BGA: Jets at Dolphins Part Two – Defense and Special Teams

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 indicated you prefer me to divide BGA into two parts. Part One covered the offense and can be accessed here

We’re recapping yesterday’s win over the Dolphins/loss to the injury gods. After the jump, Part Two looks at the performance by the defense and special teams and also draws final conclusions. Remember, if you want me to go back and look at anything, or have any other questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll respond in BGA Extra later in the week.

With the not unexpected news that broke today about Darrelle Revis and his season ending injury, that’s clearly the biggest story to come out of yesterday’s game. We’ll have plenty of analysis on what that means in terms of how the Jets will have to approach the remainder of the season in due course. However, I’m not going to dwell on that too much here, as I stick to the task of reviewing yesterday’s game. The defense had its ups and downs, so let’s investigate what happened.

Defensive Line

Although the Revis injury will have to most far-reaching effect, the most underrated story of this game for me may have been the play of Sione Po’uha. Po’uha is used to being double-teamed, but on this occasion found himself usually one-on-one with Miami’s Mike Pouncey. Ordinarily, you’d expect Po’uha to dominate in this situation, but Pouncey did a great job. He was able to drive him off the line several times, which usually doesn’t happen to Po’uha even when he is double teamed. Po’uha also ended up on the floor a few times.

As you’d expect with a player of Po’uha’s caliber, he did win the battle on some occasions, but he wasn’t his usual dominant self and the fact he wasn’t drawing double teams had an effect on the rest of the line, as well as enabling blockers to get to the second level more often than usual. In recent years, Po’uha has been reminding me more and more of Kris Jenkins in terms of how disruptive he has become. However, lower back issues coupled with some road struggles also raise alarm bells because Jenkins used to struggle on road trips and maybe that’s going to start to become an issue for Po’uha too. The good news is that the next two games are at home and hopefully Po’uha’s back issue isn’t going to linger on as long as Jenkins’ did, so that two weeks might be long enough for it to improve to the point where it no longer limits him.

Even with Po’uha’s struggles, the run defense improved in the second half. Having given up just under five yards per carry in the first half, that improved to less than four after half time. Despite seeing a lot of double teams, Muhammad Wilkerson was a major reason for this – although you would also partly attribute it to Reggie Bush’s injury just before half time. Wilkerson was in on seven different tackles that went for a short gain and also got penetration to redirect several other runs in perhaps the most disruptive performance of his career so far. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to describe him as one of the best run stopping defensive ends in the entire NFL right now.

He was only driven off the line or handled at the point of attack a couple of times, which is impressive considering how often he was double teamed. He did have one missed tackle though. As a pass rusher, he only had one pressure, chasing Ryan Tannehill to the back of the endzone and forcing a throw away. While it may be disappointing that he has no sacks so far this season, he has six pressures in three games, which when compared with his 15 all last season, is an improvement.

Mike DeVito and Kenrick Ellis each also turned in a solid display. They had a pressure each and generated plenty of penetration in the running game. DeVito had a tackle for a loss and was only driven off the line twice, whereas Ellis had a huge play to force a fumble – which should have been the turning point. It’s testament to the excellent depth of this unit, that these two and Wilkerson could play so well even when Po’uha was having an off-day. Maybe Ellis will be ready to take on a bigger workload, as he again had just 22 snaps.

Marcus Dixon was cut today and that follows a performance where he struggled. There was one play where he was knocked on his back by a massive block and then exactly the same thing happened on the next play. He also jumped offside once and got handled on a couple of other plays. He did get to Tannehill once, though and I suspect his release could be a procedural move that will see him return to the active roster once Revis goes on injured reserve.

I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about the lack of impact from Quinton Coples, but apparently he was unwell before the game and that caused them to limit his playing time. He was in for 17 snaps and actually did well, with a hit and a pressure in just 11 pass rush attempts and he also had a tackle for a loss. I’m actually impressed with his performances so far.

