BGA: Jets at Dolphins – Part One: Offense

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.

Note: Your feedback suggested you guys preferred BGA to be split into two parts, so we’ll deal with the offense first. Defense and special teams will be covered in part two to follow later today…

Coming up, your breakdown of yesterday’s overtime win over the Miami Dolphins, together with detailed analysis of personnel groupings and individual performance.

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

Sometimes you win and it doesn’t feel like a win. What we can definitely say is that although the Jets didn’t lose the game, they suffered a big loss yesterday.

The Jets entered this game with everyone saying the right things about knowing this would be a tough divisional game and that’s exactly what it was, but most of the fans expected a more comfortable win and a much less sloppy performance. With two top teams on the schedule over the next couple of weeks, maybe this was a trap game for the Jets. Maybe the fans and/or the team underestimated the Dolphins – who destroyed the Raiders, who just beat Pittsburgh, who themselves beat the Jets comfortably last week. Maybe we overestimated the Jets in terms of being a team good enough to take care of business on the road. Even taking all that into account, the poor execution across the team in this game was jarring.

The Jets undeniably played poorly. However, are they a bad team, or just a team that continues to be let down by individual mistakes in execution? And if it’s the latter, is that because the personnel isn’t deep enough or are they poorly coached? It’s almost excusable to have poor execution on the offense, because let’s not forget that the Jets are still in the process of installing a brand new system, but some of the bad plays on defense must be attributed to a lack of focus.

Rex Ryan changed up the timetable this week in an effort to keep the Jets from suffering in the Florida heat and humidity. However, that just led to a flat start (and then a flat middle and a flat end). The Jets are a team which, under Ryan, have a great record in 1pm ET games, but struggle in 4pm and night games. Deviating from the typical schedule before a 1pm game may have backfired.

Obviously, the biggest story of the game is the catastrophic injury to Darrelle Revis, but I won’t dedicate too much time here to the effect losing him will have. Instead, I’ll stick to the task of focusing on the game itself and try to read what I can from a confusing performance by the Jets.

Let’s get into some individual and position group analysis…

Quarterbacks

For Mark Sanchez, you can add another 300-yard game and fourth quarter comeback to his resume, but this was far from a convincing display. He was under pressure quite a bit and let down by some mistakes from his receivers several times, but it was an rough performance once again.

Sanchez’s first half numbers were awful – (8-for-19, 77 yards one pick). After half time, he was better, but still not very good (13-for-26, 230 yards, one TD, one pick). You could praise his moxie for getting the job done when he “didn’t have his best stuff” but that’s the sort of comment you make to praise a backup thrown in at the deep end, not an NFL veteran who has started over 50 games.

Looking at both of his interceptions, it seems he wasn’t entirely at fault. On the first, the announcers correctly pointed out that Clyde Gates didn’t flatten out his route and enabled the cornerback to jump in front of him. Gates had a step and Sanchez seemingly put the ball in a good spot. Sanchez would have released that ball having faith that his receiver would make the correct adjustment to his route and is pretty helpless when that doesn’t happen.

On the second one, down at the goal line, Sanchez dropped back and threw the ball up to a spot. Maybe he didn’t get enough air under the ball, but it’s essentially a jump ball that he threw. It wasn’t clear from the TV footage, but I think there’s a good chance someone screwed up their route there. Jeff Cumberland seemed headed on a fade route to the corner, but then stopped at the goal line, presumably as he saw Hill running to the same spot. It was actually Cumberland’s man who dropped off and was able to pick the ball off in front of Hill and his defender. Either Cumberland should have been running another route that kept his man out of the area or Hill ran the wrong route and it was actually Cumberland that was the original intended target. Even if that was the case, Sanchez should still have diagnosed the mix-up and thrown it away. If there wasn’t a blown route, then I’d say that was a poorly designed play, unless Sanchez’s throw was supposed to be right to the back of the end zone, which would seem like a low percentage play for that situation.

