BGA: Jets at Bengals (Part One – Offense)

Bent, TheJetsBlog.com

Welcome to Bent’s Game Analysis, which is based on watching and re-watching TV footage. As such, it is not always possible to accurately determine everything that was going on. However, every effort has been made to ensure that the information below is as complete and correct as possible.

Coming up, part one of your breakdown of the Jets’ heavy defeat against the Bengals with detailed analysis of the offensive players. Join me after the jump as I attempt to cover every angle.

This week’s BGA is going to be two parts, so I’ll be back with the defensive analysis later. For now we’re focusing on the offense.

I’m fresh out of roller coaster analogies, but maybe we’ve been looking at this team the wrong way all along. They’re not the most inconsistent team in the league. They’re by far the most consistent. Consistently inconsistent, that is.

Win-Loss-Win-Loss-Win-Loss … the pattern continues. The way things are headed, the Jets might end up with a 9-7 record purely by virtue of the fact that their bye week falls on an evenly numbered week. Is this team really that much different from last year? In 2012, they couldn’t put four quarters together where they were consistent in all three phases. This year is exactly the same, only they can’t put eight quarters together.

Furthermore, both teams are eminently capable of a total meltdown, as we saw in yesterday’s game…

Quarterbacks

Despite completing two-thirds of his passes, Geno Smith had a torrid time. Two more pick-sixes have once again swung the conversation all the way from “Is Geno the rookie of the year?” to “Is Geno a bust?” The reality, of course, is that we’ve been saying all along he’s going to have his ups and downs. We should probably just put both of those discussions to rest with a resounding “no”.

It was obvious from Smith’s reaction to the first pick six that he felt Jeremy Kerley was at fault because he allowed Chris Crocker to maintain outside leverage and didn’t contest the pass well enough. It did seem to be an uncharacteristically lazy route by Kerley who didn’t really make a sharp cut, so when Smith led Kerley with the pass, Crocker wasn’t fooled and Kerley was unable to extend and contest the ball. While understandably frustrated that this would happen so early in the second half, Smith has to consider the tone of his reaction, although he did seem to have a point here. With that said, it’s a pass he perhaps shouldn’t have thrown, but I was critical of Mark Sanchez last year for not making throws where he trusted his receiver to get out of their breaks and the worst thing that could happen to Smith would be for him to start to become hesitant in those situations and delay the throw until the receiver is open.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened on the second interception.

As you can see, David Nelson was open. Had the ball already been on its way at this point, Nelson would have made the catch just short of the first down marker. However, not only was Geno late in terms of when he looked to the left, but he also hesitated slightly before making the throw.

Furthermore, as always seems to be the case in these situations, Smith had Bilal Powell wide open in the flat and a little swing pass lofted over the top would have given him an easy first down. In addition, Stephen Hill had blown by his man on the right side and although the safety was within range that might have been a potential touchdown if Smith had been able to freeze the safety and then make an accurate throw over the top.

The game was long since over by then, though and I think it was the right decision to put Matt Simms in for the rest of the game. Prior to that, the biggest issue Smith had was blitz recognition rather than how he threw the ball. Again, though, that might be partially on his receivers because he didn’t really have a hot read available on any of the plays where Reggie Nelson came off the edge.

It’s difficult to evaluate Simms’ performance because it came in garbage time with the likes of Geno Atkins, Vontaze Burfict and Terence Newman all done for the day. However, considering he’d only ever played against (and with) second and third stringers, he didn’t embarrass himself in any way, making a few nice completions and some good plays with his legs. His valiant, albeit unsuccessful, diving attempt to get to the marker on 4th and 11 was recklessly spectacular, but showed heart. You could only really criticize one of his throws – a pass to the outside that was deflected when the defender jumped the route – but he wasn’t as rattled as I would have feared in the pocket. He did run himself into one sack, but that came after he’d smartly stepped up to avoid another rusher and he was close to getting back to the line of scrimmage.

While I’m not about to get excited over Simms displaying signs of mild competence, it’s encouraging that there is a second option – one who also has the potential to improve.

Offensive Line

The offensive line was a mess yesterday, especially in the running game. They were not in sync at all and the runners basically had no running room. On 16 carries, Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory gained just nine yards before first contact and there were several plays where more than one player messed up their assignment.

With no running game to speak of, the passing game became that more important and pass protection was also a major issue because rookie Brian Winters was so overmatched. The Jets came with a good plan, with Nick Mangold effectively operating in a free safety role to double team Winters’ man whenever he was in danger of being beaten. The Jets did this on the majority of plays and it was an effective way of mitigating pressure. However, whenever Winters was left to his own devices, he was completely overmatched. He gave up two sacks and four pressures, one of which led to another sack and another of which led to the hardest hit Smith has taken all year. Getting beaten six times in 46 snaps is alarming, but when you consider that he had Mangold’s help on most of the 40 plays where he didn’t give up a pressure, that’s even worse.

Winters’ struggles also seemed to have an adverse effect on D’Brickashaw Ferguson. On consecutive plays in the first quarter, Atkins drove Ferguson back into Smith to collapse the pocket. On those plays, it looked like the Jets had deliberately schemed for Ferguson to pick up Atkins, perhaps in an effort to keep Winters away from that matchup after Atkins had bullrushed him into Smith for an earlier sack. Winters pushed Atkins to the outside, passing him off to Ferguson and then stayed at home to pick up the end, who had been chipped back to the inside each time.