Linebackers

At the end of a difficult week, Bart Scott turned in his second straight solid performance. He was the most productive pass rusher with two hits and one pressure and had a tackle for a loss. He also made a key tackle on third and short and stuffed a couple of other runs. What set this performance apart though, was his ability to take out the lead blocker and affect a play, which happened four times. In coverage, there was one play where he gave up a third down conversion to Davone Bess on a quick slant, but he was remonstrating with Calvin Pace after the play, so that may have been Pace’s fault. Pace had lined up as a defensive end, but stood up and dropped back, but inexplicably took a step to the left which left the lane wide open for the quick slant with Scott playing outside technique. Had he just dropped off into that lane – with nobody to cover over the middle or on the left – that pass wouldn’t have been on.

Scott did have two negatives in coverage – a third down penalty, which looked like it might have been a harsh call on a clean pass breakup and one play where he temporarily lost his man at the back of the endzone with Tannehill scrambling, although he recovered before Tannehill mde the pass. He also came up for a big hit on a receiver in the flat, so I still think his issues in coverage are overblown and his increased playing time provides further evidence for that.

His partner on the inside, David Harris, had his ups and downs. He did register nine tackles, but also gave up a few first downs in coverage and found himself driven back or caught inside on a couple of running plays. His best moment saw him stuff a run for a short gain. He was unblocked on that play, which didn’t happen very often. That was probably the reason he didn’t make the same impact as he usually would.

Also struggling to make his usual impact was Pace. Pace had made a good start to the season, but now he’s been forced to play Bryan Thomas’ role on the blind side more often, it may start to eat into his effectiveness. He only had one pressure and was targeted a couple of times on short passes, although one was dropped. In the running game he was kicked to the outside on a big early off-tackle run by Reggie Bush and just didn’t make the same impact he had over the first two games. He had one bad missed tackle, although on the whole, the tackling from the front seven was much better, with only two missed tackles on the day.

Garrett McIntyre got the bulk of the reps on the opposite side from Pace and wasn’t able to repeat last week’s impact performance. He had one pressure and batted down a pass, but there was one play where he slipped over and lost contain on a run to the outside and another where he almost made a play in the backfield but slipped over, also taking out a teammate in the process. He did assist on one run stuff.

In terms of the backups, Aaron Maybin was only in on 17 snaps and put Tannehill under pressure a couple of times. He also made one good play against a run, beating his man inside and redirecting the runner who was tackled for a loss. There’s still no sign of him leading the team in sacks like he did last year though. Josh Mauga rotated in for a few series and played with the dime package, but ultimately didn’t do anything of significance. Demario Davis saw just two snaps on defense, rushing the passer on one and dropping into zone coverage on the other.

Defensive Backs

With Revis done for the year, it seems almost pointless to pick apart his performance, but he had two good tackles close to the line of scrimmage and a big fumble recovery. He wasn’t really targeted in the passing game. He did make one bad mistake, missing a tackle on the edge to lead to a big run by Bush. Now that he’s gone the Jets will have to prepare for life without him.

This moves Antonio Cromartie back to number one cornerback status. One week after I suggested that Cromartie will fare much better once Revis returns and he can return to covering the number two option, he’s back to being the number one – although it will probably change from week to week whether he sticks with the top guy or if the Jets just leave him on one side and maybe play some zone too.

In this game, Cromartie only really had one major mistake, as he was burned by Brian Hartline’s double move for a key catch in overtime. However, there were a couple of other plays where he was half beaten and the receiver couldn’t bring down the catch. He did break up a couple of passes and had a big hit on a pass to the short flat, as well as drawing an offensive pass interference call. He was called for one interference penalty himself, but that seemed like little more than hand fighting down the sideline. There was one other play that went for a 23 yard gain where the Dolphins basically ran a pick play and Wilson picked up Cromartie’s man, but Cromartie slipped over (not the first player to do so) at the crucial moment, but that seemed to be more bad luck than anything else.