Even if you’re kind enough to completely excuse Sanchez for those two plays, it doesn’t excuse him completing fewer than 50% of his passes for the second game in a row, which shouldn’t be happening at this stage of his career. However, there were situations where Sanchez was let down by his receivers. There were several drops – or plays where the receiver at least had a shot at making the catch, even if they won’t go down as official drops. However, on almost all of these, Sanchez’s ball placement was not ideal.

- With Jeff Cumberland open in the flat, Sanchez’s throw was wide. Cumberland got one hand to the ball, but probably only would have had a short gain anyway.
- Jeremy Kerley made a diving attempt on another wide throw by Sanchez to the outside, but the ball bounced off his fingertips.
- Santonio Holmes had a bad drop, but that was on a pass where the ball was slightly behind him and on his back shoulder as his momentum was carrying him in the other direction.
- Chaz Schilens got open on a double move, but the pass was overthrown and Schilens’ diving attempt saw the ball his just off his fingertips.
- Bilal Powell had a bad drop on 3rd down, but again this pass was slightly behind him as he was turning upfield.
- Tim Tebow ran a route out to the flat and the ball skimmed off his helmet. Yes, Tebow should have got his head turned around sooner, but that pass needed to have more touch on it and be out in front of Tebow.
- Finally, Stephen Hill had three balls he should have brought in. One was a ball that was thrown into double coverage, but in a spot where only Hill could get it but he was unable to high point the ball. A second was a low throw that went through his hands. The last one should have been caught on a throw to the endzone.

Other than a couple of those throws to Hill, Sanchez was partly to blame for each of these drops. Yes, you expect you receivers to help you out a little and it was disappointing to see seven different players listed. However, Sanchez did get bailed out a couple of times – Holmes came back to catch a back shoulder throw that was low and inside and Schilens made a tough grab on a ball thrown behind him.

There were a couple of other occasions where it was obvious Sanchez’s receivers ran the wrong route, so you can’t blame him for those. Holmes and Hill were both guilty of this. Having said that, Sanchez missed some bad throws – aside from the ones already mentioned, there was a deep ball to a wide open Hill that was overthrown and a throw under pressure with Cumberland all alone in the end zone. What it boils down to is that if Sanchez had been a bit more accurate and got a little more help from his receivers, it could have been a spectacular performance and statline for him. The glass half full view is that maybe the passing game isn’t that far away from being vastly improved compared to last year. However, the glass half empty view is that you have to wonder whether Sanchez is ever going to be consistent enough to allow it to realize its full potential.

One area Sanchez seems to be improving is in terms of his pocket presence. Diagnosing a blitz and getting the ball to his hot read is something Sanchez wasn’t doing last year and is one of the reasons he was under so much pressure. There were also a couple of occasions where he was able to stand in the pocket and wait for a route to develop or a safety valve to become available, including on a couple of important first down conversions. Sanchez continues to show that he can make improvements, but still struggles to put it all together – on this occasion, he read the field better but his accuracy let him down. Next week, would it surprise anyone to see him be more accurate and then have something else let him down?

Tebow didn’t make any positive contributions on offense this week and it was surprising to see the Jets get a bunch of short yardage and goal line situations and not even attempt to run Tebow up the gut or off-tackle. I can’t see that fooling any teams into thinking that isn’t an option later in the year. The one time they did use him in that situation, he faked a hand-off and tried to roll out, eventually getting caught in the backfield for a loss because everyone stayed at home. On one other play, Tebow pitched the ball to the outside and Joe McKnight was swallowed up for a loss.

I’d like the see the Jets use Tebow on a simple one read option and then work in some wrinkles once they’ve established that, because at the moment, they’re overcomplicating things and trying too hard to out-think the opposition.

Offensive Line

This wasn’t a strong performance by the offensive line. Only 2.7 yards per carry in the running game and plenty of pressure for Sanchez. At least Sanchez was only sacked once. Vladimir Ducasse,who continued to split reps with Matt Slauson at the left guard position, saw his man get to Sanchez early in the second quarter. However, this wasn’t entirely Ducasse’s fault. Powell gave Ducasse’s man a chip block as he went up the middle and ended up getting in Ducasse’s way. Sanchez also hesitated for too long in the pocket. D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s man also picked up a half-sack on the play, but that was another situation where Ferguson had made his block but his man got in on the sack when Sanchez tried to escape.

