Even in the worst blowout losses, you can pretty much rely on being able to see the silver lining in the performance of the defensive line. Once again, that was the case here, with the Bills being held to just 68 yards on 38 carries — including just six yards on 13 carries for CJ Spiller.
The pass rush was less productive than usual, with EJ Manuel under pressure just seven times in 31 dropbacks, but that’s mainly attributable to Manuel getting rid of the ball quickly. Manuel got rid of the ball 0.3 seconds faster than he usually does on average, holding onto the ball for more than 2.5 seconds just 27% of the time (he averages 47%).
Ironically, if there’s one unit on the team that did come out a bit flat, it probably was the defensive line. On the first few series, Muhammad Wilkerson got blocked out of a play and Sheldon Richardson was driven off the line, while Damon Harrison was driven off the line twice and sealed inside once. That didn’t affect the outcome, though, because the defense stiffened, and from that point onward dominated up front.
As usual, Wilkerson was at the center of everything, as he was in on nine tackles (seven solo). The longest gain on any of those nine plays went for two yards. As a pass rusher, he pressured Manuel just once, breaking a string of five straight games with a sack. However, it was a dominant display against the run. Sometimes, however, you can be punished for being too good.
Late in the first quarter, on third down, Wilkerson jumped up and batted down a pass to force a punt. The game was still scoreless at that point. From the footage, it looks like Demario Davis had a bead on the ball as he was dropping into the passing lane. Wilkerson’s great play to bat the ball down may well have robbed his teammate of a go-ahead pick-six. See below:
Damon Harrison was actually the only starter who missed more than 10 snaps, as the Jets rotated their personnel as infrequently as I can recall in the Rex Ryan era. You may recall that I wrote a BGA in the offseason asking if Rex should substitute less on defense Based on the result of this game, the answer is no. Harrison, despite a rocky start, rebounded and made some great plays as the game went on. He was constantly disruptive with penetration and was in on nine tackles of his own (four solo, five assists). Three of those were three yard gains, but that’s as far as any of those plays went.
Sheldon Richardson had a huge impact too. He was also in on nine tackles (five solo) and again none of these plays went for more than three yards. The best saw him sniff out a screen pass and make a tackle for a loss on third down. He had one pressure, coming up the middle on a bullrush.
Kenrick Ellis was solid off the bench again, playing 20 snaps. He stood up his man to blow up one run and got penetration to blow up another. He also came flying up the middle for a pressure.
Leger Douzable played just 12 snaps. He did help to bottle up one run.
Up next…the linebackers, including the resurgent Quinton Coples continuing to shine.