BGA Extra: Jets at Eagles

It’s time to take a final look back at Sunday’s loss to the Eagles in BGA Extra – now with limited access to coaches film! After the jump, I respond to your questions from the comments in the original BGA post, which you can access here if you missed it.

MEL31602:

Slauson apparently hurt his ribs during the game. Did you see this having any impact on his performance?

Not really. As I mentioned, he had some good blocks at the start and at the end of the game, but kind of struggled in the middle, so it’s not obvious at which point the injury occurred and there was no apparent drop-off.

MEL31602:

With Celek having a career day yesterday everyone today is saying the jets can’t cover tight ends, and while I know that’s been a recurring issue in the past, it seems to me Celek’s stats were inflated by two long plays that were clearly blown coverages (and Harris, not Smith, took the blame for the 73 yarder). Did the Jets really struggle that much against the TE yesterday, and if so what can they do to fix it? Media types are saying they should jam tight ends at line, so why don’t they do that?

The Jets are one of the poorest teams against tight ends according to Football Outsiders, but they are strong against number one and number two receivers, so a lot of it is just a by-product of the fact that the receivers are targeted less often and perhaps that they look to use the tight ends to stretch the field, knowing that they won’t be able to do that with their receivers.

They have jammed tight ends and slot receivers to good effect at the line in the past, including this season, but it is often ineffective because the jammer either doesn’t get enough of the receiver to slow him down, or ends up slowing down his own pass rush.

As you correctly point out, Celek had some big catches to inflate his numbers on Sunday and the safeties weren’t really at fault. Hopefully the zone packages that they run will tighten up over the last few weeks as they did in 2010.

Jeff:

So here is Jason LaCanfora’s take on Sanchez:

“Mark Sanchez — He was the worst offender of the bunch. I continue to talk to people who have played with him, and been around the Jets, and don’t get the sense there is great hope he will take that next step. Rarely does he get multiple pass-catchers involved in the same game, and, according to sources, he has trouble reading both sides of the field. Therefore, the Jets couldn’t go with as many three-receiver sets as they would like. Sanchez still makes horrific throws with far too great regularity and without a dominant run game protecting him, his flaws are being exposed more.

At times, according to the same sources, Sanchez tries to do too much, barking out faux calls at the line and making things more complex than they need to be. He had been better in the red zone for a few weeks, but he still tends to force throws there that lead to crippling turnovers. Santonio Holmes has been pouty about the lack of diversity in the passing attack and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is open to new challenges and looking to explore head-coaching options.

Down 7-0 early, the Jets got a gift on a muffed punt at the Eagles’ 14. Sanchez threw an ugly pick on the second play of the drive. Sanchez looked jumpy most of the game, holding the ball and taking sacks. Down 21-0 early in the second quarter, deep in his own territory and needing to protect the ball, he was too casual with his grip and fumbled. He threw another pick in the second half.

You don’t see that inspiring a lot of confidence. We’ll see if the Giants are able to rediscover their pass rush in the battle of New York this weekend, which could well decide the season for the loser.”

To me, this is extraordinarily unfair and inaccurate. I agree with some of his comments about Sanchez–the painful audibles, which seem to confuse the Jets offensive players more than the defense is one example, but some of his other observations are just wrong. So, LaCanfora says, “He had been better in the red zone for a few weeks” when in fact the Jets were leading the NFL FOR THE SEASON in red zone efficiency going into the Eagles game. And then he makes the absurd observation that “Sanchez threw an ugly pick” on a ball that was spot on, right at the top of Holmes’ helmet, and right through both of his hands. That “ugly pick” was not on Sanchez at all–it was on the pathetic excuse for a team captain, Santonio Holmes. Yes, Sanchez may have problems seeing the field–but so do many other quarterbacks–watch Stafford or Flacco or many others–who throw some awful picks. Sanchez, to his credit, seems to have reduced the bad picks in recent weeks.

Yeah, this seems slightly ill-informed and he is over the top in how he piles on Sanchez. I’d agree that the source is probably Derrick Mason and if that’s the case, he hasn’t been here for two months, so it’s difficult to take his criticisms seriously.

