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

Bent , TheJetsBlog.com

This analysis 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 recapping yesterday’s disappointing game against the Bills. If you missed part one, go here.

After the jump, we look at he positional analysis for the defense and special teams…

This was another performance when the Jets defense looked pretty impenetrable for most of the first half, with just one major breakdown accounting for the Bills only offensive points late in the half and over half of their yardage.

In the second half, the game was very similar to the Dolphins and Seahawks games earlier in the year and what should have been a tight game ended up being a blowout because the offense couldn’t keep pace and the defensive dam broke down the stretch. Still, the Bills outgained the Jets by just two yards.

While the run defense allowed Tashard Choice to slip through for a late touchdown, they had otherwise been dominant, holding CJ Spiller (who had been averaging over six yards per carry in recent games) to less than 2.5 yards per carry. The only other breakdown was a Brad Smith 16-yard wildcat run with pass defense personnel in the game. The pass defense again held a quarterback to under 50% completions, but did give up some crucial first downs. There were no sacks, either, although they did eventually generate a few pressures against the Bills, which is never easy because they leave extra blockers in and get rid of the ball efficiently.

Let’s break down each player’s performance…

Defensive Line

Early on in every game, it seems like there’s a play or two where Muhammad Wilkerson gets handled at the line and I find myself thinking that perhaps he isn’t going to have his usual disruptive influence this week. However, the pattern has been that he seems to get stronger as the game gets along. Wilkerson uses his hands really well and, based on his play, seems to have a knack for figuring out offensive linemen and what he needs to do to get off their blocks. Wilkerson hit Fitzpatrick three times and was as disruptive as ever in the running game, stuffing two runs himself and bottling up, getting in on or redirecting multiple others. One negative is that he and Coples have combined for nine penalties on the year. Wilkerson’s seemingly harsh roughing penalty was another example.

Coples didn’t have a totally quiet game either. He beat his man to put Fitzpatrick under pressure a couple of times and made a couple of good plays to stuff runs close to the line. There was one play where he was driven off the line early on though and he was taken by surprise on that wildcat run by Smith, as he anchored and held his ground initially only for a tight end to come over with a belated double team that drove Coples well out of the play and created the lane for Smith.

Mike DeVito and Sione Po’uha have been great for this team since 2009. I don’t know whether both or neither will be back next year, but they’ve played hard. Po’uha in particular deserves credit for dealing with back issues that I understand were much worse than widely reported. He didn’t play that much again and his impact was limited, but DeVito made a lot of impact plays, forcing a fumble, stuffing a run and blowing up a handful of runs with good penetration. He was also blocked out of the play on both touchdown runs and driven off the line badly on one other play.

Kenrick Ellis flashed a few times, giving us a bit of hope that he can bolster this unit next year. He drew a holding penalty, stuffed three runs and held up pretty well at the point of attack most of the time. He did get blocked to the ground once at the point of attack and driven off the line late in the game, but overall this was as disruptive as he’s been since early in the season when he made such a good start. Ellis now heads back to jail to serve the remainder of his sentence.

Finally, it was good to see Damon Harrison get a few more reps. Harrison held his ground pretty well on one play, but didn’t get enough time to make much of an impact.

Linebackers

It’s always exciting to see something new from the mad scientist and this week proves that Rex hasn’t run out of ideas. On 3rd and 10 late in the third quarter, the Jets lined David Harris up as a defensive tackle in a four point stance. It is the first time Harris has played with his hand in the dirt during the Rex Ryan era. Harris initially blitzed, then dropped into coverage, as the Jets correctly guessed that the Bills would be baited into throwing a quick slant to CJ Spiller with him lined up wide and LaRon Landry backed well off.

Whether Fitzpatrick saw Harris dropping or not, he put too much on the throw and it went off Spiller’s hands and fell incomplete. Landry looked to be in position to make the tackle anyway and had the pass not been thrown high, Harris might have been able to tip or even intercept it.

Harris had more issues with getting caught inside and blocked out of plays as well as jumping offside, but did stuff a few runs and blew up a couple of others. The fact he won an award from his teammates this year suggests he’s still very popular and well respected, so I wonder if he’s been dealing with injuries or even off-field issues that we don’t know about this year. Either way, it was a disappointing year, but at the same time he’s been the person most affected by Po’uha and Bart Scott playing hurt all season.

