BGA: Jets at Bengals (Part Two – Defense/ST)

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.

We’re breaking down yesterday’s loss to the Bengals. Part one is here. In part two, we’re focusing on the defense and special teams.

Join me after the jump as I attempt to cover every angle.

Although two of their seven touchdowns came from their defense, the ease with which the Bengals were able to carve apart the Jets secondary was alarming. When they do give up yardage, the Jets can often bend-but-not-break and force their opponents to settle for field goals to keep them in the game, but even that failed them yesterday, as the Bengals scored on all five of their scoring opportunities.

The secondary has been a constant concern, even in most of the Jets’ wins this year, but the defensive line has been the great equalizer. The Jets have been able to rely on their line to dominate up front and that gives them a chance to get off the field. That didn’t happen yesterday – but why not?

Interior Line

All the experts seem to be saying that the Bengals offensive line handled the Jets’ front line better than any other team has managed to. The narrative seems to suggest that Dalton was able to step up into a clean pocket all day long and perhaps the defensive line isn’t all that it was made out to be.

Nonsense.

The main reason the Jets weren’t able to generate pressure on Dalton was because he got rid of the ball almost immediately on a high percentage of his throws. He already leads the NFL in terms of being the quickest to get rid of the ball (2.27 seconds on average) but he got rid of it even quicker than that against the Jets (2.05 seconds on average). He only took longer than 2.5 seconds on eight of his 31 attempts, according to PFF.

Knowing that they only had a couple of seconds to get to Dalton, the Jets were faced with two choices. One – blitz more and try to get there quicker; or two – drop guys into coverage and accept that you’re not going to be able to pressure him. The Jets opted for the former, blitzing over half the time, which is much more than in recent weeks. This made sense, because Dalton’s QB rating is over 20 points lower when throwing in under 2.5 seconds, but it didn’t work.

I don’t want to take away all of the credit from the Bengals offensive line, which is definitely good – Andrew Whitworth in particular was outstanding in pass protection until he suffered a knee injury – but their job is certainly made easier when they only need to hold their block for 2-3 seconds. Contrast that with the degree of difficulty for the Jets, who had Geno Smith get rid of the ball after more than 2.5 seconds on 17 occasions, over twice as often (despite missing most of the fourth quarter).

I therefore can’t be too critical over the fact that the Jets didn’t generate much statistical production from the pass rush and the run defense was good too, holding the Bengals backs to under three yards per carry.

When people, including the likes of Rex Ryan, make comments like “everyone should be ashamed of their performance apart from the kicker” that’s unfair to a guy like Muhammad Wilkerson, whose hard work often goes unnoticed. I don’t think he had a negative play all day, so I fail to see how a guy like him should share in the blame. He blew up three runs, was credited with yet another sack, had two other pressures and intercepted a pass.

The nose tackle position continues to give the Jets great production. Damon Harrison did a solid job against the run again, blowing up three plays. However, Kenrick Ellis might have been even better, getting constant penetration to contribute to five runs that got blown up. He also had one pressure as a pass rusher, but did miss a tackle on a play where Josh Johnson took off and scrambled for 10 yards.

Sheldon Richardson was blocked out of a couple of plays but still had a big fourth down stop, another run stuff and two pressures. At the halfway stage of the season, he has 2.5 sacks and 16 total pressures. In his rookie year, Wilkerson had 3.0 sacks and 15 total pressures all season. Richardson has been every bit as good against the run as the rookie Wilkerson was too, if not better.

Leger Douzable got a bit more work this week after being limited to five snaps against New England. He got his hands on Johnson in the backfield for a near sack, but allowed him to escape.

Edge Rushers

Despite the lack of statistical production, I saw some encouraging signs from Quinton Coples in this game. He made four good plays against the run, one where he drove his man into the backfield to force the runner heading outside to cut back inside and get stuffed and three where he was in on the tackle close to or behind the line in the second half. He had five tackles – a career high – and has nine over the last two games after recording just four in four prior to last week. While he wasn’t credited with any pressure by PFF, there was one play where he drove Whitworth back into Dalton and another where he beat Andrew Collins with an inside move, forcing Dalton to step up and get hit by Wilkerson. I’d have credited him with the pressure on each of those plays.

Calvin Pace had a quiet game, despite recording four tackles. He failed to generate any pressure and seemed to be at fault on a first half touchdown when he inexplicably vacated his zone, forcing Antonio Allen to come up and cover a man at the goal line and leaving Marvin Jones all alone at the back of the end zone. He also allowed the back in the flat to sneak past him on the sideline for a near touchdown in the second quarter when he should have made the stop at the five. Pace did make one good stop coming off the edge.

Garrett McIntyre had a quiet game with one tackle, one missed tackle and no pressures in 29 snaps.

Linebackers

Shockingly, the Jets’ inside linebackers combined for just one solo tackle on the afternoon. They entered the game with 67 solo tackles between them. Neither was really exploited in coverage and they only missed one tackle each, but you still expect more production from them, especially with the Bengals running the ball 25 times.

David Harris did get in on the fourth down stop at the goal line and had one pressure, but was blocked out of a couple of plays and gave up a first down in coverage. There was one other play in coverage where he ran downfield to double-team a receiver running down the seam and Dalton completed the pass as Harris got himself all turned round and didn’t locate the ball. Had Dalton been a bit more patient, he would have seen that Harris had left a player underneath wide open and given himself a much easier completion.