As you point out, the Jets were number one in terms of red zone scoring percentage entering this week and the first interception was not on Sanchez at all. He definitely struggles to read defenses at times and gets rattled by pressure, but on Sunday, there was one play – the 41 yarder to Keller – where he scanned the field, saw his first options were covered and then found Keller down the field, so I don’t see him as a lost cause.

As for the audibles, I’m sure he can only make changes that he’s been instructed to do by the OC and we know they’ve given him extra responsibilities and taken things off his plate at various times, so if he’s over-complicating things, it may just be because he’s doing what he’s been instructed to do – and I’m not sure a wide receiver would fully grasp that.

Anyone who concludes a 25 year old whose stats have been better in each of his first three years has stopped developing “is never going to make that next step” is being overly dramatic. He might. He might not. Some analysts need to stop looking for immediate answers to questions that will take years to answer properly.

john:

You said – “How can you avoid falling behind early on in games? A conservative approach would seem to make sense, but the game didn’t spiral out of control because they didn’t adopt such an approach on Sunday.” I disagree completely! The first four offensive plays the Jets ran the ball down their throats (4 carries, 33 yards) so what do we call next? A screen on 1st and ten!

I’m not sure that negates my point. Four runs, a screen pass and a dump off pass on their first drive is a pretty conservative game plan. It’s not like they threw downfield at all and suddenly they’re 7-0 down.

I know what you’re saying – that even this was not conservative enough and they should have stuck with the run and I have criticized them in the past for this. However, although the running game got off to a good start, the next 20 carries by running backs netted 51 yards, so obviously they were able to adjust, so perhaps they went away from the run at just the right time.

And, while the screen pass is a risky proposition against that type of defense, it should have been a 20-yard gain if Mangold, Slauson or Sanchez did their job better.

revisfan:

Does play action even work against a team like the Eagles? They play the run on the way to the QB anyway, so it’s not going to slow them down much.

The Eagles do have plenty of guys crowding the line of scrimmage and any of them might be susceptible to a play fake at any given time. So, while it might not slow down their pass rush, I don’t see why it couldn’t be effective in terms of freezing a defensive back or getting a linebacker to bite on the fake and being out of position.

Neal:

Can Kyle Wilson handle Victor Cruz?

Not sure about that. Wilson’s been better this year, but he’s still not the finished article and Cruz has had a monster season. However, if the Giants go three wide, he’ll almost certainly have to cover him.

Neal:

How much coverage is Holmes seeing this year vs. last year?

Holmes is nearly always double covered, with one safety downfield on his side of the field. Last year, this wasn’t the case as often, which must at least be partly due to Braylon Edwards and his ability to stretch the field. Also, teams are often dropping more guys into coverage, because they don’t need to blitz to generate pressure against this offensive line, whereas over the last few years, the Jets had one of the best, if not THE best, lines in terms of pass protection.

Neal:

How is Sanchez still alive at this point in the season? It seems like from all the big hits he has taken and his petite size he should have missed at least a play.

Brunell has relieved him in garbage time a few times, but it is definitely impressive that Sanchez has taken so much punishment yet is still performing.

revisfan:

Schottenheimer kept going to the screen when it was clear they had keyed on that in practice, they would have been idiots not to, considering we racked up a 150 yards on them last week and the announcers kept yelling for Hunter to get help, but it seemed to me like they kept extra blockers in a lot. Is that accurate? I really think the Jets focus too much on the quick pass and emphasize it in practice so that when Mark has to hold it in a game, the o-line doesn’t know what to do. They should practice as if every play was a deep drop and stay on their blocks as long as possible.

No, there were fewer extra blockers this week. Ducasse was in for just eight snaps (21 last week) and Mulligan was in less than half of the time. On pass plays, they left an extra blocker in on fewer than one in every two dropbacks. However, these numbers may have been skewed by them going to spread formations in an effort to get back in the game.

The screen has been a staple of their offense in recent weeks and on a few of the ones that didn’t work (Sanchez was five of six for just 12 yards), they came close to having success, so I can see the reasoning behind going back to it. Brunell did complete a 27-yarder in the closing stages, so overall they gained 39 yards on seven screen passes.