The Revis injury thrusts Kyle Wilson back into a starting role. He hadn’t given up a catch until Anthony Fasano’s sideline catch which should have been overturned. Later on, though, he was beaten for a big third down conversion by Davone Bess and called for a critical pass interference penalty because he once again didn’t get his head turned around fast enough. Wilson has continued to be inconsistent, so the Jets must be hoping he responds positively to a full time role that will perhaps force him to retain his focus.

If Wilson falters, I don’t think it’s beyond the realms of possibility that Ellis Lankster overtakes him. Lankster slipped on yet another double move to give up a big catch to Bess, but did make a good play to blow up a short pass. He gave up one other catch on 3rd and 25 – playing well off his man just like Wilson did in an identical situation last week – forcing a fourth down, but allowing the opposition into field goal range (although Rob Carpenter missed). Lankster was also beaten on two other plays but the pass was dropped on one and overthrown on the other.

LaRon Landry should be credited for not having any penalty flags this week and for not even having any plays where he got away with what should have been a flag. However, he still missed three tackles – one of which was a particularly bad whiff in the open field, but another one of which led to the runner being stopped for a loss anyway. He also overpursued badly on the screen pass that saw Revis get injured, as did Pace and Yeremiah Bell. Still, Jets fans can perhaps live with mistakes like that if he’s going to make plays like the one he did just after half time, jumping in front of Anthony Fasano and returning the ensuing interception for a touchdown. He also had one good open field tackle.

Unfortunately, Eric Smith picked up the slack with two personal fouls of his own (one on special teams). Smith played a bigger role this week, replacing Landry in some packages and did break up a pass, but overall didn’t make much of a positive impact.

Finally, Bell overpursued a couple of times and was beaten for a first down in coverage, but was mostly in good position in coverage, with one pass broken up, and made a couple of good tackles in run support.

Special Teams

Let’s give credit to the kickers. Nick Folk was perfect once again and Robert Malone had five very good punts. Folk got a little lucky though – his first attempt at a game winner was blocked, but the Dolphins had already called timeout. Folk apparently told the media that his team heard the whistle and stopped blocking, but I didn’t see any evidence of that – it just looked like Kenrick Ellis got beaten inside. Luckily, he didn’t let it happen again.

The biggest triumph for the special teams unit was that finally someone missed a field goal –two, in fact, including a possible game winner –against them. Remember, last year, kickers went 28-of-29 with the only miss being a 56-yarder.

In coverage, linebackers Mauga, Davis and Nick Bellore all made tackles, but it was Isaiah Trufant who stood out, making a great open field tackle and downing a punt inside the five in overtime. Mauga and Trufant also each had a missed tackle, but the biggest special teams blunder of all was when Eric Smith was called for roughing the punter in the Miami endzone, although I’m still not sure he touched him.

Conclusions

After a truly dismal first half performance, the Jets were slightly better in the second half, but still made far too many mistakes on both sides of the ball. They got the win, but needed a couple of gifts in the shape of missed field goals and a Reggie Bush injury. Nevertheless, they somehow lead the division.

Without Revis, staying there is going to be a tall order, but we’ll be analyzing that in much more detail in the days to come. For now, there’s plenty of other things that need fixing – starting with the running game, Sanchez’s accuracy, Po’uha’s health and the ability of the linebackers to get off blocks. However, moreso than any of these things, what this team needs is a shot in the arm.

Nobody believed in them before and that fired them up enough to spur them on to a big opening day win, but they’ve turned in two disappointing performances since then. Now, even fewer people will believe in them and they need to channel that and get fired up instead of coming out flat again.

I’m not going to lie, it looks bleak for their chances of remaining in playoff contention, but the rules don’t change: We shouldn’t look ahead, we should focus on one game at a time. Hopefully that’s what the coaching staff is doing, as the Jets head home for the next two weeks.

Next up, San Francisco, who will be bristling after a pretty terrible performance of their own.