Davis was also involved in a coverage mix-up as the Jets played zone and he and McIntyre both ended up covering the same area, leaving a man open downfield. Davis did get in on a couple of run stuffs, but was also blocked out of one play at the second level.

Cornerbacks

Similar to the situation with Brian Winters, Dee Milliner made it clear in this game that he should not be starting at this stage of his career. I had my doubts that he would be able to come in and contribute right away, but those were connected with his Alabama/Saban background, which notoriously is something that leads to there being an adjustment period for draftees. Add in the time missed through holding out and being injured and it’s clear Milliner isn’t far enough along on his development curve to warrant receiving playing time over Darrin Walls (who has outperformed him this year) or Ellis Lankster (who was much better than Milliner has been in extended playing time last year).

I’m not writing Milliner off – far from it – and I do acknowledge the concept that the more he plays, the sooner he is going to become the player they’re expecting him to develop into. It’s just that the Jets are actually in the mix at this point of the season, with an easier second half schedule to come and the “competition” philosophy seems farcical when two of John Idzik’s top three picks are sandbagging their respective units while more established options sit on the bench. Whatever happened to Rex Ryan’s “the best 11 guys will play” philosophy? Has Idzik phased that out?

At least Milliner was benched (after five targets that generated 108 yards, a touchdown and a dropped pass that would have gone for another 40-50 yards). Things didn’t get much better for the Jets once Walls replaced him – he gave up a touchdown himself a couple of plays later, but Walls did break up two passes and made a great tackle in the flat on his only other target.

Once again, Antonio Cromartie was a big disappointment and has looked a step slow all year. Unless he comes back reinvigorated after the bye, I could see him being a cap casualty next season because he’s simply not living up to his salary and his trade value is dwindling. Cromartie was burned four times, although his numbers won’t look too bad because only one of them was a successful completion (for 53 yards). One was dropped, one was a pass interference call and one was underthrown as he recovered to break it up.

You may remember the calls in the offseason to convert Kyle Wilson into a coverage safety. We got a chance to see what that might look like yesterday as Cromartie got beaten at the line with an inside release but had Wilson lined up as a safety giving him support to the inside. Wilson was a step late to react though and Green got behind him for another 53-yard catch that would have been a touchdown were it not slightly underthrown. Wilson only gave up one other catch, but it was a costly third down conversion. I initially thought he might have blown his assignment on the touchdown just before half time, as he stayed at home instead of running with the receiver to the outside, but this was a well-designed play where there was a receiver coming over the middle from the other side and a back open underneath, so he had to stay at home because Harris couldn’t cover them both. Wilson played just three snaps in the second half.

Lankster got six reps in garbage time and made one tackle.

Safeties

After his breakout performance last week, Allen was again employed in direct coverage a lot, with mixed results. He was beaten for two first downs where he was in good position but couldn’t prevent the receiver from dragging him to the marker. He also had to make a choice on the aforementioned play where Pace was out of position and ended up leaving a man open. He was in good position on two other coverage plays, although he may have got away with a hold on one. He made one play in run support and led the Jets in tackles with seven.

Landry did break up two passes in the end zone, but he was beaten for a touchdown and another first down, on each occasion because he was unable to get over in time. He also couldn’t do anything to prevent the bomb down the middle Green where Cromartie was beaten, although he showed restraint there in a situation where his brother probably would have nailed the defenseless receiver after the catch.

Jaiquawn Jarrett let himself down with a missed tackle that led to another touchdown and did give up another first down in coverage. He made one play in run support. Josh Bush got some late reps and came up a couple of times in run support, including one play where he had a tackle for a loss.

Special Teams

Folk made three more field goals this week – all of them 45 yards or longer. However, he hung a few of his kickoffs short and one of them led to a long return (on which he himself missed a tackle on the sideline). On that play, Bush was pancaked and Alex Green, Michael Campbell, Lankster and Josh Cribbs all failed to get off blocks, with Cribbs in particular blocked out of his lane. Allen made a touchdown saving tackle.

Cribbs and Lankster did contribute with a couple of special teams tackles each, with Lankster making two great plays. Troy Davis, in his NFL debut, was also in on two special teams tackles, but overall he struggled with a missed tackle, a missed block and a muffed kick. He did draw a penalty though.

Cribbs looked good in the return game once again, although his best return only came about because of a muff in the end zone. For a moment there, I thought he was going to reprise this incredible play from earlier in his career.

Punter Ryan Quigley picked a strange week to have his best game of the year. His net average was over 45 and he landed two of his five kicks inside the 20.

Conclusions

While it’s impossible to know what to expect from this team on any given week, it’s apparent what this team is. Their roster has flaws, but they have enough elite talent on their roster and enough creativity on their coaching staff to come up with plans to enable them to overcome those flaws and put their best players in a position to make an impact. However, when they come up against other teams with talent and creativity, sometimes their plan isn’t going to work. That’s what happened this week – and when the plan isn’t working, the flaws are exposed.

This loss isn’t the end of the world, as much of what went wrong can be fixed. Rex Ryan said it best earlier in the week. “If we take care of the present,” he said “the future will be fine”. Right now, what’s best for the present is to get the best players on the field and stop relying on players who clearly aren’t ready for prime time to learn on the job.

Thanks for reading. Yesterday was such an imperfect day, but I’m glad I spent it with you.

If you have anything you’d like me to take a closer look at or any other questions for me, leave them in the comments section of either BGA post, tweet them to @Bent_Double or email bentdouble@gmail.com and I’ll respond in BGA Extra on Wednesday.




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