The Eagles have actually struggled against the screen pass at times, but this is why I was commenting last week on how something that worked last week is not necessarily certain to work the following week, especially since that would become a focus of that week’s practice. It may even have been you that was asking whether teams would repeat sequences that had been successful the previous week. Here’s a good example of why not.

I can’t comment on what they do in practice, but I expect there are plenty of drills that they do where the linemen have to sustain their blocks as long as possible.

revisfan:

On the first McCoy TD run, I think it was Trufant came running over to help on the backside at the snap. Was that by design to get Shady to think he had a lane only to have it plugged by a DB? It seems that several times a game, Rex will call a defense that his team is incapable of executing. It seems good in his head and in theory but he doesn’t realize that some of his guys just aren’t athletic enough to execute it. As good as our line is, they can’t move laterally with these quick RBs that cut back also and he said after the game that they looked as if they were afraid to pressure Vick but didn’t he drill into them all week not to overpursue? I’m also curious to know what the dolphins did to contain them last week. I don’t think McCoy had a great game and they play a similar style of defense. Did they just execute better? Their safeties aren’t really better than ours albeit probably more athletic. It looked like we were playing more zones than we usually do and that really takes Revis and Cromartie out of their strengths. What TD did Cromartie give up?

Cromartie was badly burned in man coverage by a double-move on Celek’s touchdown (the one-hander). Generally, Rex Ryan’s defense gambles from time to time, not just by rushing a lot of players, but also by trying to set traps – for example by having the slot corner jump the outside receiver’s route and rolling coverage over to the slot corner’s man. This means they get burned from time to time.

On McCoy’s touchdown, it was Kyle Wilson that came off the edge from the slot in an effort to stop McCoy’s cutback. He would have had responsibility for the outside lane, but the reason the run worked so well was that Mike DeVito reacted to the misdirection and was forced inside by a double-team block. This gave McCoy a cutback lane that Wilson wasn’t fast enough to close, but I don’t think the defensive design was flawed, they just out-executed DeVito to create a lane.

revisfan:

Do you like the total QBR thing on ESPN? It’s supposed to account for all sorts of things that no one knows what they are. I saw Sanchez got a 3.8 this week. How does someone score that low, when anyone watching the game can see he played pretty well considering the circumstances, threw two beauty TDs and both his picks went through Holmes hands?

Sanchez wasn’t very good, but the QBR system is stupid. I have complex reasons for why I believe this, but I’m not going to reveal them.

mikebe1:

Can you tell us more about this Sanchez one week hang over after games like this. You’re usually positive, so we’re gonna need something positive heading into our subway series superbowl.

I’ve observed that if Sanchez finds himself under significant pressure, as he did in the Oakland/Baltimore games and then the Pats/Broncos games, he then seems to look uncomfortable in the pocket in the next game and will either hold the ball too long, missing an open receiver, or get rid of the ball too early, even though the protection seemed like it was going to hold up and he hadn’t waited long enough for routes to develop. That doesn’t bode well for this week, or next week.

The only positive thing I can say is that the Jets seem to be at their best when everyone is down on them. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong on Sunday, so they are due some luck and it’s unlikely that they’ll perform that badly again, especially against a struggling and banged up Giants outfit.

mataos:

I see you find the positive for a lot of guys who CLEARLY are not playing at a high level (even though they have plenty of years experience). You seem to think Sanchez should be capable of carrying this team on his back already, with a horrible RT no less. You claim “elite quarterbacks will march their team down the field to get them back in the game when the other team goes up big, so the size of the gap between Sanchez and those elite guys is readily apparent to everyone”.

The real difference between those guys and ours is not their QB makeup it’s something else. QBs like Brady have a great Oline. QBs like Rodgers have great WRs. Sanchez has neither. I’m not putting him in “elite” class because he has lots of short comings but come on. You tell me who could get the job done with one WR who can only make plays in the red zone and another who needs 5 secs to pull off triple moves to get open. Of course needing extra time to get open would be fine, if the Oline could provide it. So my question, just an opinion: Which QB do you think could take these exact same pieces and score 35 unanswered points in a half against a defense knowing you have to pass?