Most of the pressure that the line did surrender was attributable to Austin Howard. He was beaten over and over again by Cameron Wake on the outside. I counted nine times that Sanchez was either hit, under pressure or had to step up because Wake got around Howard’s outside shoulder. To be honest, I don’t think Howard is any better than Wayne Hunter in pass protection. However, if Sanchez is going to get rid of the ball more decisively and Sparano is going to continue to give him help, then hopefully Howard can limit the damage to pressure only and Sanchez won’t end up getting hit too often.

In the running game, I’m pretty hopeful that Howard will be an upgrade over Hunter. He isn’t perfect by any means – Randy Starks span off his block to stuff a run and he got beaten inside once – but he does seem to make a greater percentage of positive blocks than Hunter did. He had a good block pulling to the outside early in the game and got a good surge on a couple of other occasions. He did have one false start though.

Jason Smith continues to get plenty of playing time as an extra tight end. He is currently slightly ahead of his 31% playing time incentive that will allow him to void his deal at the end of the year. Is there any chance of him usurping Howard? Possibly, but I think that will most likely come as a reaction to Howard continuing to struggle rather than Smith earning the spot on merit. Smith is athletic, plays hard to (and sometimes after) the whistle and can get his man moving backwards when he locks onto a block. However, he had a few missed blocks in the running game. He wasn’t beaten in pass protection, though, so if Howard continues to struggle with edge rushers, then Smith could get a chance for first team reps at right tackle – especially when you look at who they’re facing over the next few weeks.

At the other tackle position, Ferguson continues to hold up well in pass protection although he may be benefiting from Sanchez getting rid of the ball sooner. Ferguson holding up his end of the bargain enables the Jets to roll help over to Howard’s side and should enable the Jets to still get the ball down the field. He still isn’t making a major contribution in the running game, but did have one good kickout block and was only beaten cleanly once. Ferguson’s biggest mistake was a key false start at the goal line to negate a Shonn Greene touchdown. The penalty was actually credited to Matt Slauson, but Ferguson definitely moved first and if it was before the snap, it was extremely close.

Once again the Jets got a reliable performance from Nick Mangold. In the first half in particular he was moving the formidable Paul Soliai wherever he wanted to take him. In the second half, he was less dominant, letting his guy shoot a gap or get past him on a couple of occasions to affect a play. He also had a play in the first half where his man hit Sanchez after Sanchez stepped up to avoid another pressure from Howard’s side and a bad snap in the fourth quarter, although it’s impossible to tell if it was actually Sanchez – whose desperation throw was then almost intercepted – that was at fault.

Brandon Moore didn’t have one of his better games with three uncharacteristic breakdowns in pass protection. He didn’t have any major breakdowns in the running game, but didn’t have much of a positive impact either.

At left guard, Slauson didn’t have much of an impact either. He held up pretty well in pass protection, other than on one play where he was bullrushed into Sanchez. He let a few guys get off his blocks to make plays, but did open up a big lane for Powell for a nice gain in overtime. Ducasse, other than the half-sack he surrendered which wasn’t entirely his fault, held his own again and didn’t have any major breakdowns. He had one block where he drove his man off the line well, but then peeled off and didn’t get to his man at the second level in time and there was another play where he might have blocked the wrong guy at the second level, but it’s difficult to tell what his assignment was. There was one play where he showcased his physical ability, pulling to the right and blasting Sean Smith coming off the edge.

At the moment, they are giving Slauson two drives and then Ducasse gets the third one. They stuck to this even though that meant Ducasse was in the game while it was crunch time in the fourth quarter. We’ll keep an eye on this to see whether they increase or decrease Ducasse’s reps over the next few games, which should be challenging for the interior linemen.