Scott had a typical day, stuffing four runs close to the line. He actually led the Jets in tackles, which is rare. He had a decent battle with fullback Corey McIntyre, who got the better of him a few times on collisions in the hole, but overall did more positive things than negative and was a big reason why the run defense played well. He wasn’t tested in coverage and didn’t do anything as a pass rusher.

Calvin Pace closed out a poor season with a strong performance. He put pressure on Fitzpatrick three or four times, deflected a pass and made a couple of good plays against the run, including a tackle for a loss. He was badly driven off the line once though.

Garrett McIntyre made the most of Bryan Thomas’ absence to get a lot of reps and responded with some good plays against the run. However, he did miss a tackle and never got close to generating any pressure off the edge. I’d have thought the Jets would give more playing time to Ricky Sapp this week, but the only action he saw was on two snaps after Wilkerson was dinged up.

Defensive Backs

Antonio Cromartie didn’t manage to prevent Stevie Johnson from exceeding 1,000 yards on the season as Johnson was on a team that beat the Jets for the first time in eight tries and ended up with 111 yards. Three of his six catches came against Cromartie for a first down, although he also caught a first down on a crossing route against Eric Smith and his biggest catch was a 37-yarder over Darrin Walls. Cromartie was in good position on two other throws, but didn’t have as much of an impact as he had in most of the other games.

Kyle Wilson didn’t have a bad finish to the season. He was badly beaten for a first down conversion by Brad Smith on one play and was blocked out of the play on Smith’s first down run, but otherwise did well, with a pass breakup and a good open field tackle. He was also in good position on one other deep ball.

Walls was actually in good position on that completion to Johnson, but was slightly off balance so he couldn’t jump up to contest the ball. He was in good position on another deep ball and showed a good ability to help out in run support too.

With Donnie Fletcher going down early with a hamstring injury, Antonio Allen got plenty of reps in the slot with the Jets often in four-safety personnel packages. His coverage skills look to have improved since earlier in the year, but he did get beaten for a first down. Josh Bush did get on the field for the first time in weeks, but only for a snap or two.

At safety, Landry had a typical Landry performance. He had a pressure, made a few good plays against the run and spooked three Bills into dropping passes just because he was lurking in the area. However, his one mistake was a huge one, leading to Spiller’s touchdown and arguably unraveled all his good work. He was matched up with Spiller on the outside and took a terrible angle which led him to get caught up in traffic with Harris. To his credit, he actually made ground on Spiller in the open field, showing what a great athlete he is, but the Jets need their safeties to be disciplined and that mistake gave the Bills the lead when they hadn’t looked like putting a scoring drive together.

Having said that, Yeremiah Bell’s part in that play was just as costly. He also took a terrible angle and that’s what turned a 10-15 yard gain into a 66-yard touchdown. Bell has done a solid job all season, but may have closed the season with his most error-strewn game of the season. He had three other bad missed tackles, including one on the last touchdown. On the plus side, he wasn’t targeted in coverage and did make a play in run support and a fumble recovery, but this was an ill-disciplined performance for someone relied upon to be the last line of defense.

Finally, Eric Smith – aside from being beaten for a first down by Johnson – also had a missed tackle and got blocked downfield on Spiller’s touchdown. He did make one play in run support.

Special Teams

Another disappointing performance on special teams, with four fumbles on kickoff returns although Joe McKnight was ruled to be down on one of them and two came on the same return. McKnight and Hilliard recovered those two and Nick Bellore recovered his own on the other. McKnight’s fumbling might be another reason he doesn’t get much playing time on offense.

McKnight did have one good return, but Kerley had a fair catch on each of his three punt returns, extending his NFL record.

The other major breakdown was on the field goal unit as Nick Folk had one kick blocked and one kick deflected. Tanner Purdum and Moore were both partially at fault.

Finally, punter Robert Malone has been a bright spot this year and looks like a keeper, but he landed two kicks in the end zone to hurt his net average.

I wonder what this unit will perform like next year with no Westhoff.

Conclusions

Well, that’s it. Season over and no need to speculate about what will happen in any remaining games. Attention will now turn to how this team fixes its multitude of issues while building on the strengths they have. We’ll have all offseason to do that though…

Happy New Year to all BGA readers. Don’t forget to hit me with your BGA questions in the comments section and I will answer them for you in BGA Extra in a few days.