I know it’s a long question, keep in mind I am just looking for an opinion, I know it is a big “what if?” but I am interested to know what skill set you think a QB would need to possess to win the type of game the Jets found themselves in Sunday.

I’d just like to clarify those comments if I may. First of all, I was talking more in terms of when teams perhaps soften up their defense and go to more of a soft zone or prevent look. Also, I was making the observation that while we can have confidence that Sanchez will often make a one-off offensive drive with his team trailing, I don’t have faith in him to do it several times in a row to eat into a big deficit. Finally, I was merely trying to emphasise the gaping chasm between Sanchez and the elite quarterbacks in the league and pointing out that he isn’t yet equipped to carry a team, so the team is in trouble if they land themselves in a situation where they need him to (whether that be due to an ill-advised gameplan or just because they found themselves in a three or four touchdown hole).

Please don’t mistake what I was saying to mean that I think Sanchez should be at an elite level already, or that I don’t think he is capable of ever getting there.

kevin t:

You said Revis gave up 3 big catches? How many yards did he allow and could you give us his stats for the season?

As noted, one was negated by a penalty, so he had two for 28 yards, one of which was on a third and long where he kept the receiver in front of him and made the tackle to force a punt.

When Revis is thrown at, these are the numbers for opposing QBs:

31-72, 448 yards, one TE, four interceptions (45.4 QB rating, 43.1 completion percentage).

While those are sparkling numbers, over the last four games, he’s given up 16 catches on 28 targets for 177 yards and a touchdown – with no interceptions. That’s not so good – an 87.9 QB rating. However, he’s still rated as PFF’s number one cornerback and he’s 4th in lowest completion percentage and 2nd in lowest QB rating for anyone with over 30 targets.

matt m:

After the game Eric Smith said the Eagles were able to easily identify the coverage before the snap. This could have something to do with the supposed simplified game, but isn’t it still his responsibility to audible the coverage? Between that and him having no clue the playbook was even scaled back, I was pretty alarmed to say the least considering he’s known for his “smarts”.

I’d imagine they simplified things to the point where there was no audibling of coverages or anything like that. I think, judging by what he was saying, that they knew all of the Jets coverages, so I’m not sure switching from one to another would have helped much.

matt m:

Are there any examples of corners who handle the play-calling in the secondary, or does their position on the field make it too difficult?

I think cornerbacks have to be vocal and the communication across the secondary as a whole is crucial, but as a general rule, as I understand it, you need the calls themselves to be relayed by someone in the middle of the field. I don’t know that Revis could communicate with Cromartie if they were both on opposite sides, for example. Also, you presumably get a better viewpoint from a central position that you would on the outside. In any case, the Jets’ corners play a lot of man assignments, so presumably a lot of the adjustments being made don’t apply to them.

WOJF:

Both Cimini and yourself seem to indicate the inability to cover the TE’s at least this week, was not the fault of the safeties, that primary coverage was by Harris, Cromartie and Wilson. Rex, on Monday, kind of claimed that the reason for the Jets poor stats vs. TE’s was because we have excellent CB’s and other teams gameplan to the middle of the field. Rex’s explanation is counter intuitive to me, if the outside coverage is so great shouldn’t it make it easier to cover the TE’s? Is it possible to ascertain, on a seasonal basis, why the Jets are unable to adjust and get those big guys covered? It seems to me that ALL our LB’s and Safeties lack coverage talent, so who they put in coverage doesn’t matter, but wondering what the tape shows? Is it perhaps because we play so much man to man, and other teams play zone?

I think the lack of individual coverage talent, at least since Rhodes left and perhaps also due to Bart Scott slowing down is the reason we’ve seen a shift to more zone coverages since last season.

The cornerbacks do a good job, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t get help from the safeties. So I don’t think covering the receivers over the middle is any easier, opposing teams are just looking for those receivers more and perhaps further downfield. At times, they leave their corners isolated in an effort to help out with the middle, but those are the times that other teams can attack the corners with success.

WW85:

How much better or not would the Jets be with Kerry Rhodes?

As I said when Rhodes left, the Jets were always going to miss him. Had he been prepared to continue playing the disciplined role which contributed to the Jets’ top-ranked defense in 2009 then that’s exactly what the Jets miss now – a coverage safety with range that keeps everything in front of him and can handle man coverage assignments.