Running Backs

A concern I identified last week – that being Shonn Greene struggling to make the correct reads in a power blocking scheme – continued to present itself this week. Greene gained just 40 yards on 19 carries. As I understand it, the difference between running in a zone blocking scheme and a power blocking scheme is essentially that you go from having one target hole and having to judge where and when to hit it to a situation where you have to read which hole to hit and when. Greene still seems to be struggling with this. There was one play where he had both guards pulling outside and followed them to the edge, but then instead of continuing to the outside, he cut back for a short gain. After the play, Moore seemed to complain at Slauson, although I’m not sure whether this was because Slauson went too wide or because he was complaining to him that they had opened up the outside for Greene and he didn’t take it.

Greene compounded these issues with a couple more mistakes in pass protection, but did have one good run that he bounced to the outside to set up Kerley’s fourth quarter score. Maybe it is time for Powell to get the start and for Greene to get some reps off the bench, perhaps focused on those plays that he hasn’t been struggling with.

Powell was much more productive, with 45 yards on 10 carries and a couple of first down catches (although one of these was reduced to a four yard gain by a downfield holding call). He made some good runs to the outside and was more consistent than Greene at picking up yardage between the tackles. Powell wasn’t flawless – he had the dropped pass mentioned earlier and also gave up a couple of pressures – but he’s gone from being a better all-round back than Greene to looking like a better option to run the ball than him too.

Joe McKnight was once again limited to a cameo on offense, losing a yard on the pitch from Tebow and only in on a couple of other plays. If Greene’s workload is reduced, perhaps McKnight will get reps – that’s if they don’t convert him into a cornerback in light of the Revis injury.

With John Conner out, Konrad Reuland did a serviceable job at fullback. The difference between him and Conner is clear – Reuland will try and size up his man and ensure he stays in front, whereas Conner will often just charge recklessly up the middle. When Conner gets it right it can open up a lane in a way that Reuland wouldn’t be able to do, but too often he gets it wrong and his guy gets off the block to make a play or he misses the block altogether. Reuland did let his guy get off his block a few times, but didn’t have any major breakdowns and did have one or two positive blocks from the fullback position. He also caught two first down passes, which is not something you expect from Conner very often.

Receivers

Let’s give Holmes some credit. Nine catches, 147 yards and for the third time in a row, overtime was Tone Time as he turned in the biggest play of the game to set up the winning field goal. He also drew three penalties and even showed some effort as a blocker, although he was called for a debatable hold. It wasn’t perfect, as he failed to haul in one pass he should have had and did cut off his route early on one play, but 12 positive plays in 17 targets is an extremely good success rate compared with his numbers from the past and what everyone else on the team was able to achieve. For once, Holmes produced like the number one receiver he is paid to be and it came at the scene of the least finest moment of his career. Let’s hope this is the sign of things to come and not a one-week aberration.

Kerley came up big in this one too, with a huge 66-yard catch and run and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. It’s clear they should do what they can to get him the ball in space. Although he’s been caught from behind twice in two weeks, you can see he has the acceleration to get beyond the second level.

After being shut out in the first 12 quarters of the season, Chaz Schilens finally delivered a couple of catches in overtime. One was a third down conversion on the outside and the other was short of a first down, but showed how good his hands were. As already mentioned, he also got open deep, but couldn’t quite grab Sanchez’s bomb. Expect Schilens to get more reps going forward with Hill’s struggles.

Hill was targeted seven times but came up empty. That included one bad route, three drops and a throw where he was open deep but couldn’t catch up to the ball due to calf cramps. We’ve seen glimpses of what he’s capable of in the first game of the year, but it’s apparent that any rookie of the year candidate talk was wildly premature. Still, he is drawing defensive attention and Holmes has been benefiting from that.

Gates ran a disappointing route on Sanchez’s first interception and also had a bad block on the outside. As raw as Hill might look at times, Gates might be even rawer.

At tight end, Cumberland had one good first down catch and didn’t make any noticeable mistakes as a blocker. However, it remains to be seen whether he was at fault on the interception to the end zone. I wonder how much of a boost Keller’s return will give the offense.

Finally, Dedrick Epps got some playing time in three tight end sets and had two bad missed blocks.

We’re only halfway through – I’ll be back later with a look at the defense and special teams, together with final conclusions…