Despite doing what they could not to expose Winters to Atkins, he still struggled with Brandon Thompson – a second year player whose contributions as a rotational linemen so far this year had been so nondescript, I didn’t even mention him in my game preview. Thompson was in the backfield making plays all day.

The Jets obviously like Winters – and he shows signs of potential sometimes. (His best block yesterday saw him drive his man off the line on a short yardage conversion … although that was on a defensive back). However, right now, his pass blocking and run blocking are both inferior to what Vladimir Ducasse was providing the Jets with earlier in the year. The only place where he’s been superior to Ducasse has been that he hasn’t been committing any penalties, but even that ended yesterday as he was hit with a holding call. I get the long term benefits of allowing Winters to learn on the job (and it wouldn’t have made a difference to yesterday’s outcome), but right now the offense is suffering with him in there.

Back to Ferguson. Whether or not it was influenced with him having to constantly keep watch on the man to his right out of the corner of his eye, Ferguson was embarrassed by Michael Johnson on a couple of plays, including one where Johnson pushed him to the ground and blew past him. Johnson is a good player, but that’s uncharacteristic for Ferguson, who also had two bad missed blocks in the running game.

Once again, I had to admire Mangold’s performance as he did what he could to ensure Smith had a clean pocket the majority of the time. At the same time, having him clean up someone else’s mess can limit his own influence. You have to wonder whether he could have alerted Smith to some of those Reggie Nelson rushes from the slot and may not have been able to because he was too busy ensuring Winters knew his own assignment.

Willie Colon got beaten for one pressure and had a missed cut block that led to a tackle in the backfield. Late in the game, he made a couple of mistakes which you can probably attribute to the fact that everyone was just going through the motions. He did have one good block where he drove his man down to the ground, but it didn’t create any kind of big play. This was Colon’s second penalty-free game of the year.

Austin Howard did a great job of neutralizing Carlos Dunlap, but the Bengals moved Johnson to the left side late in the game and he beat Howard badly a couple of times, hitting the quarterback once. I don’t know if you could attribute that to Howard also going though the motions with the game decided or if Johnson was just too much for him to handle. Again, Howard didn’t have much of an impact in the running game, but did make one good seal block.

Running Backs

As noted, the backs really had little room to run and it’s difficult to be too critical over their lack of production. Powell and Ivory gained just 30 yards on 16 carries and the longest run either of them could muster was a seven-yarder. Ivory only played 12 snaps after last week’s 100-yard game and his only positive play was a short yardage conversion.

Powell also had a short yardage conversion, but was stuffed on another short yardage play. On one play, he avoided a tackler to turn a possible loss into a gain, but that was perhaps his only good run of the day as he now has just 93 yards on 34 carries over the past four games (or since Winters has been starting). His struggles in pass protection continued too, as he was beaten for a pressure that led to a sack. He did catch four passes, one of which went for 17 to convert on third and long, but there was one bizarre play where he dropped a screen pass after he casually walked through the pocket before he leaked out into the flat.

Alex Green saw some action, mostly in garbage time, and put forward a case for more playing time by making a short catch, then running for a first down, before bouncing outside for a nine yard gain, the longest run by a Jets’ running back all day. Green, like Simms, was facing a lineup comprised mainly of backups though.

I’m afraid Tommy Bohanon seems to have his the proverbial rookie wall. He’s been poor over the last few games and this game was an extension of that, as he blocked the wrong guy on one play and missed his block on the outside on another, leading to both plays being stuffed. Perhaps they should consider mixing Konrad Reuland in there. Reuland got no snaps once again and must be fearing for his spot with Kellen Winslow due to return soon.

Receivers

Nelson had a productive game with eight catches for 80 yards, although only two of those plays went for first downs and he did have a personal foul called on him. He looks like a good pickup though and the Jets receiving corps will be strengthened when Winslow and Santonio Holmes return. Again, I ask, for those of you calling for the Jets to make a trade for a receiver, who gets bumped out of the rotation?

Stephen Hill caught four passes, albeit only for 23 yards. As noted above, he did burn his man on the play where Smith threw his second interception, but his big plays have dried up since his breakout game against the Bills in week three. In fact, he doesn’t have a play of over 20 yards over the last five and a half games. His hands continue to be much improved though and his catches yesterday included a nice diving grab on a low throw for a first down. Also, he did draw two penalties.

Kerley was disappointing coming off his career best eight-catch performance last week. Uncharacteristically sloppy route running aside, he only made three catches for 27 yards with just one of these good for a first down.

Michael Campbell was in for 22 snaps, mostly in garbage time. He was targeted twice with one deflected pass going off his fingertips and a throw to the end zone being overthrown when it looked like he had half a step on his man. He also had one block that he failed to sustain on the outside.

Josh Cribbs was in for just three plays and didn’t get any touches.

At tight end, Zach Sudfeld and Jeff Cumberland were both in the starting lineup and Sudfeld actually ended up playing more snaps than Cumberland did. He outproduced him too, catching both of his targets for 10 yards, while Cumberland had just one catch for nine yards and couldn’t make the catch in the end zone over double coverage one play after the Jets forced a turnover in Bengals territory down two scores. Sudfeld’s blocking was okay, but he perhaps should have reacted to pick up the rush off the edge on the first play of the game. Cumberland had one excellent block to set the edge (only for both pulling guards to miss their cut blocks on the outside), but he did make a couple of mistakes as a blocker too.

Part two will cover the defense. We’ll be posting this later today.