However, as he was playing that role, a lot of Jets fans were complaining that he wasn’t making enough impact plays and Rhodes responded to that in the worst possible way – by complaining about his role and starting to gamble which led to mistakes.

Had they kept him and persuaded him to play that role, then the Jets would be much better off (assuming he didn’t get injured like he did this year). However, I’m not certain he wanted that. Since he went to Arizona, he’s been playing more the way he wanted to here and has made more impact plays. However, he has also made a lot more costly mistakes and has overall graded out poorly. If he stayed in New York and played that way, I’m not sure the Jets would be any better off than they are now.

Tk:

PFF has Hunter as the second worst tackle in the NFL I believe.

No, he hasn’t been that low since the third week of the season. His low grade from this week’s game dropped him back into the top ten, but he’s still only 8th worst and 9th worst in pass protection (although his Pass Blocking Efficiency is only 14th worst).

I’m not going to pretend Hunter played well on Sunday, or that he’s anything other than a huge downgrade from Damien Woody, but the fact remains that about half the teams in the league start someone comparable or worse at tackle than Wayne Hunter, so that says it all about how many upgrades were readily available.

WOJF:

Regarding coverage, Francesca I thought made a rare astute point, that while Hunter has certainly been a problem, that ANY RT would struggle vs. elite pass rushers like Babin and most teams provide help. The problem with the Jets is that the guys they insert to help, Ducasse and Mulligan, can’t block either. Is this a fair assessment?

My current working theory is that Hunter is better off when those guys don’t stay in on his side to help, because they sometimes get in his way and prevent him from using his best asset – his athleticism – to recover, because he doesn’t have space to do so. Also, this means he’s matched up with an interior lineman, which again exposes the fact that he relies on his athleticism more than size, strength and technique.

Unfortunately, Babin is so strong that he was a bad matchup for Hunter anyway, although as I stated in BGA, almost all of the damage was done in the third quarter and he fared okay the rest of the way.

The Giants use Jason Pierre-Paul on the weakside, so unless they change their plans, he’ll be matched up with D’Brickashaw Ferguson. I’d imagine that the Jets will trust Hunter to pass protect against Kiwanuka, but Justin Tuck is more powerful, so they might opt to give him help when he’s matched with him, even though Tuck has been playing hurt.

WOJF:

In addition to Turner and Hartsock, seems we are missing Lowery and, I can’t believe I am typing this, Drew Coleman in the nickel and dime. Has Wilson progressed at all? Is Strickland any good?

Yes, Hartsock barely plays in Carolina, so I wonder if he regrets not taking a minimum salary deal to play a bigger role here. For all his reputation as a penalty machine, he was penalty free in 18 of 19 games last year and there’s no question he was better than Mulligan has been. As I’ve said before, I’ve always liked Turner. I wonder what condition his leg is in right now. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he was 100% and has been sitting watching the Jets’ struggles and wondering why they IR’d him instead of waiting it out. You don’t think they could use him right now? Remember, his injury was supposed to be healed by mid-season and the Jets probably decided they needed the roster spot more than the ability to use him right at the end of the year. Big mistake, if that’s the case.

Drew Coleman made some big plays last year and hasn’t done badly in Jacksonville, but overall he was beaten more than Wilson or Strickland have been so far this year, so they don’t really miss him that much. Wilson has certainly progressed since last year, although I think he’s another year away from convincing me he can start at this level. Strickland is a reliable enough slot guy most of the time.

O-Insanity:

I’m in no way saying Sanchez is an elite QB, but I do think it’s a little unfair to say elite QBs will march their team down the field to get them back in the game when their team is down big. How often do Brady or Rodgers or Brees have to bring their teams back from 21 or 28-point deficits? Sure, their defenses are awful and they have to score a lot, but they’re usually not playing from way behind. Anyway, we have plenty of examples of Sanchez marching down the field to win the game in the 4th quarter or OT, so he is capable. Even the great Aaron Rodgers couldn’t get a drive going against the Chiefs…Sanchez scored 37.

