold after not calling egregious ones!

Brendan
Brendan

@jaym Some of the holds on Wilkerson were baddddd. 

a57se
a57se

Ellis is really playing well when he gets in there.......I'd love to see the Jets try that 5 man defensive line v Carolina this week.

jaym
jaym

Old age and delusion seem to go hand in hand

Bent
Bent

@Hanknaples "When you say "When he (meaning Harrison) goes to the bench" you make it seem like he is benched because he cannot hold down his position!"


No, I don't.

djf1
djf1

seems like every game I have to watch blatant holds on Mo that aren't getting called.  He's got to be frustrated.

dgdg
dgdg

@a57se


Ellis may well end up a trade chip before next season although that would also diminish the depth of the fearsome front. Wonder how much he could bring in return? 

a57se
a57se

That is funny!

Brendan
Brendan

@jaym I like to imagine them like those two dudes in the Kayak commercial, where one sits on the other's lap, wearing a giant sweater they both fit in, and taking turns typing. 

a57se
a57se

I think IJ is actually a lot further gone then his dad.....at least Hank doesn't take himself so darn serious!

jaym
jaym

Like father, like son "sigh"

Brendan
Brendan

@jaym That was Fonzie, also known as Mini-Hank, and is Hank's son. You can tell because he signs his posts with "Interested Jet."


Similarly nutty opinions, but at least they're grammatically coherent. 

a57se
a57se

I could say a lot of thing about 'fonzie' but I want to stick to football.

Bent
Bent

@Brendan @a57se I love Harrison AND Ellis.  Apparently if you don't love Harrison and HATE everyone else to have played defensive line for the Jets that's a bad thing in Fonzie's eyes.


Getting quite fed up of it to be honest.

Brendan
Brendan

@a57se And it's one he's made basically every week this year. 

a57se
a57se

I've never seen you even hint at that. 

That was the silliest accusation of IJ's rant......

bharper42
bharper42

@a57se


I agree with all of this.  The DL imo is top notch.  Something Rex did right.  Muhammad and Sheldon are elite, damon is good.



a57se
a57se

IJ, I don't think there is ONE MAJOR reason like I posted above. Football is a team sport and one player can be game planned against.

a57se
a57se

I think it is a combination of Rex' scheme, Harrison stepping up and playing great v. the run, Richardson playing lights out and Wilkerson improving to an All-Pro level.

Add in Harris playing lighter and faster this year as well.

a57se
a57se

Next season is Ellis' fourth with the team..........do the Jets try and extend him in the off-season? I think it would be wise to do so and try and lock him up for 3 or 4 more years. The question is how much does Ellis want to risk.......

Brendan
Brendan

@dgdg @a57se He's a legitimate starting-quality player, if teams trust he can stay healthy, they could pay handsomley for him. I hope they hold onto him, though. Just have beast after beast on the DL.