These are good points, but if the Jets faced any of these guys in the postseason and went 17-0 up early in the second quarter, would you be that confident they could hold on? Both Manning and Brady fell behind against the Jets in the postseason over the last couple of years, but then got things going.

subwayfare:

Are there other teams with similar personnel that cover TE’s and RB’s out of the backfield better? If so, how? Should Jets LB’s be engaging TE’s better/longer at the LOS? It did look like Vick bought a lot of time with deep, backpedalling drops and, as noted, eluded some near sacks, but this is a consistent issue.

Well, the Ravens and Steelers have pretty similar base defenses and they are both in the top ten for covering TE’s. However, they also have Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed.

As noted above, jamming at the line is something they’ve had success with in the past – notably against Wes Welker and Brandon Marshall as well as tight ends – but doesn’t come without its drawbacks.

The Jets are actually fourth best against RB’s.

subwayfare:

Are the Jets just lacking personnel to run Ryan’s D effectively and he’s in denial about it? Ryan’s Ravens had a legit one-on-one Pass Rusher and an elite Safety. The Steelers have similar strengths in those spots. Seems that with big, run stopping LB’s you need either a legit pass rushing threat, or better backend coverage, if not both.

And you’re telling me Jamaal Westerman and Eric Smith can’t be those guys?!?!

Only kidding. Yes, that’s what they need in an ideal world. Their personnel is better at the cornerback positions, but otherwise they seem to constantly be trying to overcome talent deficiencies with traps, disguise and by having multiple packages.

WW85:

At first I thought this was a joke, but maybe we should seriously look at moving Cromartie to safety next year & admitting that a good safety is more important than a #2 corner? He’s got the size & talent. Revis locks down the #1 WR. Wilson +nickels Strickland or Cole on the #2 with Cromartie running free … It’s basically the same formula as 2009 with Revis alone with Shepperd, Lowery & Coleman & then Rhodes running free … Is that nuts?

The problem is that as soon as you do this, you’ll realize that a good safety is NOT more important than a #2 corner! I’d much rather they get a durable safety with range, speed and size, but such players don’t grow on trees, especially if you need them to also be experienced and/or smart to learn your complex scheme.

Cromartie is a cornerback. However, the way the Jets operate their scheme, that doesn’t mean he won’t find himself roaming deep in certain situations. Perhaps exploring that more would be a good way to overcome their lack of depth at safety over the next few games, but I think they’ll need him in man coverage most of the time.

F 16:

As half a joke with a bit of a head scratcher, how about putting Maybin in as a free safety? Or better yet, have him as a Monster Man on D, which is a roaming defender. He seems quick enough to cover the middle of the field.

Maybin ran a 4.78 at the combine. That’s super slow for a safety. He did improve it to 4.64 at his Pro Day, but even that is slower than Eric Smith’s combine time and he was only 249 pounds at the time, so it’s not like he’s likely to be much faster at the moment.

As noted above with Cromartie, maybe they could drop him deep on a certain look to try and catch the other team out, but he’s not going to be the answer to how they replace Jim Leonhard or anything.

While we’re on the subject of Maybin, I criticized Muhammed Wilkerson for losing contain on Vick’s touchdown run, but now that I’ve seen the coaches film, Maybin getting caught on the inside was the bigger problem there.

JetsImpact414:

It looks as if Sanchez has lost his love for the game over the past couple weeks. It’s almost as if he is just going through the motions and is playing with no passion. Can you comment on this?

I answered a similar question last week by saying this:

I went to a Sanchez post-game presser in 2009 and what came across was how genuine he was when he said playing in the NFL was the most fun he’s had in his life, even though that was after a tough loss. These days, I completely agree that sometimes he doesn’t look like he’s having as much fun and I have definitely noticed his reluctance to celebrate with the fans since they booed him.

However, this might not be a negative thing. Perhaps he’s decided to get more serious and that’s been reflected in a few good games in a row. I still think he desperately wants to win, even if it’s for his teammates and he’s decided to use the fans’ negativity towards him as fuel for motivation.

I’d suggest that the vast majority of fans are big supporters of Sanchez and I hope he realizes that we all want to win just as bad as he does. Playing with a chip on your shoulder can be a good thing, as long as you don’t become stubborn and let it affect your decision making process adversely.

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